Saor - Guardians
Pagan Metal / Black Metal / Atmospheric Black Metal
Review Summary: Take a trip to the Highlands, Saor will be your guide.
Saor appeared on my music radar two years ago with the release of his second album Aura. Blending Celtic folk music and Black Metal, Andy Marshall created a unique and recognizable sound in the Metal spectrum. This one man project has always echoed the beautiful soundscapes of Scotland and its culture in his music, through its atmospheric melodies. In that particular goal, Guardians does a perfect job.
“Oh, never to perish, their names let us cherish, / The martyrs of Scotland that now are away.”
The record is divided into five songs all lasting ten to eleven minutes. In comparison to his previous releases, this album is less aggressive and more melodic. The length of the songs allows Andy to change the pace of the songs in order to build an atmosphere of strong folkloric melodies and saturated guitars. Much like Aura, Andy composed all of the songs and used session musicians to record his songs. Using strings, Fiddle, Bodhran, drums and Highland bagpipes to build his melodies, Andrew almost takes you on a journey to the Highlands with his evocative music, and connects with the listener through his emotional lyrics.
“Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn / Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn! “
While none of the songs are fillers, there are a few that stand out from this fifty minute experience. The opener Guardians, with its acoustic guitar introduction that leads to Bagpipes and then towards the saturated riffage of Folkloric Black Metal, is one of the finest moment of this record. Another song that stands out is Hearth, with amazing melodies and the use of clean vocals to sing one of the best verse on this record, a verse that easily describes the goal of this record: “This is my home / My heart / My soul / My hearth”. The choice of lyrics from his favorite poems about Scotland brings another dimension to his work, making it more than just a musical experience but a cultural one too. The strings are beautifully played here and firmly stand out as one of the best traits about the album.
“Noble dead that sleep below, / We your valour ne'er forget; / Soft the heroes' rest who know / Hearts like theirs are beating yet.”
In a way, this album almost feels like climbing a mountain. The momentum slowly builds with each passing song, finally reaching its peak with the intense climax of Hearth. This song creates the heaviest and most cathartic atmosphere of the record, which then gradually descends back into where the journey began. Andrew crafted once again a masterpiece of Scottish Folkloric Black Metal that ends the same way it started, with bagpipes and guitar. While fans of his more aggressive previous releases might find it a little soft, this record demonstrates that Andrew can still change the formula and stay relevant to the genre. The folkloric instruments bring a whole new depth to his soundscape that wasn’t as important as on this record and this is emphasized by the great composition of the songs.
“Sad shall it be, though sun be shed / Golden bright on field and flood; / E'en the heather's crimson red / Holds the memory of blood.”
Needless to say, Andy is a busy artist. After two Saor albums, he created a 90’s Black Metal tribute side project (Fuath) and released an album in early 2016, I. He toured with Saor for two years but recently announced his last show and that the band will continue as a studio project only. Guardians will be released on the 11th of November under Northern Silence.