Sawlegen - Stories from an Old Empire
Label: HAARBN PRODUCTIONS
Reviewer: Tarek - 2014-11-24
Title: Stories from An Old Empire
Label: HAARBN PRODUCTIONS
Release Date: 2007, Re-Released July 2014
Playing Time: 50 Minutes
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
When the dust settle around the war fields, and the air carry nothing but the sound of warriors wielding their swords, let Sawlegen guide you through this epic journey through the past, where war was not only brutal and unmerciful, but also marvellously charming and filled with stories about warriors who crossed fields and seas for the honour of their kings and the bride of their women. Sawlegen choose to kick off their musical journey with a rather flash-back to the past to follow the story of deserted lands, fallen warriors and a great empire that was lost in time.
The album kicks off with "Mustears" a three minute ambient intro that eases the way into the story with its waving flute sound over the keyboards choirs. "Darkness be my bride" was actually the first track I ever listened to for Sawlegen a long time ago, and it grasped my ears from the very first moment with its soft clean vocals lines moving on a very well structured background of clean guitar intro that paves the way to the vocals entrance, dancing across the borders between doom and death metal. The lyrics in particular was catchy and very suitable to the track and it easily painted the image of a queen singing it's last prayers as her king depart for war, as in the following part:-
A whore dressed in a black gown
The divinest creature that the gods of nights miraculously
Would make her their queen
At midnight, she sings requiems from the window
From the first tone "Melancophoria" radiate a huge pulse of agony while the grungy sound of the guitars gives a more sharp edge to the sound, which made it stand a bit from the earlier tracks. The brutal growls finally appear here to add more edge and power to the track, blending with the soft clean vocals before turning to a more blackened scent towards the end, holding the more oriental sensation by the guitars solo.
Troyan Licorn is where it gets serious with the fast alternative picking lines carrying the guitar melodies, and screaming vocal sound that will kick you from your seat. This track showed a couple of well-structured music interludes and breaks where the drummer begins to stand a bit more from the earlier tracks.
The bass finally got his chance to walk alone under the spotlight in "Tortured souls" and he made good use of this chance uniting the drum kicks to make the perfect mixture to keep your head moving all around the track, with the clean and brutal vocal walking together praying for the darkness to blow essence of power among their souls.
I had to wait until the last parts of the album to really get the oriental feeling of the album and “Streets of Agrabah " didn't disappoint me at all. The track shows more diversity and originality than the whole album with proper use of the rhythmic section and percussions to add the oriental feeling rather than the lead parts. The oriental strings in the breaks carried my ears through the different verses nicely and found myself repeating this track particularly many times.
The sound of the horses' neigh behind the clashing swords introduces this war anthem of Saracen Knights or "The great victory" which was one of the most noticeable steps in this journey mixing Arabic with English lyrics, which is something I really appreciated. The galloping bassy distorted guitars sound with the choir breaks in-between, combined with the snaky screams and soft clean whispers makes it not only one of the most intense experiences in the album, yet the more tragic one too.
They finish the album with the acoustic versions of two of the earlier tracks "Streets of Agrabah and Melancophoria”. The clean Acoustic layout of the tracks seems more complementing to their oriental roots as in Melancophoria and the music actually seems more appreciating to the clean vocals abilities embracing her warm voice moving more easily though the acoustic guitar notes to make it a perfect smoothing landing to such a rough and vigorous journey.
One the main fundamental pillars of this album appears to be the key lines, adding tons of layers to the mood and sense of the tracks, with loads of background choirs and various piano lines that set the stage for the other instruments without dominating the whole image. The rhythm section presented fine touches of harsh solid grungy sound most of the tracks, playing on the power and speed cards of the musical construction of the album, leaving the lead guitars and acoustic parts to transfer the oriental atmosphere of the story by themselves. The bass guitar did his job fine enriching the overall sound of the record, but with a few diversions from the main path, we yet to see all what this guy can do.
The female vocal was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the album, almost right over every tone but the production killed a lot of her power under the guitars and drums, which is turning to be one of the main down sides of the album as the production process wasn't fair for their sound and the balance between the different instruments and vocals which could have been better.
Sawlegen seems to be collecting different aspects from multiple genres, ranging from the sharp fast riffs and snake vocals of black metal to the more distorted melody ones of melodic death metal to the aspect that reminded me a bit of Noumena in some parts. This mixture won't let you to get bored but I feel they are still to find their unique sound though. Hopefully in the following releases the sound gets more personal and distinguished and the right integration of oriental scales and atmosphere is crucial to their future development if they intend to continue headings toward a more oriental path, especially after we began seeing more oriental death and black bands around and new interpretations of this idea becomes more needed.
As their debut album Salween succeeded in capturing my attention with a solid constructed album, showing great musical skills and a genuine story loyal to their roots and reflecting many musical and cultural influences among it that will leave you in great anticipation for their next move.