The Ground Beneath Your Feet…
So here we have album number four from Norway’s SAHG. I think its fair to say that these guys are not so well known outside of their own country, and frankly, this is a shame and a missed opportunity from Metal fans around the world. That said, this could be about to change with the release of “Delusions of Grandeur”.
So for those at the back, struggling to keep up… Sahg were formed back in 2004 with Olav Iversen of ‘Manngard’ (Vocals & Guitars), Thomas Tofthagen of ‘Audrey Horne’ (Guitar) and Tom Cato Visnes (aka King ov Hell), of Gorgoroth fame (Bass) and released their first album in 2006, titled “SAHG I”. The album had a very traditional doom vibe about it (think a modernized Black Sabbath for a really lazy journalistic reference point!), it landed in the Norwegian top 40 and the band have continued to expand on this formula ever since, with rave reviews for each subsequent release (SAHG II 2008 & SAHG III 2010)
With “Delusions of Grandeur” we have ourselves a good ‘ol fashioned concept album “about a person, whose delusions of grandeur escalate to the level where they consume him completely,” Vocalist Olav Iversen goes on to explain: “From becoming increasingly psychopathic and dominant, he loses touch with everyone around him and isolates into his own imaginary, psychotic world, where he becomes the almighty ruler of the universe. As he stands on the highest peak of his domain, he suddenly slips off the edge and floats away, weightless. Helpless and stripped of all power.”
So we start with ‘Slip off the Edge of the Universe’, where after a swirling, dream-like intro, the song proper contains genuine thrills in terms of classic rock riffs and pounding drums. The track is littered with acoustic elements and keyboard textures which bring a hypnotic, and please excuse the pun… spaced-out vibe. Add to that, a cracking, sing-along chorus (which has been stuck in my head for days now!) and you’ve got a near perfect opener.
Track 2 – “Blizzardborn” – sees the more traditional side of Sahg come out to play as they show their more, doom-laden side by slowing things down a touch, only for the band to then throw you off the scent with “Firechild”, and back are the pounding rhythms and a bit more of a rasp to Olav’s storytelling voice. This for me was another standout track: A real head-nodding number and one that will certainly come across really well live.
“Walls of Delusion” brings with it a really well balanced mixture of styles that encompasses everything from lumbering riffs and pulsating cadence with spoken word passages through to eerie, distant-sounding shouts.
Its at this point it started to dawn on me why the album felt so immediately accessible and i wondered if Sahg had been influenced by Mastodon’s “Crack The Skye” opus? It’s certainly not a bad reference point and “Delusions…” is in no way a direct descendant. I think its fair to say though, if your a fan of the aforementioned Mastodon album, there is certainly a lot here your going to love too.
The album’s closer (“Sleeper’s Gate to the Galaxy”) is a genuine surprise and delight. Starting with an acoustic melody and clean vocals, it has a warm and uplifting feel to it. The track then morphs seamlessly through a real air-guitar moment, into what i can only describe as “that classic rock” quality that will stir up feelings of little bits of Led Zep, Deep Purple, Rush and so much more. I have to admit… It f**kin brilliant and for me, a genuine “Hit Repeat” track. Initially, Its a bit of a slow burner but once it gets going, you’ll be disappointed when it ends. The lead guitar work needs pointing out as well, as it contains some rousing licks.
Another special mention should also go to the album’s artwork, as its striking (especially for Metal album) and really adds to the atmosphere of the music.
In conclusion, if you’ve never experienced Sahg before, this really should be your starting point and introduction to the band. For the rest of us, this can certainly be hailed as the bands most accomplished work.