Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saor - Aura

Genre : Folk black metal
Release : June 6th 2014 on Northern Silence Productions.

Hi everybody out there, it's been a while! You may probably wonder why the blog was put to rest but also why things are moving again around here. And the reason is precisely this : Saor - Aura. It's with incredible honor that I've been allowed to review, two months before its release, the successor of my "album of the year 2013". Roots was an impressive debut album from Saor, called Àrsaidh by that time. Andy, the mastermind and sole member behind this project, took profit of being alone to deliver his personal vision of scottish influenced atmospheric black metal without any interference, making it both true and coherent. It was a blast, and quickly enough, he returns for the second step of what is becoming a reference in the genre.

Aura comes in with a couple changes, the main one being Austin Lunn from Panopticon placing himself behind the drums. If you weren't told about it, you would quickly guess if you know about him, as his trademark is definitely part of that new record. As such, you can expect some impressive drumming, and not only technically : drums really follow the mood of the songs in Aura, being crushing and dynamic with riffs, mostly blastbeating behind vocals, and lighter along atmospheric parts. Riffs? They hold a big part of the record, which could in the end be summed up by a rough half of scottish elements, and an other half of dynamic guitars. Of course, Aura cannot be well described such a quick way, what I mean is there's no letdown in any track : Andy keeps things melodic all the time, be it on the atmospheric side or on the metal one. A good example of this trend would be the title track, 'Aura', which has little vocals over its 13 minutes, and successfully stays catchy with riffs and flutes sharing the place all along. Atmospheric parts really got the scottish trademark here, with flutes being the main instrument used all along the record for that job, but not the only one : pianos, bagpipes or violins are fairly present and help building the incredible atmosphere of the record. On top of that, vocals deserve consideration : not only Andy's growls really make sense by being atmospheric, desperate and aggressive at once (yeah, all that!), but he added various kinds of pretty cleans along that, and they do make sense too! Such choirs were definitely unexpected even though there were a couple hints on Roots, especially on 'The awakening' where they're really church-like if taken on their own. I know this "church" word may bug some of you, but stay confident into Andy's songwriting skills, they fit the record absolutely well. Other choirs are used throughout the record, on 'Farewell' for example, which remind more of what was on Roots.

Aura shines with coherence, dynamism, and incredible songwriting. Musically, for what has been said before and many other reasons which are only meant to be listened to, but also conceptually, as there's an obvious feeling of nature, despair and scottish traditions all along the five tracks. Where Roots was an awesome record, Aura is nothing less. Although appreciations may vary on first listens, it's definitely the follower Roots was calling for, and Saor is quickly building a coherent and impressive discography. Let's just hope there's more to come from Andy, who definitely holds a place among the best atmospheric/folk black metal composers of today.

Personal highlights : Aura, Farewell.
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