If you’ve ever been to a jazz club, you probably know that the atmosphere is very special and something completely different to a rock venue setting. It feels very intimate, what with the typical jazz audience enjoying the show seated at tables, whereas a metal gig, for instance, would have you standing in the middle of a crowd, like in a sonic steam bath, punching the air with your fists clenched. What would happen if you mixed these two polar opposites – metalheads punching the air while remaining seated? Well, that’s exactly what happened on Friday 7 August 2020 at the DARK SARAH album release show at On the Rocks in Helsinki. I kid you not.
The venue has a capacity of 350 and it is one of the most established live music venues still remaining in Helsinki. In accordance with the social distancing rules, the “dance floor” section of the club had been rearranged with tables. This allowed small groups of friends to sit together while remaining about six feet from others, thus adhering to the coronavirus restrictions. This also made the rock venue feel like a jazz club – only the battling saxophones had been replaced with an onslaught of cinematic metal brilliance of the highest caliber.
This special event celebrating the release of DARK SARAH‘s new album “Grim” was probably one of those gigs about which I can say, 20 years from now, that “I was there” and for a number of reasons. The first would obviously be the fact that this special night was my first live music experience after the lockdown and thus, I was particularly bummed out that I missed the warm-up show by CRIMSON SUN due to the perplexing nuisance of public transport issues that occurred on my way to the venue. It seems that it does not require a snowstorm to delay buses and trains. Judging by the hearsay at the club, the warm-up show was a killer, which further deepened my disappointment. I made it to the venue in time before the main course was served though. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world as DARK SARAH’s new album had me properly hyped-up for the gig.
The show started with a nice rundown of the first songs on the new album, meaning that some of the band’s strongest melodies were played rather early on in the show, such as the songs, “Illuminate” and “Melancholia.” A move like this could have proven risky for a band with less confidence; DARK SARAH‘s setlist for the show, however, had been structured with such a dramatic curve that it was definitely not going to flatten out towards the end. It had a good balance of new songs and old favorites. This is one of those lucky bands that have such a strong back catalog that they can even afford to not play some of their greatest songs, such as “Dance with the Dragon,” which we didn’t hear.
The only ballad played was the song “Iceheart” from the new album and it worked marvelously as a short breather halfway through the show. Vocalist Heidi Parviainen performed the song as a beautiful classical aria and unsurprisingly, having already been exposed to the song’s haunting melody on the album, it sent shivers down my spine. It was not a small feat since I’m not exactly a devout fan of this kind of classical-inspired stuff. It sounds like a stupid cliché, but there was some strange kind of magic in the air. The band had good energy and at times I couldn’t help feeling that I was witnessing a touch of extraordinary greatness at its embryonic stage. I don’t actually know the scope of DARK SARAH‘s international success, but judging by the comments on Facebook after the event, people all around the world seem to love the band. The show was live-streamed worldwide.
I guess those lucky few who saw, let’s say, METALLICA in Lepakko somewhere in the mid-1980s must have felt something similar to what I felt at On the Rocks last Friday. Whether DARK SARAH will reach the stadium level is anybody’s guess right now. It remains to be seen if the stadium concerts will come back anytime soon anyway. Maybe this sort of seated concert will become the new normal. Who knows? What I do know is that DARK SARAH definitely deserve bigger arenas. The band has a great stage presence and the video projections were a nice visual touch. Somehow I got the feeling that the band did not only enjoy playing in front of the live audience but was also thrilled that so many fans had shown up, given these strange circumstances. After the encore, the band took a few pictures of the audience, so I guess the night was something to remember for the band, too. There was indeed magic in the air.
- My Name Is Luna
- The Chosen One
- Little Men
- Evil Roots
- All Ears!
- Memories Fall
- The Hex
- Ash Grove (encore)
- Silver Tree (encore)
- Aquarium (encore)
Written by Jani Lehtinen