Saor is the new one-man project of Andy Marshall, who has been in a handful of previous black metal projects. Saor’s first full-length Roots was actually recorded under the name Àrsaidh, but that name apparently fell out of favor pretty quickly and the project has since been renamed. If you’ve heard Marshall’s old band Falloch‘s recent full-length, try imagining that album with the clean vocals removed, the songs lengthened and the atmospheric elements brought to the forefront and you’ll get pretty close to the sound of Roots. Another relevant project to bring up is Marshall’s previous solo project Askival, which at its peak was an excellent example of the softer side of black metal. Like both projects, Roots is built on a foundation of folk elements such as clean guitar melodies and acoustic passages coupled with some more metallic touches. The vocals don’t veer into the more commercial territory of Falloch’s clean singing, sticking for the most part to blackened screams but with some additional textures such as whispers included as well. Falloch fans will notice some familiar touches in the form of Celtic-sounding melodies played on folk instruments, which contribute a more ancient, ancestral feel to the album.
The three primary songs on the album are each around 15 minutes in length, which should give you some idea of the approach Marshall’s songwriting takes. There aren’t any easily-digestible hooks present on this album and it takes a while for things to sink in, but Saor avoids missteps and the songwriting is consistently strong throughout. Roots may not grab your attention, but sitting through its 50 minutes doesn’t feel like a waste of time at all. In general Saor fits on the mellower side of the metal spectrum alongside bands like October Falls, Alcest, Fen or Empyrium, providing a soothing listening experience without sacrificing the creativity and raw emotional impact that comes with the metal genre.