Review Summary: Come discover the path less trodden.
While becoming a visionary of the Celtic black metal arts, Andy Marshall has steadily gained steam in terms of surreal quality and genre transcendence. Initially starting Saor’s deep roots in the form of Arsaidh, Marshall quickly gained status as a man who knew his way around a sonic vision. The efforts that followed, continued in the same vein, building in the transitional story lines of beautiful landscapes and vast compositions and when compared directly to the vast efforts that precede this year’s Forgotten Paths
, the lines between old and new blur… and thankfully so.
That’s not to say Saor has stalled as a creative outlet for Mr. Andy Marshall, rather the progression moves forward much in the same way a novel’s page follows the last. The fan that finds themselves searching down this path for wild experimentation and major plot turns is set up for quick dissatisfaction as Forgotten Paths
continues on its merry little way. If Roots
is a sonic gateway to the mountains and Aura
the reaffirmation that Saor stands testament to musical ingenuity then Marshall’s Guardians
stands as the new benchmark to which all other lofty black metal acts will be measured.
The unasked question: Does Forgotten Paths
measure up to its forebear？
Yes and no. Matching the grandiosity and utmost musical awareness found in Saor’s previous efforts is never going to be a small feat. Sure enough, a statement of sorts comes as the title track weaves melody into the typical Saor aesthetic, playing one element easily off the other. It’s natural, magnificent and yields only the predictability found on Saor’s precious records, tying well into the sole member’s need to bring culture, nature and history into a succinct package of musical dexterity. The sheer ferocity of “Bròn” overbears on the majesty and grace of the record’s cleaner moments. The flailing gravitational pull of “Monadh’s” more minimalistic piano trill backs the weight of Marshall’s soaring, transcendent nuances. It goes without saying that Forgotten Paths
is every part a Saor record, but it falls short of matching an opus such as Guardians
(if only by the nth degree).
If you’re somewhat familiar with the Saor brand of black metal, there’s something to be said about the finer points of the mixing and engineering of Forgotten Path
. Marshall’s time behind the desk has allowed this album to be presented at its fullest, captivating the use of minimalist quiet and fierce furor. There’s not a lot of breathing room, particularly when Marshall opts for a slow climatic build, but his mixing efforts prevent any staleness, or abrasive section shifts. The finer details make all the difference.
It seems Andy Marshall defies the tertiary slump most other similar acts go through, achieving yet another milestone. Largely, Forgotten Paths
is a shorter listen than the albums that predate it. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s definitely some level of want for yet another colossal track. Listeners don’t want new or revolutionary as long as Marshall maintains this artsy, well-executed foray into mind-boggling greatness. Sure, this year’s effort may not be the Guardians
of Marshall’s career, but it’s a damn fine next chapter in the same vein.