It’s been awhile since I’ve been completely blown away when I’ve heard an artist for the first time, and blown away is exactly what happened when I heard Scottish artist Saor.
Saor is the one man project of Andy Marshall (although other musicians play on his records they aren’t technically in the band) which mixes metal and Celtic folk music. Saor’s music is meant to create this atmosphere that takes you away to the Scottish Highlands and imagine yourself standing at the top of a mountain looking out at the beautiful landscape of Scotland which lies beneath you, and Saor has mastered creating this atmosphere.
Saor’s third album Guardians is set to release November 11th. Guardians picks up where their successful 2014 album Aura left off: the mist filled highlands and moors of Scotland accompanied by heavy metal and traditional Celtic style music.
Not only does Andy Marshall create an atmosphere with the musical offerings of Saor he takes us right into the heart and soul of Scotland with the lyrics as well. The lyrics are actually taken from classic Scottish poems from various authors with Andy adding in some of his own words as well. The lyrical themes on Guardians deal a lot with fallen heroes who died for Scotland and also touch on national pride. I asked Andy how he came up with the concept for the new album, “I never intended to have a concept for the new album, It just happened. I took my favourite lines from those poems and a common theme started to appear. ”
Guardians opens with the title track giving us the sound of birds cawing and starting off with a slow paced guitar which moves into bagpipes and the rest of the instruments leading up to the fast black metal style riffs to come. “Guardians” lyrics tell us about the deaths of those who have died for Scotland and how they are not forgotten with lyrics taken from the poem “The Martyrs of Scotland” by Horatius Bonar.
The second track “The Declaration” opens with fast paced metal music then accompanied by a string section which makes for a very moving piece of music. The lyrics from this song come from the poem “Scots Wha Hae” by Robert Burns and talks of the fight for freedom. This is the first track to be released from this album (linked at the bottom of the article).
“Autumn Rain” continues the sorrow filled lyrical theme of this album with words regarding fallen heroes from Scotland’s history. These lyrics are taken from “Culloden Moore” by Alice MacDonnell of Keppoch. Andy Marshall’s brutal vocals stand out in this track.
The fourth track, “Hearth”, is my personal favorite on the album. The song starts off with an acoustic guitar joined by a rhythmic drum beat followed by traditional instruments before the faster metal beats and instrumentation join in. Lyrics are taken from “My Native Land” by Sir Walter Scott a poem which I recall having to memorize in a literature class in school. Lyrics to the chorus (the only clean singing on the album) are written by Saor’s own Andy Marshall. The lyrics show pride in the land of Scotland.
Since “Hearth” is about the love of Scotland, I asked Andy what his opinion was when Scotland voted against being independent from the United Kingdom in 2014. He answered, “I was disappointed with the outcome but not surprised. 45% of the vote was pretty good though, considering the nationalists were regarded as a fringe group for many years in Scotland. There is still a strong unionist community in Scotland and the ‘Yes’ side didn’t put forward a strong enough argument in my opinion. With England and Wales recently voting to leave the EU and Scotland voting to remain, there is high possibility that another independence referendum will be held in the near future.” Perhaps the future will hold an independent hearth for Andy and the rest of the Scots to call their own home and native land.
The closing track “Tears of a Nation” marches on with one last lament of the fallen Scottish heroes of old. The duo of guitar and pipes here really sounds great on this track. These lyrics are from the poem “The Tears of Scotland” by Tobias Smollet.
Andy Marshall has created a beautiful sounding album with complex musical arrangements containing masterfully crafted guitar riffs melodiously accompanied by bagpipes, fiddles, and other stringed instruments plus pounding double bass drumming. When questioned about the complex arrangements and music writing process Andy Marshall responded with, “I start off with a riff or melody on guitar and start recording demos. Once I’ve got the basics down, I begin adding other instruments and vocal ideas. I’ve no idea how the songs become complex and long, it’s just something that naturally happens when I write music.”
Don’t fret seeing there are only 5 songs on the album. Most songs clock in over 10 minutes in length so there’s plenty of music here to enjoy. Guardians is surely not an album to miss if you’re looking to hear something some fresh and original.
While you are waiting for the full length album to be released on November 11th on Northern Silence Productions be sure to give a listen to the song “The Declaration” on Saor’s Bandcamp page. Merchandise can be ordered there as well. Also be sure to give them a like on Facebook
Written by Isaac Sauers
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