Dec 072016



(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Sahg from Bergen, Norway.)

I have something to confess. Something that’s probably going to cut deep into my well established metal cred (ha!). You see, I don’t really like Black Sabbath.

There, I said it. Let the shaming begin.

It’s not that I actually dislike them. Far from it. As a matter of fact I enjoy them whenever I hear them (particularly the Dio era), and fully respect the band’s timeless legacy (more on that in a moment).

But they’re just not the sort of band whose albums I’d ever spin for my own enjoyment.

However, in the same way that although I’m not really much of a Slayer fan (there goes the last of my credibility), yet still absolutely love many bands who count them as a major influence, there’s a number of artists in my collection who cite Sabbath as their prime reason for being, and who can trace the roots of their sound right back to the Brummie masters (of reality).

And one of those bands is Norwegian doom-groove quartet Sahg.




Memento Mori , their fifth full-length album, and the first to feature new guitarist Ole Walaunet (Grimfist, The Batallion) and new drummer Mads Lilletvedt (Hellish Outcast, Solstorm), is one heck of an impressive listen, whether first, fifth, or fiftieth time through, with the band walking a fine line between retro cool and modern groove, balancing vintage vibes and cutting-edge sounds with the effortless grace of an experienced acrobat.

Opener “Black Unicorn”, for example, is not only one of the best songs of 2016 (in my humble opinion, anyway), but also sees the band channelling both Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd in equal measure, and somehow mixing these familiar colours into something that’s a near-perfect blend of new and old, classic and contemporary.

Similarly the riffy, technical ecstasy of “Devilspeed” and the seductively doomy melodies of “Take It To The Grave” don’t necessarily bring anything truly unique to the table at first… but the way which these songs are put together, the little bits of character and style which the band inject into every moment, transform them into something so much more vital and exciting than the mere sum of their parts.

Granted, in isolation the elements and influences which make up this album should be entirely familiar to anyone with even the most cursory metal education – “Silence the Machines”, for example, is the sort of eloquent, psychedelia-tinged Prog-Rocker that Mastodon would probably give their left tusk to write, while the chug-heavy “Sanctimony” mainlines a powerful, doomy groove reminiscent of Alice In Chains at their very best, and the sombre “Praise The Electric Sun” finds the quartet going full “Planet Caravan” – but somehow Sahg have managed to spin, twist, spit, shine, and polish them all into something that never feels forced, never feels derivative, and never feels anything less than utterly compelling.

Concluding with the spell-binding “Blood of Oceans” (which sounds a lot like I imagine Enslaved would do if they went full-Prog), Memento Mori is the sound of a band at the absolute top of their game, and deserves to be considered a real contender for a spot on any “Best Of” list for 2016.

  10 Responses to “SAHG: “MEMENTO MORI””

  1. Man those are two huge bands for you to not be into. Fair but, that’s odd.
    I feel the same about most classic rock. Zep, Jimi, hell even the Beatles. I get it they were all genius, highly skilled and influential but man, just not my cup of tea at all. I could watch John Bonham play drums all day tho!

  2. As a fan of Sahg’s previous albums (especially immediate predecessor Delusions of Grandeur), I actually found this one disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album at all. However, as someone who loves Black Sabbath, Pentagram and other doom pioneers, I found this album missing a lot of the classic groove that made earlier Sahg efforts so memorable. Memento Mori feels like something of a stylistic shift, aiming for a much grungier and more melancholic sound. It’s not a bad way to change things up and try to refresh the band, but it needs a lot of refining before the songs will be as memorable as they were on previous efforts.

    • This piece originally had a reference to “Delusions of Grandeur” in it, but it ended up ruining the flow so I had to excise it.

      And you’re definitely not wrong about it having a grungier, more melancholy feel to it. I think that’s why it appeals to me a little more than “Delusions…” did. But I’m not necessarily saying it’s BETTER than “Delusions…”, though I think it’s around about the same level in the end.

  3. Some Sabbath is dull, little more than warmed-over blues, but get with “Thrill of It All” from SABOTAGE, kid. “Fun” is not the first word a lot of people associate with Sabbath, but by the time Ozzy starts yelling, “Ooooohhh yeeee-ahh,” I defy you not to have fun. There, I said it.

  4. There’s no rule that says you have to like yer parent’s music! That goes for the usual 60s/70s Brit Invasion/classic rock that we’re basically told by everyone that we’re supposed to worship (Zep, Beatles, Stones, Dylan), and it applies equally to metal of any era.

    I personally like the first four Sabbath albums, and only those. But those albums came out over 40 years ago, and some of it sounds dated as hell to new listeners I’m sure, and obviously it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone.

    Slayer, in my opinion, have three bad albums – Divine Intervention, God Hates Us All, and Diabolus in Musica. And yes, I like Repentless (two or three weak tunes on that one, the rest are fuckin’ Slayer!). 🙂

    Gonna give Sahg a listen after I’m done cooking these here burgers. Your description and the album art have me intrigued!

  5. Oh good, I thought I was the only one around here that doesn’t much care for Black Sabbath. I assume like you, if I hear Sabbath, I won’t rush to turn it off and I probably will even enjoy it a bit, but I will very rarely ever put on Sabbath myself. I’ll listen to Led Zeppelin, The Kinks or The Beatles a hundred times over before I put on a Sabbath tune. I do like late 80s, very early nineties Slayer though: RiB, SoH and SitA, though have no inclination to listen to any other Slayer. And Pink Floyd gets shut off and destroyed the second it enters the ether. I do not care for them one bit.

  6. Yes! I didn’t spot it first time I heard it but “Sanctimony” totally evokes the lurching groove of “Grind” off the self-titled AiC album. This is growing on me, but I do think the two previous albums are better.

  7. I’m not trying to hate on the Band but. I find this very lackluster. I’ll take some Sabbath,Zeppelin instead. i am an Old fart though. Some Khemmis or Pall Bearer would be much more enjoyable as well.

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