Genre: Folk / Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Northern Silence Productions
Behind the name Saor is the same person who until now had the project Àrsaidh, with which he has released a phenomenal album last year, named “Roots”. Andy Marshall, having experience with the band Falloch and with a main thematology around the heritage of his country Scotland, composed a powerful mix of ethereal atmosphere, post-rock and black metal, something he calls atmospheric celtic metal. The truth is I neglected his debut (under the name Àrsaidh) and listened to it later than it was released, yet “Aura” was on the waiting list this year. Most of the characteristics of the record, the good and the not so good ones, are similar to the first record as a whole.
At first, one observes the beautiful cover of “Aura”, which as in “Roots”, presents a landscape of vibrant colors, this time a hillside with a reddish tree stand in the middle. The logo of Saor is also very artistic, having several more detailed points than the usual logos we see, with the combination of shades induces emotions to the listener before they even come in touch with the musical side of the album. “Aura” has five tracks that clock around fifty-six minutes, maintaining it’s long in duration compositions. The style of the record generally does not go near the grimness of traditional black metal, on the contrary, one could say it bases in smooth ambient and post-rock, along with Marshall often touching heavier melodies.
For the album to achieve it’s own atmosphere, a lot of instruments -apart from the classics- are used, such as violins, acoustic guitars, keyboards and synthesizer, showing an intention for a variety of sound, which is largely achieved. Even at the moments of gushing heavy growls and shrieks, the feeling does not change into something more sinister and the tracks flow very nicely together. Guest musicians helped with the composition of the album, giving additional female voices and traditional instruments in various parts, making Saor an act that represents very well Scotland today. The drums are also quite active and not limited to specific tactics, even if their role was generally secondary on the album.
The production is dynamic and relatively clean, giving a more natural sound to the record. Various folk instruments are constantly used as a background to the track, as well as soft keys, either in the fast or slow paced parts of the music. Since more attention has been given to them, the main guitars were somehow cast aside, since the album does not have any characteristic riffs to show, even though that doesn’t work negatively at all. As a whole , I would say the album is a notable effort and has many stuff to give to the fans of ambient and extreme metal, in the vein of bands like Agalloch, Winterfylleth and Árstíðir Lífsins. “Aura” is not as good as “Roots”, which was almost revolutionary in terms of the folk / atmospheric black metal sound, but this has a special grace and atmosphere that does not disappoint.