Swedish melancholy folk metal band Saiva have been out in the wilderness somewhere or other concocting the strange old brew of pagan melodies for a few years now. Until now, they’ve dropped the odd single and a split with Grift – which turns out to be an appropriate comparison. But whereas Grift (who also makes a guest appearance on this along with Panopticon’s Austin Lunn) is all about windswept, depressive black metal with a touch of Nordic melody, Saiva takes a bigger step down the path towards times past as it clings more fiercely to traditional Swedish chords and traditional instruments. Whereas a shift this far into folk music territory can sometimes leave bands sounding wistful or, even worse, a bit twee, Saiva have managed to maintain a iron-hard edge to their delivery that creates a sound that I have to say sounds pretty unique.
In fact, band mastermind A Petterson – also from very-Scandinavian-black-metallers Stilla and atmospheric black metal band De Arma has done an incredible job of creating his own world here filled with pastoral sounds and yet which still manages to sound urgent and sinister at the same time. Needless to say this is all clearly designed to reflect the harsh beauty of the Nordic landscapes and the foreboding cruelty therein. While the sound is stripped back of almost all its black metal influences, its presence is still glaring both in the interchange between tenor clean vocals, the harsh vocals and the undistorted melodies that drift into tracks like Där vindar vänder and do a nice job of recalling the genre’s signature tremolo sounds. At its best, the effect of the layered mix is just as hypnotic as any wall-of-sound black metal production I can think of and moves well into more experimental blackened sounds (I’ve seen this compared with Lifelover which is fair in parts).
In fact what begins as a purely folk journey – cover, chanting vocals and all – quickly becomes something much deeper. Penultimate track Mykät loitsut moves into slightly softer territory and goes a bit Sólstafir on us but then we are given a final nine minute treat into Saiva’s bleak and little travelled landscapes with winding riffs and tribal chants laced together in one final musical tapestry. Saiva is another interesting project from Petterson and a good addition to the Nordvis roster even if there are times when the copious amount of ideas crammed into this do seem to drift. But Markerna Bortom is otherwise a world that’s all too easy to slip into once you get into the groove and at times the effect can be truly spellbinding.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)