For more details about the Aura release, and news about the Roots re-release, visit our earlier post.
Saor means “free” in Scottish and Irish Gaelic.
“Free” is the one word that best describes Aura, the atmospheric, Celtic/folk, black metal album from this one-man-band. While the album certainly is folky, it’s metal first, with folk styling blended into, rather than being tacked onto, the metal. Yes, it’s hard to pigeon-hole this band; however, it really isn’t that esoteric.
The spirit of the Scottish highlands seams to have been infused with Aura. I attribute much of that to the sparing use of tin whistle throughout the album. The traditional little instrument has a perfect timbre that makes you think of rolling green hills, caressed by dew from the chill of a night now day.
Aura possesses a natural, powerful, and symbolic feeling without ever straying away from metal aesthetics, or giving into gimmickry. The music isn’t angry, but there is certainly aggression behind it; a stoic kind of force that goes well with the imagery of its country of origin. Appropriately, some of the lyrics are derived from respected Scottish poems, while others are influenced by the culture and history of Scotland.
The traditional instruments are used effectively, but they don’t dominate the other instruments. Acoustic guitar sound is used sparingly throughout the album but always in conjunction with the heavier sounds, rather than steeling the spotlight or resorting to awkward ‘interludes’. Other traditional instruments used on the album include bagpipes, and bodhrán. It’s difficult to single them out from the rest of the music, but I think that’s why they work so well. There is nothing that jumps out in front of you to break the feel of the songs, and everything easily melds together. The tin whistle plays the parts that would often be filled in by keyboards. As for the keys, which are fairly ubiquitous, they are ever in the background, adding depth, texture, and harmonies — like an enigmatic choir. They’re almost felt, rather than consciously heard, and you really have to stop and focus to notice them.
The harsh vocals are not traditionally black metal at all, opting for a gruff and deeper kind of yelling style; it works well on this album. They are blended into the mix beautifully. “Children of the Mist” (track 1) starts with sounds of the wind and nature, with a low keyboard hum. After a short spoken part from a female voice, the music goes straight into the melodic metal that listeners can expect throughout the album. This is also where the flute begins the motif that is built upon throughout Aura, interacting with piano, as well as strings. Aura flows around this musical motif, conjured up throughout the tracks. It’s an uplifting and substantial, ballad-like, part that seems to embody the spirit of the music itself.
“The Awakening” (track 3) is cinematic, with flowing choir-like vocals. And it really does have the effect of a powerful, heartfelt scene in a movie. Now, what I’m describing has been done before, and often in a very ‘cheesy’ way. However, Saor has done something different, with earnest authenticity. I think metal fans looking for something containing sincere sentiment, which is not manipulative or trite, would enjoy this album.
I would not call this a concept album, and I could be wrong; but it is an album – as a whole — rather than a disparate collection of individual songs. And I love when artists respect the album as an entity: a whole piece of music that individual songs form, rather than a collection of short-focused, one-hit tracks. It gives the listener a sizable experience that they can delve into and savour, instead of something fleeting. And that’s exactly what Soar’s Aura is: a vivid expanse of melodic, Celtic/folk metal.
Genre: Celtic/Folk Metal
Release: June 6th, 2014
Label: Northern Silence Productions
Written by Michael Kaltenbrunner