Sahg - Sahg I - Regain Records / Candlelight Records USA 2006
Running Time: 48:26
"Intro: Paradise Macabre" trembles, swaying with near-imperceptible grace between hysteria and dread, bringing to mind the viewing of a slowly passing troupe of misshapen oddities. This is clearly no fuzzorama desert rock party stoner drivel, Norway's Sahg much more a student of Sabbath's more esoteric side ("Into The Void", "Planet Caravan") than the occasionally smiling hooks of Blue Cheer and Bang. A Telling Middle Eastern timbre winds about the consciousness of "Repent", Olav's vocals sounding as if delivered from underwater until a triumphant The Tea Party groove kicks in, swinging like a sledgehammer on the end of a chain and clearing a wide swath through anyone trapped in the room with this motherfucker of a song. At their best, Sahg invoke the spirit of Sabbath circa 1972 covering the Soundgarden of two decades later, but terminally depressed and hopeless. The buildup near the end of "Repent" finds Olav and Thomas clawing at the strings of their guitars, wringing out sounds of desperation. "The Executioner Undead" brings Olav's higher register to the forefront, the band taking a more direct approach reminiscent of COC at times, fellow Scandinavian doomsters Grand Magus at others. All good things must end, though, and the intro to "The Alchemist" comes off sounding remarkably like the chorus to Tool's "Part Of Me", that whole watery tone to the vocals getting a little samey by this point, making it a good thing that they fit so well with the music. The band sounds somewhat lazy at the beginning of "Rivers Run Dry", which I guess is the whole idea with this sort of music. Not that I'm looking for blazing Helstar speed metal or anything, but a little more adrenaline kick to this song could've made all the difference. Case in point; when they hit the chorus for the last time, the riff just fucking kills, pure and simple, leading into the abbreviated instrumental of "Whisper Of Abaddon". Airy keys and fingerpicked acoustics provide the variety I'd been hoping Sahg would get around to over the last couple songs, creating the perfect mid-album interlude. If this were the '70s, this is the part where you'd flip the album over. And, as always in the '70s, the band needed to really come out of that interlude with a total monster to make it worth getting up to flip the damned LP over. In "Godless Faith", Olav drops to a lower delivery, the band mixing the majesty of certain Cathedral material, the thud of Crowbar, and a more clearly metallic Acid Bath, bringing to bear the monster they knew they needed. The pounding wallop of "Soul Exile" uses the King/Kvitrafn rhythm section for the base of the verses, the bass rolling over steadfast drums to great effect, and proving that Sahg do, in fact, know how to use dynamics. This is one where Olav finds his inner Eric Wagner, his warbled prophecies delivered with power and skill. Sahg keep basically the same guitar tone throughout, not mixing things up much, even though you know they could if they wanted to. Why exactly they don't want to, I don't know. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but parts of "Boundless Demise" remind me of "Holy Water" from Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, adding to the shrug factor. Ending with the crashing cymbals and thunderous riffage of "Black Passage", Sahg get points for saving the best for last, hammering through the most overtly metallic song on the album, and finishing on a high (pun intended) note.
Sahg I is a pretty good album, if a bit pedestrian. It's their first shot out of the gate though, and with the talent inherent in the members of this dark cadre, I have no doubt the future will bear wonderfully rotten fruit from Sahg.