Album Review: SAOR - Origins

Atmospheric Black/folk metal infused with hints of classic heavy metal and mired in the legend of the Picts, Andy Marshall has proven himself to be a one-man band of epically, wizard-like proportions throughout the years however the fifth album ‘Origins‘ from his moniker SAOR is really a treasure to behold.

SAOR is Scottish Gaelic for ‘free; without obligations; unconstrained” and this record is just that. ‘Origins‘ is based on the story of the Picts; a group of peoples who lived in northern and eastern Scotland during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. They were known for carved memorial stones and standing strong against the Romans who tried and failed to conquer the land north of their Empire’s territories; thus resulting in the building of Hadrian’s Wall to separate the wild, painted barbarians from the Roman Empire.

Andy says of the album: “This album is a lot more guitar driven. During the pandemic I listened to a lot of classic heavy metal and I think you’ll hear the influences on the dual lead guitars and solos. I also wanted this to be my heaviest album with emphasis on the riffs. My harsh vocals have changed from deep growls to more of a black metal style. Since the subject of the album is the Picts, I wanted a pagan theme throughout, and so that aspect is a lot more prominent than in the previous albums. I also used instruments such as the Carnyx (war horn) and tribal drumming to convey that feeling.”

Call of the Carnyx’ begins with a swelling, dramatic introduction with tribal war drumming and a tense atmosphere with a singular guitar riff before launching in to a vibrant instrumental. The track ebbs and flows between contrasting ethereal vocals against the backdrop of the spectral Carnyx (war horn) itself and energetic dual guitar riffage with thunderous drumming. ‘Fallen‘ follows suit making extra emphasis on the thunderous, war-like drumming, elements of traditional folk orchestrals and chanting, hauntingly powerful black metal vocals.

The Ancient Ones‘ continues with the folk elements and is considerably more upbeat with a faster tempo from the offset. Soaring riffs, blazing blastbeats and brutal black metal growls carry the track directly in to ‘Aurora;’ a sprawling, bassline-lead dramatic endeavour with more ethereal chanting and minimal growls. This soundscape is both enchanting and evocative, drawing you in as it soars.

The closing tracks are also the only singles to have been released from the record. ‘Beyond the Wall‘ surges onwards with more ferocious blastbeats and epic riffage. The contrast between guttural vocals and haunting cleans adds to the atmosphere with effortless aggression. The closing title track concludes the record in the same vein as it began; with sprawling intensity, building momentum and maintaining a truly epic ambience.

With a tense atmosphere throughout incorporating black metal infused with evocative folk elements, ‘Origins‘ is nothing short of dramatic and powerful. A perfect blend between raw beauty and stunning ferocity telling the story of a culture lost to time.

Rating: 9/10

Released By: Season of Mist

Release Date: 24th June 2022

For Fans Of: Primordial, Falkenbach, Enslaved

Favourite Track(s): Call of the Carnyx, Fallen, Aurora, Beyond the Wall

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