May 11, 2017

Saule - Saule

By Justin C. If you're familiar at all with the vague-but-popular "post-metal" and "post-rock" tags, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an album labeled that way. The vocals will be sparse (or absent completely)
By Justin C.


If you're familiar at all with the vague-but-popular "post-metal" and "post-rock" tags, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an album labeled that way. The vocals will be sparse (or absent completely), there will be alternating passages of calm and heavy, song lengths will be long, and, in many cases, nothing about the music will stick in your head. There are exceptions, of course. Planks did it very well (and their final album, Perished Bodies was probably their best). Russian Circles continue to do it brilliantly. To this list, I'm going to add the Polish band Saule, who have just released their self-titled debut. It doesn't hurt that they have a secret weapon that lifts them above the pack, but I'll come back to that.

Saule fits pretty well with my genre description. There are lush and solemn passages interspersed with explosions, with clean guitars and distorted riffs competing for attention. The ebb and flow works nearly perfectly. I'll get my one gripe about the album out of the way--the closing song, "O," is a decompression/drone-type track that adds very little to the proceedings. But aside from that minor misstep, I found myself drawn along with this album, and it really is a whole-album experience. I think "III" and "V" are standout tracks, but in general, I'd be surprised if anybody jumped into their car after work and said, "I've had 'II' stuck in my head all day, and now I'm going to blast it!" It's not that kind of music.

I don't know if there's a mathematical formula for balancing out the soft and loud so that this kind of album holds your attention, but if there is, I think Saule's got a damn good estimation of it. On top of that, Saule has that secret weapon I hinted at before: the vocals. They may have done themselves a disservice by burying the vocals in the background for most of the opening track, but when they kick in, they're fantastic. The timbre of the singer's voice is very reminiscent of a lower, gruffer Roger Daltrey, and I'm loving it. I'd be surprised if it were intentional--I think it's just how this individual's voice works--but that semi-familiar, gravelly rasp is spine tingling, especially for a fan of The Who. It's potent and expressive, and the vocal lines in "III" even put me in mind of "Love, Rain O'er Me" from Quadrophenia. I can't back that up with a harmonic analysis, but they both have a beautiful, yearning quality to them. And of course, we all finally get to hear what Roger Daltrey's black metal rasps and death metal growls might have sounded like if The Who had gone a very different direction in their later years. Saule's vocalist sticks mainly to his "clean(er)" register, but I can’t imagine anyone complaining about his voice being too saccharine or pretty for metal.

I found myself drawn to this album immediately, in large part becuase of the vocals, but I think for some folks, it will take some time to warm up to. I urge you to give the first few tracks a chance before you hop on to the next thing. You'll be happy you did.

Tagged with 2017, Avantgarde Music, Justin C, post-metal, post-rock
1 comment:
  1. This is a major discovery! Agree with you on the vocals.

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