April 9, 2013

The Flight of Sleipnir - Saga - 2

Written by Craig Hayes.

There are umpteen thousand metal bands, and the very best tap straight into the marrow of your being. However, what makes one great metal band more interesting than another is not necessarily that connection itself, but the subsequent journey it takes you on. In the case of The Flight of Sleipnir, David Csicsley (drums, vocals and guitars) and Clayton Cushman (guitars, vocals, bass and keyboard) take you on far-ranging expeditions, both emotionally and musically. Over the course of three previous full-lengths, including 2011's much lauded Essence of Nine, The Flight of Sleipnir have toured the landscapes (and literature) of Nordic legends, accompanied by folk, doom, stoner, psych and traditional metal, all wrapped in plenty of black metal rasps.

On the band's latest album—the 12-track, fittingly titled Saga—melodic and smoky doom riffs form the base of many tracks, and, as the title implies, this is their most adventurous album yet. It continues the fundamental musical themes the band have always explored, and in that respect the mist-shrouded fjords it evokes are welcomingly familiar. However, it's not so much the terrain itself but a deeper exploration thereof that sets the new album apart. The Flight of Sleipnir's texturally venturesome suites offer more multilayered fertility, both in narrative and sonic form.

Saga sees, strummed acoustics playing a stronger role in setting the overall bivouac and roaring campfire mood. Rustic atmospherics, and a hauntingly beautiful folk heart, exist on tracks such as "Reverence", "The Mountain" and "Reaffirmation". Their intricate, pared-back instrumentation and melancholic, cleaner vocals make for evocative songs that are intimate and stirring—rich with dreamlike, folkloric mystique. "Heavy Rest the Chains of the Damned" takes that ambience and throws in a weighty dose of 70s acid-fried psych-folk, and throughout the album heavy-rock roils are glimpsed through the towering woodlands. The band's acoustic side conjures majesty and poignancy very well, weaving potency through fragility to keep the kinsfolk enthralled.

For all of Saga's verdant wanderings, there's plenty of up-front gritty metal to be found. "Judgment" throws Eastern scales and slow-ground NWOBHM riffs at undulating doom. "Harrowing Desperation", "Demise Carries With it a Song" and "Hour of Cessation" mix black metal's venom with rousing soloing, folk-flecked lilts, and strident traditional metal passages. The Flight of Sleipnir's blend of metal sub-genres (the stern, aggressive, and reflective) doesn’t seem to favor any one particular style—the hallucinogenic 70s prog-jaunt of "Remission" happily resides alongside the groove-heavy doom-riot of "Beneath Red Skies". That counterpointing of fuzz and ferocity may seem incongruent, but in fact forms part of the overall undulating journey. The band are clearly following their muse, which is apt for a band so steeped in the authenticity of heartfelt songwriting and stalwart craftsmanship.

Of course, everyone has a story to tell, but it takes a great storyteller to sweep you up in the tale. With Saga, Flight of Sleipnir have created a grand sense of the epic. Its mysterious, ethereal, and thunderous passages are captivating and vivid, making it a pathway to other times, other lands and, most importantly of all, other states of mind. The best metal takes you places, and The Flight of Sleipnir gathers you up and utterly soars.

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