DARK SARAH w/ CRIMSON SUN: Grim Release Show – On the Rocks, Helsinki, 07.08.2020

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There was a bit of a lull in streaming as summer hit its peak in July, with August bringing a handful of live shows and festivals back into the mix. Dark Sarah definitely had the right idea when they decided to host a small album release gig for Grim at On the Rocks on August 7th, 2020, which would also be streamed via SemiLive.fi. Warming up the stage was Crimson Sun, back again after their own album release stream in June.

Follow the setlist as a playlist on Spotify:

The countdown to the stream began right on time at 20:45 with Crimson Sun taking the stage. It was nice to see some real-world crowd reactions as they got started with “Beast Within” from Fates. Vocalist Sini Seppälä seemed to work out some jitters as the power in her voice doubled by the time they went into “Virtual Reality.” The stage was a bit dark, with most of the light coming from the backdrop screen of the band’s logo, which did make it a bit hard to see the band clearly. The mix too was a bit messy, with the vocals turned up much too loud compared to everything else, though we could at least hear everything else.

Saku Hoilanen was replacing Antti Rantavuo on drums, as his new baby is due anytime now and Seppälä got the crowd to greet him before they continued with one of their best new songs, “Fate of Nora.” They then shared an older song, the title track from their debut album, Towards the Light. The set had begun very much like their last stream, though was a bit shorter this time around.

Seppälä chatted with the crowd a bit between songs, particularly before “We Are One,” their song of unity, towards the end of their set. The stage had seemed a bit crowded for these guys with Dark Sarah‘s drum kit but they nevertheless put on a very strong performance, closing up with “Essence of Creation” and “Awaken.”

Crimson Sun setlist:
1. The Beast Within
2. Virtual Reality
3. Fate of Nora
4. Towards the Light
5. Memories Burning
6. Trailblazer
7. We Are One
8. Essence of Creation
9. Awaken

Dark Sarah was set to get things started at 22:00 and during the break, we agonizingly listened to the stream’s hold music, which was one song on repeat. Realizing that this was going to continue for over 30 minutes during the stage change-over, we had to mute the screen as we refilled our cups.

Their set started more or less on time as the intro for Grim, “My Name is Luna,” introduced Heidi Parviainen to the stage. The band were all in black with Parviainen glimmering among them with her near-white hair and shimmering black dress. Her soprano is beautiful, with all of the (many!) high notes hit perfectly and with ease. After the intro and “The Chosen One,” Parviainen greeted the crowd in both Finnish and English, promising to speak at least some English for the non-Finnish stream viewers.

Compared to the album, the drums were much more lively on stage, though the guitarists and bassists were still a bit hidden in the sound behind the power of the orchestrations. There were a few stand-out solos throughout the set, however. Naturally, Grim was given a lot of love as they played more tracks like, “Illuminate,” “Melancholia,” and “Iceheart” to name a few, but they did throw back to a few older favorites like “Little Men,” “Evil Roots,” and “Wheel.” Many of the songs that have featured guests were included, though sadly, guest vocalists like J-P Leppaluoto were not present at the show as they have been in the past. It’s understandable with the tentative corona situation still, though it would’ve been nice to have Leppaluoto for a few songs to add some spice to the evening.

Of the stand-out moments of the night was “All Ears!” as Parviainen put on the hat from the music video and was accompanied by an figure clad in an oni demon mask and cloak. The set wound up with “The Hex” but the band was called back to the stage for a few more songs: “Ash Grove,” “Silver Tree,” and “Aquarium.” No other strange beasts appeared on stage as far as I noticed, but the crowd was very enthusiastic and glad to stand up when prompted during the encore.

Dark Sarah setlist:
1. My Name is Luna
2. The Chosen One
3. Illuminate
4. Melancholia
5. Little Men
6. Iceheart
7. Evil Roots
8. Wheel
9. All Ears!
10. Memories Fall
11. The Hex

Encore:
12. Ash Grove
13. Silver Tree
14. Aquarium

Having the option to attend a show in person or view from home is a fantastic idea. This evening of material from Crimson Sun and Dark Sarah was absolutely worth checking out, as each band has a completely different style but plenty of good tunes to offer the crowd. Crimson Sun was an ideal choice to warm up the stage for Dark Sarah with their catchy, high-energy material, as Dark Sarah was able to tell bits and pieces of their stories through the music. While I would still like to see a stronger push from the instruments in Dark Sarah‘s music generally, and the same critiques of the music hold, many of the new songs really came to life on stage and this was all-in-all a great way to spend a Saturday.

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