Vera : After three albums brimming with eminent traditional doom metal (yet with a very personal twist), Norwegian Sahg started exploring new musical horizons on the previous album ’Delusions Of Grandeur’ (2013). It was not a break with their former sound - that would be exaggerating - but the atmospheric, unworldly and mystic elements were featured a lot more, although one can still hear an undercurrent of doom vibes. On their fifth album ‘Memento Mori’, this new direction is deepened and perfected, together with producer Iver Sandøy who added some keyboards and percussion as well.
However, long before that, the band went through strenuous days. Last year founding member/guitarist Thomas Tofthagen decided to leave the band and so did drummer Thomas Lønnheim. For a moment it seemed as if the end of Sahg was drawing near. Fortunately the other members Olav Iversen (v, g) en Tony Vetaas (b, v) did not called it quits. The new members Ole Walaunet and Mads Lilletvedt come from more extreme metal bands and it results in ‘Memento Mori’ being heavier, but most of all more progressive. Driven by the realisation that even icons like Lemmy and David Bowie are mortal, they ended up with the title ‘Memento Mori’ (Latin for ‘remember that you must die’). That is reflected in most of the lyrics, but the music has also a slightly psychedelic and unworldly aureole. The step out of this life is the gate to the universe, isn’t it?
It is quite ingenious how Sahg turned into masters of a more psychedelic discipline. Most of the time the music is still slow, vocals are drawling, but from time to time they fervently rock. That’s why fans from the early days will also find themselves totally in the music on ‘Memento Mori’. Opener ‘Black Unicorn’ leaves us right away in awe by its psychedelic beauty. It has the vibe of Pink Floyd in the late sixties, with its spatial fluttering sounds. But, as I said, these guys have a crafty designed structure in their strong songs and thus they swallow the bait. Just listen to their tight playing and those enchanting solos in ‘Devilspeed’. The trance-inducing low chants with familiar sounding melody in ‘Take It To The Grave’ seem like a mantra, quiescent and mystical, with a heartfelt solo and heavier ending. While I listen to the captivating ‘Silence The Machines’ I realize that it reminds me a bit of the latest album from Secrets Of The Moon (‘Sun’), but Sahg also flirts with complex progressive passages. That Bowie wandered through the minds of these Norwegian musicians can be heard in the vocal lines of ‘Sanctuary’ although this first single appears to be a fetching stamping rocker with a refined, interesting mid-part. The most mellow dreamy moment – semi-acoustic, psychedelic with soaring synthesizers – we find during the beautiful ‘(Praise The) Electric Sun’, followed by the groove-laden heavy rock in the fervent ‘Travellers Of Space And Light’. To crown it all ‘Blood Of Oceans’ has an unexpected ethnic character. Einar Selvik (Wardruna) – once the original drummer of Sahg – is involved in this track. With his chants and authentic instruments he gives us a nearly unworldly apotheosis. What a stunner! A must have, in order to hear how the musical past can lead towards contemporary new music with a view on the stars.