Titled: Forgotten Paths
Label: Avantgarde Music
Release 15th February 2019
Format reviewed: Digital promo
It certainly can’t be argued that black metal is a boring subgenre, with a rich variety of bands with various sonic flavours going on in the music that more often than not wears the identity of its country on its sleeve. Bands such as Drudkh, Negura Bunget, Winterfylleth and Panopticon evoke the spirit of their homelands with various folk instruments such as flutes, violin, mandolins, and a whole bunch of weird stuff thrown in that’s medieval in origin with hard to pronounce names – like that weird vertical glockenspiel thing Negura Bunget are fond of using live that looks as if it’s played with a toffee hammer, and some big Alpen horn thing they wheel out for a couple of songs. All of it glorious, wholesome bombastic stuff adding new dimensions to the genre as a whole. Quite frankly, you’d have to be a mutton eared buffoon with a heart of stone to not appreciate the ingenuity of such bands.
Which brings us neatly to SAOR, with their latest release “Forgotten Paths”, due to land on 15 February via Avantgarde records on shiny laser read discs, multicoloured spinning stylus read discs, and digital files for those who deem physical media as “clutter”. Since SAOR’s debut in 2013, Andy Marshall’s atmospheric black metal band has gone from strength to strength, releasing a clutch of very strong albums to critical acclaim – where he wisely decided to make the band a full blown touring entity, much to the delight of many extreme metal fans. The album opens with with the title track, and kicks the listener up the arse with a full on bombast containing a whirlwind of guitars, blast beats, tremolo picking, piano and violins in a majestic fashion established in their debut – but this time around with an air of refinement, displaying nuances and sonic contrasts, almost as if Mike Oldfield binge listened to Burzum albums whilst sipping copious amounts of magic mushroom tea and Scottish whiskey for inspiration – whilst crashing out in a log cabin somewhere in the Outer Hebrides.
“Monadh“ takes on the same bombastic approach that is suitably intense, infectious, and soaring – featuring choral vocals amongst the mix built around a folk melody that builds upwards towards the latter half of the track. “Bron” is more aggressively paced with a notable air of darkness, where the sonic balance takes a gritter approach which blossoms into something that’s almost like a black metal rendering of Clannad, especially when Sophie Rogers joins in with the choruses as a juxtaposition to Andy Marshall’s barked vocals that’s a hugely enjoyable track, showcasing perfectly what the band is capable of – with the closing track “Exile”, a haunting acoustic instrumental piece.
Whilst SAOR have yet again made an extraordinary album that has been hotly anticipated, the only concern that can be cast against “Forgotten Paths” is that the album feels too short – as if there was a track missing, compared to previous albums that have been around ten minutes longer. In some ways, it can be argued it leaves the listener begging for more and appeases those with rubbish attention spans – but SAOR compose music in such a way that leads the listener on an exhilarating sonic journey where the length of an album becomes an abstract concept and inconsequential, and this time around feels that in the quest to hone the album to perfection may have had an edge that was overly chamfered at the mixing desk. Nevertheless, “Forgotten Paths” is an incredible album, that many bands of the genre will struggle to hold a candle to. 8.5/10 Goth Mark
8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory
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