September 24, 2016

Sahg - Memento Mori

By Hera Vidal. Most people take their mortality for granted, and don’t really think about death or the way they and their loved ones will go. For those who are completely self-aware about their mortality
By Hera Vidal.

Artwork Robert Høyem.

Most people take their mortality for granted, and don’t really think about death or the way they and their loved ones will go. For those who are completely self-aware about their mortality, a foreboding thought about dying can launch them into fearing the unknown. After all, no one knows how where their lives will lead, how far they will travel, and how long they will live for. However, in the end, everything dies—and that constant reminder is something no one will ever shake away.

Memento Mori was one of several options that we had on note for a long time. But then Lemmy died. And Bowie died. And all of a sudden, all these rock icons disappeared, one by one. People that have made their imprint on history and influenced us musically since childhood. It made a great impression on a personal level, and started a grieving process that influenced the making of the album. Suddenly it was very clear what the album title would be. ‘Remember, you must die’. Even immortal legends like Bowie and Lemmy don’t live forever.
Olav Iversen discussing the album title

Memento Mori is an album that reflects the acceptance that things all eventually end, and both the lyrics and the music reflect that. Sahg has always incorporated doom metal elements in their music, but here, it’s heavier; it’s a constant weight on the listener, as if they too can become aware of their mortality. The drum usage is heavy-handed and prominent, and the vocals give it that needed oomph to get the point cross. Iversen and Vetaas’s vocals are mostly clean, but there are a few moments where growls are used. However, they are an accent piece and are used sparingly, particularly in “Black Unicorn”. As the album continues forward, the bass becomes prominent and just adds more layers to the dark themes of the album. However, the way the music is arranged has the bass accent the guitars, and the guitars become melodic, adding a layer of hope that doesn’t diminish. Of course, that weight culminates in “Sanctimony”, as it is, by far, the heaviest song on the album.

Funnily enough, things begin to change towards the end of the album. In “(Praise the) Electric Sun”, a prog metal influence comes through, particularly in the acoustic-sounding guitar and Iversen’s vocals. It’s weightless, and it doesn’t hold back on its soft sounds. There is also a slight use of a wall of sound, albeit it doesn’t seem to stay for long. “(Praise)” is soft, melodic, and soothing, and it gives the listener a moment to breathe before returning to the heavy-handed sound the album has. Of course, once “Travellers of Space and Light” starts, the prog influence has diminished, but it’s there, underneath all the heavy usage of doom. Once the listener zeroes in on the layer underneath the vocals and the guitar, it begins to sound like keyboards. Given the musical changes occurring, it’s only a matter of time before the album changes themes, bringing up the real curveball. The album’s final track, “Blood of Oceans”, with its rather pagan-inspired arrangements and vocal usage, is the most powerful song on the album. Einar Selvik, of Wardruna fame, co-wrote this track and also added his own sound to the music. The song also features lyrics in Norwegian, making this the only Sahg song to contain Norwegian lyrics. It’s a nice touch to close the album on, given that Selvik used to be the Sahg drummer before starting Wardruna.

All in all, Memento Mori is a trip into accepting that everything ends, and it constantly reminds you of that fact. It has amazing vocals, clean instrumental work, and heavy themes to swallow. Given the band’s past affairs, they came to the realization that things could end for them, but, despite that, they moved forward, and created powerful music that is deep and moves the listener. Memento Mori is a powerful album, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Prominent tracks: “Black Unicorn”, “Take It to the Grave”, “Sanctimony”, “(Praise) the Electric Sun”, “Blood of Oceans”

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