Saor have stayed close to their roots since forming in 2013 while always looking for new ways to change their sound and incorporate new styles of metal with traditional, Scottish folk music. This time is no different. Saor, after all, means “free” in Scottish Gaelic.
Forgotten Paths is their latest full-length, and it delivers on seamless combinations of thundering black and melodic death metal, triumphant lead guitars, and subtle melodies that call upon Scottish heritage.
The album is less about the tracks and more about the intricate weaving of their parts. Low growling leads into mystical acoustic guitars, into blast beats and tremolo, into piano interludes and beautifully triumphant vocals, culminating in a ballad of screams, blast beats, and folk melody undertones. The transitions are significant but natural, seamless yet important. The opening title track featuring Neige of Alcest is cohesive, beautiful, and powerful.
Angelic synths and full, delayed guitar strums are complimented by another clinking piano. Saor doesn’t compromise on sound; it seems to be their endeavor to constantly juxtapose the gorgeous with the painful, the grandiose with the subtle. Three minutes into the build of the second track, the guitar solo soars, and the listener has forgotten how they ended up here. The songwriting of “Monadh” is delicate, majestic, long-winded, but never boring. You get lost in the referential melodies, rhythms, and changes of context.
Everything from the performances to the mixing of this record is solid. During the climaxes, the mix sounds like a thoroughly unified, nuanced piece of music, where every musician works together to comprise the overall melody and mood. But during their quiet parts, each new phrase played by the members of the band takes the lead, creating perfectly timed and delicate builds that are always interesting.
The mid-tempo, urgent tremolo that starts off “Bròn” gets faster with every low beat of a bass drum. Before you know it, chugging double bass and fast tremolo guitars make for a balanced, full mix. Just when you think the album is swaying towards the folk, the metal returns to the forefront of their sound. The drumming gets even faster during the next folk melody, a perfect blend that leads to female vocals and a triumph of interchanging parts.
Acoustic guitar, piano, and violin comprise a mid-track interlude that doesn’t stick out as a mandatory change of pace, and instead creates a drastic and exciting change when the drum roll intrudes and returns the song structure cycle. The outro of this track is an unexpected, gorgeous harmony of two electric guitars.
To the sound of the slow, panning waves, a lonely, distant guitar is quietly joined by another string instrument. A complex interchange of melodies make the strings indistinguishable from each other. A solemn, beautiful patchwork that fades into the crashing waves.