Monday, October 15, 2012

Sahg - Sahg II

Another old review...

Sahg's follow up release to Sahg I, which I found to be a phenomenally rendered debut, Sahg II, is very much the "Planet Caravan" of the two albums. This is not quite true in that Sahg II is more mellow or psychedelic in any sense - in fact I find the album heavier and more of a "punch in the face" than Sahg I - but the album flows liquidically, like two converging desert rivers - one lazily winding through the landscape and the other etching an scar unimpeded across the cacti covered hills.

"Desert!" you say? Don't worry. This isn't the follow up to Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method. There is not one moment that resembles anything that Dylan Carlson would compose. The desert feel comes from the smuggling of instruments not native to Sahg's doomy sound into their music repertoire. Rattles in the second half of "Star Crossed" alert to the angered rattle-snakes - possibly angered by the song's lyrical content. Tambourines spread across the songs allude to the journey of a lost outlaw. He travels across the album's entirety, his rusty spurs ringing in time with the larger symbolism of his existence; his echoes ringing forever.

I adore King's bass playing to a great extent on this album and while I enjoyed his playing on Sahg I, his playing is more distinguishable on Sahg II than before. I can attribute this to an increased level of memorability in his bass lines but also a slight tonal adjustment. King's tone is much richer and fuller on this album which is a critical detail in songs such as the aforementioned "Echoes Ring Forever" and "Wicked Empress." Olav (Iversen) and Thomas' (Tofthagen) guitar work is top-notch as well. There are some extremely fluid riffs and melodies present across the album's landscape. The leads in "Pyromancer" push the song into a new realm, preventing it from taking a back seat to other songs on the album. "Escape the Crimson Sun" is the "Planet Caravan" of the album. The lead in "Star Crossed" is, however, the strongest moment on the album.

Olav's vocals were one of the most enjoyable pieces of the Sahg puzzle, for me, on the debut album. However, I can't help but feel slightly let down this time around. Don't get me wrong, his vocals soar at times - I memorized the chorus to "Echoes Ring Forever" after only my second time through the song. Other times I found his vocals to fall short and not satisfy my expectations. I also felt that Olav resorted to similar vocal patterns and melodies that he used on the first album and while this, in and of itself, is fine, when coupled with some similar moments guitar-wise I am left with a sense of deja-vu. Deja vu and a slightly exploited fourteen dollars. The similarities were rare, but to my ears noticeable. It could be noted there wasn't a whole lot of progression between I and II.

Mmmm... Flames
I thought the choice of "Ascent to Decadence" as the album opener was the auditory equivalent of watching a tricycle race with one tricycle and no rider. The song is a bit too predictable and not compelling. Likewise I felt "By The Toll Of The Bell," squashed between the interesting yet unremarkable "Wicked Empress" and the longer more grabbing and captivating "Monomania," to be done a disservice. I would have liked to hear the intensity of B.T.T.O.T.B as the opening track.

I found myself enjoying the space between the second to fifth tracks the most and aside from By The Toll Of The Bell, drifting away from the music for what was left of the second half of the album. It's clear Sahg still have a lot of great ideas left and I think that their next album - fingers and toes [star]crossed - will be better than this follow up and might even give the debut a run for its own money. Until it's release, however, I will still enjoy the finer points of this - albeit slightly disappointing album.

As an aside: The artwork courtesy of Martin Knamme is stunning.

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