Ilmajoen Musiikkijuhlat is a yearly event in Ilmajoki, Southern Ostrobothnia, which hosts several different music events, including an opera. This year, the evening of June 15th was reserved for heavier music. The Dark Element and Dark Sarah performed in Ilmajoen Musiikkijuhlat with the opera props as their stage. This one-of-a-kind event called for Musicalypse’s presence and so we made our way to the shore of Kyröjoki to enjoy some theatrical metal.
Even though I have lived in Southern Ostrobothnia for the first 19 years of my life, I had never attended Ilmajoen Musiikkijuhlat. I was glad to be able to tick this off my bucket list by attending the Dark Friday event. Since both the venue and the bands were unfamiliar, my expectations were pretty much non-existant. I only hoped for a warm summer night since the gigs were held outside, and as few mosquitoes as possible.
As I arrived to the festival area and saw the opera props, I was impressed. The place is located on the shore of Kyröjoki, which makes it a rather picturesque location. I took my place on the grandstand and tried to get used to the cold plastic garden chair beneath me.
Even though the opera props made a rather nice stage, there were still around 5 meters between the props and the stand. That would make it more difficult for the band to interact with the audience, and so I was curious to see how it all would work out. Around 5 minutes before Dark Sarah’s gig, things were looking alright – most of the audience had already arrived and there were only some seats still empty, mostly on the sides of the grandstand.
Accompanied by a dramatic intro track, one-by-one the members of Dark Sarah arrived to take the stage. I had the chance to listen to the band’s latest album, The Puzzle, so I had at least some idea of what was about to come.
I have to admit I felt weird just sitting as Dark Sarah was performing. Due to the distance it was hard to get into the mood. But like an old engine, little-by-little the atmosphere was getting warmer, and some viewers were even standing up.
Thanks to the Finnish summer nights, there was plenty of natural light – at least for the audience – to enjoy that evening. Since the venue was outside and the opera was performed during the daytime, there were no stage lights. This was also noted by Lene, who did not appreciate the fact while taking photos.
When it comes to the music itself, I was definitely more into Dark Sarah’s live performance than the albums. Heidi Parviainen has an amazing voice and it was a pleasure to hear her sing. I am used to seeing Erkka Korhonen on Raskasta Joulua tours, but it was great to see him performing in another context, as he’s always having a good time on stage and interacting with the audience.
Another familiar face from Raskasta Joulua was yet to come. J-P Leppäluoto joined Dark Sarah’s official line up last year and before that had made a guest appearance in The Puzzle. Together with Parviainen, they performed “Dance with the Dragon” as well as a couple of songs from the upcoming album Golden Moth. The combination of these two voices gave me shivers, since the contrast between vocal ranges, as well as sound, was just right. There was also a slight change in the atmosphere as J-P Leppäluoto arrived to the stage. Even though Parviainen is definitely an experienced performer, Leppäluoto’s charisma and ability to connect with the audience is on its own level.
As the set was heading towards its end, the band requested thst the audience leave their seats and come closer. It didn’t take long before a group of people, myself included, had taken their spot in front of the stage. Instantly I felt more at home as the gig started to remind more of a normal concert.
All-in-all, I enjoyed Dark Sarah’s performance and will most likely give their next album a go once it is released later this year. It would be interesting to see the band in a different, more intimate venue. If you’re into symphonic metal I recommend checking them out.
After a 30-minute break, it was time to take our seats again as The Dark Element began their set. This band was founded by Jani Liimatainen [ex-Sonata Arctica] and Anette Olzon [ex-Nightwish], and have released one album, The Dark Element, in 2017 and has so far been a rare sight live – their first performance was in Sweden Rock 2018 in the beginning of June. Since the band has released only one album, their set was mostly a question of which songs and in what order would they be played. Again, I had given The Dark Element a couple of spins so I knew what all the fuss was about.
In the very beginning of the set, Anette Olzon asked the crowd to come to the front of the stage. It was great to watch throughout the whole set as little-by-little more peoplemoved closer. I kept my seat maybe for the first three or four songs but then gave up and found my place in the standing crowd.
The opera props soon proved themselves useful, since it allowed the band and the crowd to truly interact with each other. It almost felt like this was a special concert reserved for a few lucky viewers.
With The Dark Element, one could truly see that the band was full of professional performers. Jani Liimatainen looked like he was having a time of his life. I also respect Olzon’s relaxed and positive style when it comes to both performing and speeches. The songs worked well live and they had more energy compared to the studio album. Still, the songs carry similar elements and so I caught myself wondering a couple of times during the gig whether they had already played the same song before.
The Dark Element was an entertaining live act, and it will be interesting to see how the bands material will evolve in the future. The only true downside of their gig was the ending – after their last song, the outro kicked in and the whole band just pretty much vanished from the stage. No bowing, no high fives with the audience, just a quick exit. I hope this is not their normal way of saying goodbye after a performance.
The Dark Element has only one gig announced so time will only tell if the band will return to Finland for a longer tour – or will they remain as a rare sight in venues.
The Dark Element setlist:
1. The Dark Element
2. Last Good Day
3. Dead to Me
4. Here’s to You
5. Someone You Used to Know
7. I Cannot Raise the Dead
8. The Ghost and the Reaper
9. Only One Who Knows Me
10. My Sweet Mystery
Photos: coming soon