Voices of Metal: Heidi Parviainen
Written by Brett Kihlmire
Classical singing has become a staple in heavy metal. Largely attributed to Tarja Turunen and Nightwish, which she originally fronted, the style has become highly popular in Europe. Many singers that otherwise might have never joined a metal band now have a prominent place in the genre. One such singer is Heidi Parviainen of Dark Sarah.
Originating in Espoo, Finland, Heidi started singing in music class in primary school, but didn’t pursue lessons until she was fourteen. By that time she had been playing piano for a year and was slowly becoming interested in heavy metal music. She would ultimately join her first metal band while still in high school in 1996.
“In high school, my classmates asked me to sing on their metal EP and I laughed a little,” she says with a fond laugh, for at that time mixing metal and classic vocals was not yet in vogue.
Little did Heidi know, but the mixture of classical vocals and heavy metal was about to spawn a new subgenre and Finland was the epicenter with Kitee natives, Nightwish, leading the charge.
Eventually agreeing to do the vocals on two tracks, Heidi joined Agonia on their debut demo first as a backing vocalist, but eventually as their keyboardist, too. However, the band was short-lived, but Heidi’s metal career was far from over.
After wetting her feet in the metal world with Agonia, Heidi joined Iconofear and put out three extended plays with the band as their keyboardist and backing vocalist. In 2006, after ten years of playing heavy metal, she was at a crossroads. She could either continue as a keyboardist and backing vocalist or step to the front of the stage as a leader singer. She ultimately made the decision to take her vocals to the next level.
“2006, ten years after I already had been playing metal, I joined Amberian Dawn, my previous band as a singer. So actually, I’ve been playing metal music longer than I’ve been singing metal music. Actually, it’s been about ten years of both,” she says of her twenty total years playing heavy metal in a variety of genres including black, power, neoclassical and “cinematic” metal.
From 2006 until 2012, Heidi served as the frontwoman for Amberian Dawn before breaking away to start her own project, Dark Sarah.
Originating as a solo project, Dark Sarah eventually formed into the band it is today with Heidi being the mastermind of the project. The project released its debut EP, Violent Roses, in 2014, which began the story of Dark Sarah and was included as the first half of the project’s debut full length Behind the Black Veil (2015) and featured guest vocalists Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Inga Scharf (Van Canto) and Manuela Kraller (ex-Xandria) as prominent characters. The story carried on with The Puzzle (2016) and continued the inclusion of guest vocalists, which were Charlotte Wessels (Delain), JP Leppäluoto (Northern Kings and ex-Charon) and Manuella Kraller reprising her role as Fate.
“In Dark Sarah’s case, I feel it’s even more important to have guests, because of the cinematic and storytelling,” she says. “It’s important to have characters in the story otherwise it would be bland.”
As of this writing, the band’s second full length album is fast gaining recognition worldwide and has produced several videos already. One which, ‘Dancing with the Dragon,’ has 90,000 hits on YouTube with ‘Little Men’ breaking 60,000 since release. One of the big draws to the videos is that they tell a story rather than simply show the band performing.
“It’s cinematic metal. If I didn’t have any music videos it would missing something really important,” she says. “Of course, the music videos in our case are made by students, so it’s not big productions.”
While the videos are made by students they’ve always done well to convey the story of the song in question exceptionally well.
“Because we’re telling stories it’s like making a small movie…so the production is different from making a music video. Maybe that’s why the school has been willing to work with Dark Sarah for how many videos, is it six already?” Heidi says with a laugh when she realized how many videos have been put out since starting the concept album cycle. “I think that someday it might become really expensive for me if it’s not voluntary anymore. When it’s not anymore possible to do it with students I might be in trouble.”
As of this writing, Heidi says that the Dark Sarah story will continue on with a third album, but she doesn’t have any plans to write it all into a novel or a screenplay. Rather, Dark Sarah’s story will remain a cinematic metal project. As for the future of the band, there’s no doubt that Dark Sarah will continue on and hopefully achieve the fame they so deserve. Of course, there’s no question as to whether or not Dark Sarah is a successful project. In fact, Heidi Parviainen seems to agree that the band’s fan base is growing, though she’s a little bit surprised by just successful it has become.
“That’s something that’s unbelievable, actually. We’re talking about Dark Sarah that was born here [in Finland] and people are listening to my music over the seas. It’s all so great.”