March 12, 2019

Saor - Forgotten Paths

By Calen Henry. Through his three previous albums, Andy Marshall’s largely solo project Saor honed a unique sound. The project is rooted in atmospheric black metal, but riffier and more melodic, seamlessly weaving in bagpipes, fiddle, and tin whistle
By Calen Henry.

Artwork by Atterigner

Through his three previous albums, Andy Marshall’s largely solo project Saor honed a unique sound. The project is rooted in atmospheric black metal, but riffier and more melodic, seamlessly weaving in bagpipes, fiddle, and tin whistle, elevating it to something transcendent.

Saor’s core approach has largely stayed the same, apart from moving to cleaner production from Aura to Guardians. Forgotten Paths, however, marks a musical shift. Prior Saor albums have delved deeply into Celtic music, with many tracks sounding inexorably Scottish. While the main approach remains unchanged, Forgotten Paths branches out from Saor’s roots to use Marshall’s compositional chops to create something less Celtic, but even more beautiful than his previous releases.

Photos by Franck TEXIER

Four elements make up Saor’s core sound: melodic tremolo riffs, driving palm-muted riffs, acoustic passages, and folk melodies. Marshall has a compositional gift for all four, but their juxtaposition and combination is the magic of Saor. Taking cues from post rock, he builds long songs that present motifs separately before dropping into heart-stopping moments with layered folk instruments on metal riffs, then breaking away from metal completely to let the folk instruments shine. These moments have always been gorgeous, but the sonic shift on Forgotten Paths makes them even prettier than before.

It’s exciting to see an artist create a niche and then transcend it. Forgotten Paths does just that. It’s unmistakably Saor, but more diverse and lovely than any prior album. The black metal portions hew closer to blackgaze (helped by a guest appearance by Alcest’s Neige), and the folk arrangements are less reliant on bagpipes, using fiddle and tin whistle more than before. It’s a subtle shift, and although it isn't ostensibly better than Saor's "Celtic incarnation," it stands with the other records as top-tier folk metal.

1 comment:
  1. Love some Black Metal but that is all you seem to review. Why is that!? It is Bandcamp Metal after all.

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