01. Call of the Carnyx 02. Fallen 03. The Ancient Ones 04. Aurora 05. Beyond the Wall 06. Origins
An exponent of a very different kind of frostbitten extremity, SAOR mastermind Andy Marshall has been steadily exploring the uncharted territory between black metal's grim grandeur and the widescreen, emotional potency of atmospheric folk music. In truth, his music has always seemed entirely organic and natural, as if flowing directly from his fingertips, impervious to prevailing winds and proudly at one with the soil beneath his feet. If that all sounds like romantic hogwash, then you can blame records like "Origins", because SAOR have again created something that seeks to transport the listener away from the petty minutiae of the everyday and to somewhere epic, beautiful and unsullied by human hand.
Opener "Call of the Carnyx" demonstrates how Marshall's songwriting has been gradually refined over the years. Where previous albums occasionally laboured a melodic point for the sake of repetition, here SAOR are carrying no extra weight, and every riff and melody lasts no longer than it needs to. The end result is perfectly paced barrages of wind-battered black metal pomp like "Fallen", which veers perilously close to Scottish folk cliché but never quite reaches for the novelty sporran, and the closing title track, which is as absurdly rousing and uplifting as anything released in the name of metal this year. If it also sparks trace memories of BIG COUNTRY and THIN LIZZY, then so be it.
The most telling demonstration of SAOR's evolution comes with "Auruora": an untamed, eight-minute sprawl, predicated on another sumptuous, heart-rending melody, but embellished with bursts of spitting, blackened fury, ghostly choral vocals and, most surprisingly, an authentic sense of melodic (and therefore emotional) resolution. It's a beautiful and brutal piece of music that wields far greater real-world power than any scowling paean to Satan. Haunted by humanity but elevated by the sheer majesty of nature, SAOR are the perfect, primal response to this shitty world.
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