Saor is a Celtic folk metal band, that’s a good description but not very specific. In just 6 songs, they manage to blend all sorts of ideas together and develop a sound of their own, that stands out from any band you could compare them to. Those tracks are more instrumental than vocal, they feature different vocal styles but not a lot of traditional instruments and no verse/chorus structure, and they have both heaviness and melody, so it would be hard to label them as any subgenre of metal in particular. Opener “Call of the Carnyx” is a good indicator of the album’s peculiar style: it starts with a repetitive but rather nice melody that sounds like it could be an old Celtic folk song, before becoming heavier. The track is mostly instrumental, with the only vocal parts being a choir, and later a short black metal growl part.
Then, “The Ancient Ones” is what you could call a more typical folk metal song, starting with flutes (hurray for metal songs with flutes and other wind instruments) before the heavy guitars, and being about ancient Celtic rituals and civilizations. “Aurora” is almost a Celtic version of an Enslaved song, featuring choirs, growls and heavy riffs. Its use of traditional percussions at the beginning, and its good use of flutes, also give it an authentic folk feel.
These are also some of the tracks where the vocals have the biggest presence, starting with a choir before the solo growls. But others follow a similar mainly instrumental path. For example, “Fallen” is a little heavier and features more vocals (though mostly in the form of pitch-shifted spoken word), and it ends with a melodic riff that also sounds like an authentic folk song.
“Beyond the Walls” gathers all the characteristics found in other songs: choirs and growls, and heavy guitars that play a very Celtic melody. It also includes whispers from a female vocalist who can vaguely be heard in the background of the choirs in “Fallen”, and then in the last minute of “Beyond the Walls”. So does the final and title track, which is mainly instrumental and starts with a metal-ified Celtic melody before the heavy guitars and growls. It also includes a nice violins, guitars and drums part in the middle.
The interesting thing about Saor, and what makes them stand out, is that they’re not really a folk metal band that mixes guitars and traditional instruments, they don’t make metal covers of well-known folk songs, and they don’t really make the upbeat kind of folk metal either. You won’t hear a metal jig on this album. Instead, they try to recreate the feel of a Scottish folk song and really ancient ceremonies. This is what makes this album so special, and so enjoyable, in addition to its diverse array of vocal styles, its well-played instrumentals and catchy melodies. “Call of the Carnyx” is my favorite track, because its folky melody is the most gripping and feels the most like a really old melody that has endured for many centuries. But other tracks all have something good to offer as well.
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