Drygate Brewery, Glasgow on Mon 10th Feb 2020

Hometown heroes Saor are back for a show in Glasgow, this time at the wonderful Drygate Brewery. The folk/black metal legend states that this will be their sole sojourn in this city this year, encouraging practically everyone in the Glasgow black metal scene to come. Last year, they released their fourth album ‘Forgotten Paths’, securing lofty laudations from the international metal world. Andrew Marshall is the sole musician behind Saor and his meteoric rise to the global metal scene is deserved. The band breathed life in 2013 after Marshall’s previous vessel Àrsaidh changed its moniker. Not only did the one-man band release the highly successful ‘Forgotten Paths’ last year but they also inked a record deal with metal kingmakers Season of Mist, a decision that will undoubtedly award Marshall with bountiful opportunities.

It’s heartening to see an atmospheric black metal band with songs frequently eclipsing the ten-minute mark fill out a 360-capacity venue. Proceedings have been running late at the show and there is a sizeable congregation of fans eagerly awaiting the show. When Marshall takes the stage with his backing band, a thunderous ovation strikes the venue’s walls. The band’s music is a tasteful dynamic blend of folk and atmospheric black metal. Marshall distances himself from the caricature-nature of the most celebrated folk metal acts and the aimlessness of amateur atmospheric black metal. This makes his love letter to Alba feel even more sincere.

Disruptive sound issues are quickly nipped in the bud shortly after the set takes off, providing Saor with velveteen sound. Marshall is armed with his bass, flanked by two guitarists - Paolo Bruno (from suicidal black metal band Thy Light) and Rene MacDonald Hill (from Cnoc an Tursa), plus energetic violin player Lambert Segura. The keyboards and other instruments are taped but that fails to subtract from such an immersive experience. Saor weave an evocative tapestry of blackened folk metal. Plenty of influence is taken from the original Norwegian second wave of black metal and recast into bold and heroic guitar leads, often dual leads. There is a fantastic relativity between the folk and metal instrumentation perfectly depicting the unforgiving beauty of Scotland’s harsh landscapes. Songs are armed to the teeth with emotion from the optimistic to the moody, detailing Scottish history, galloping forth like a kelpie from a loch.

The setlist is a solid representation of the band’s discography. The title track from ‘Forgotten Paths’ and ‘Monadh’ positively represent Saor’s most recent aural observations. ‘Aura’, ‘The Awakening’, ‘Carved in Stone’ and the particularly stirring ‘Tears of a Nation’ plump out what Marshall describes as the longest set the band has ever played. Despite the lengthy track run times, the audience never depletes its energy. Mosh pits and crowd surfers pepper the gig for a lot of the set, whilst a legion of headbangers don’t quit. This is just further testament that Saor are not dull nor insipid in any way.

Saor leave the stage after what feels like too soon. The crowd don’t budge and eventually, the musicians to the stage, accompanied by female vocalist. The thrust into the enchanting ‘Bròn’, faithful to its recorded counterpart. This is bright note to conclude the set with and a bewitching display of their musical prowess. Marshall’s paeans are majestic and enduring, a real asset to the UK’s modern metal scene.

article by: Elena Francis

published: 14/02/2020 17:16

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