You know I can’t remember the last time I was at a black or folk metal gig in the UK and I didn’t see at least one Saor patch or t-shirt being sported. Says a lot for the support these Glaswegian guys have garnered. Well I say guys but in the studio this is all Andy Marshall. But play gigs they do, and from recent photos they have thankfully managed to expand their live line-up too rather than the basics plus backing tape I saw last a couple of years ago. Not me bitching, honest, just genuinely nice to see as….well, frankly Saor are a band you just want to celebrate to the fullest live.
Why? Well Mr Marshall has a gift. A great one. Saor’s music is just so accessible without being bland, easy or lacking in depth. They just grab you.
They inhabit a musical world that borders such luminaries as Winterfylleth, Fellwarden, Forteresse and early In The Woods… This is an undeniable black metal sound, a wild primal spirit and superb howled vocals but the strength and pull of those Caledonian melodies straight from the land are, to coin a phrase from From The Bogs Of Aughiska ‘mineral bearing veins’. Just a few moments of the opening epic ‘Forgotten Paths’ and you’re there, amidst the ancient hills and moors, cold and alone apart from thousands of years of history. They could only be Scottish.
Memory, you see, lives in places.
What you get here is about forty minutes, spread between three huge epics and a short, quiet instrumental ending in ‘Exile’. The title track, ‘Monadh’ and ‘Bron’ take up more than thirty minutes of it, taking us through bleak and beautiful landscapes and ghost haunted history. We are offered a full cascading riff style, driven by storming drums and crying vocals; black metal in sound, feel and above all spirit. And yet there is an undeniable romanticism here too, a wide and deep river of melody through fiddle, flute, keyboards and pipe that is Scottish to the core. The vision is pure but misty eyed; not in a twee, maudlin way you understand but through those tears that only a sharp Northern wind in your face can bring. Each song takes you on a journey through passages of reflection, memory and passion. It is so embracing, so eager to share that it is easy to be swept away on the surface and miss the rolling, tumbling heart beneath.
Ah, the whole album is just a pleasure. Beautifully composed and performed, with a production that lets sharp bright piano notes shine, raindrop like, alongside deeps, rich guitar before the riffs and the keyboards and fiddle swell, rise and lift you away. And still that piano can be heard. I defy anyone, Scottish or not (and hey, I can only claim at most a quarter blood in my grim Yorkshire soul…) not to feel their heart go out to the opening of ‘Monadh’
Fourth album. Quietly doing their thing, putting their soul out for all to see and to embrace. Saor; congratulations. Just a wonderful album. Thank you.
Oh and it’s pronounced “Suurrr”. A hobbit told me…