posted on 3/2008 By:
Scandinavia may have a lock on center stage of the metal world stage, but when it comes to all things doomy and 1970s—sounding, America and the United Kingdom tend to take the lead. This said, the last two albums in this style that I’ve really dug have been Scandinavian in origin. The first was Witchcraft’s excellent 2007 release The Alchemist, which handily proved that Swedes can manage retro rock as well as anybody out there. The second is Sahg’s II. I missed this band’s debut album, but when I learned that King ov Hell (Gorgoroth or ex-Gorgoroth depending on who you ask; their lineup situation is starting to resemble the Sino-Taiwanese split) and Olav Iversen from Manngard were involved in a throwback rock project, I couldn’t resist. Sahg’s take on the genre is slightly darker and more modern than Witchcraft’s, but is just as enjoyable of an exercise in riffy, hazy rock’n’roll.
“We are rebels lost in time,” moans Iversen on “Echoes Ring Forever,” II’s first really strong cut. But everything about the song—Iversen’s vocal crossbreed of Ozzy and Ronnie James, its mammoth swinging grooves, its grimy soloing and its acid freakout conclusion—suggests that Sahg are coming from sometime rather specific. This band’s music is rooted firmly in the late 70s, when traditional heavy metal was just beginning to wane and more aggressive metal styles were still embryonic but steadily growing. This hint of darker things to come—some latent Gorgoroth influence, perhaps?—colors much of II, inflecting the album’s druggy flow with a bad-trip menace. This crops up first on “From Conscious Sleep,” an instrumental foray into a droning nadir populated by cymbal washes and incantatory chants. A few songs later, the menace returns on “Pyromancer,” albeit in decidedly different form. This time Sahg bring just a touch of thrash energy into the mix; the rhythm section dials up the tempo, the guitars take on a more angular and grouchy feel, and in general it sounds like someone broke the communal bong and the band is out for blood. It’s definitely the strongest cut on the album and breaks up II’s spacey feel perfectly.
First and foremost, though, this is basically Black Sabbath/Pentagram worship, and Sahg carry it off as well as any band I’ve heard. They can bring down the punishing grooves (“Echoes Ring Forever,” “Star Crossed,” “By the Toll of the Bell”), they can reduce the volume and get intimate and sinister (“Escape the Crimson Sun,” “Wicked Temptress”) and they can jam it out into the stratosphere (“Monomania”)—and most importantly, they can pull it all off with a great deal of flair and style. You can hear the experience these musicians bring to the table—every performance is rock-solid, the compositions are detailed and memorable, and even the production is excellent. File this one under “redundant but rockin’,” right next to that Witchcraft disc.
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