In 2016 the Malmö, Sweden-based post-metal/post-rock group Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet released their self-titled debut and immediately enticed fans of these genres with their confident blend of heavy riffs and melodic textures. So much so that they found themselves sharing the bill for that year’s Vivid Festival in Norway with established artists like yndi halda and Kokomo.
RELEASE DATE: 27 January 2018 LABEL: Self-released
When I attended dunk!2017 last May, Vivid organizer Timo Helmers made it a point to rave to me about Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet, inspiring me to dig deeper into them as at that point they were still unknown to me. After having heard their LP it became clear that they were a band well worth placing on my radar. So I was excited to learn that their follow-up, II, would be dropping in early 2018. As I worked through this new offering I realized that there would be no sophomore slump and that this is a band that is heading toward a spot amongst the more highly-regarded groups currently working within the genre. Having their record mixed by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna) certainly brings an important element to the table, lending a very professional sheen to the already well-formed compositions.
For a band whose career has been relatively brief, they come out of the gate with knowing confidence and a deep repertoire of stylistic abilities. Album opener “Avfard” takes its time to unfold, but with a determined sense of immediacy that is gripping even as the musicians take over four minutes to grow and develop the introductory section of the track. The punchy guitar work inhabits a space that represents an intersection of numerous “post”s- metal, rock, hardcore; elements of each are fused into something that is excitingly self-assured; Sagor takes this blend and makes it undeniably their own.
The drumming – as it will continue to be as the album progresses – is a key element. There is an exuberant upbeat quality to it that breaks the potential weariness that can settle in with more doggedly mid-tempo post-rock. This is music that attacks your senses rather than gently caressing them. It has the graceful melodic ornamentations that often characterize contemporary post-rock, but this is an aggressive, heavy record first, and a pretty record second. The key is that it does indeed capture both elements successfully. However, suffice to say when “Avfard” reaches the breaking point of its lengthy build, the last thing listeners will be thinking about are sweeping romantic gestures or inward contemplation. This album rocks as hard, or harder, than almost any post-rock record I have heard in a good while. And frankly, I needed that, and I believe a lot of others do as well. But the track is also not without its moments of dreamy, dramatic brilliance. The string-laced closing section is much more than the kind of track length padding it could have been in less capable hands. It’s dramatic and moving in a way that absolutely adds to the power of the song, a strong denouement that also foreshadows the kinds of stylistic shape-shifting that Sagor will engage in during the tracks to follow.
“Storm” continues with more placid string-heavy atmospherics during its intro, but quickly gives way to driving torrents of heavy guitars propelled aggressively forward by a fierce blast beat. Just as soon as you grow accustomed to this, however, the track pulls back and explores a different area of Sagor’s canvas, a foray into the darkest realms of post-rock territory. This track again highlights the importance of the percussion for Sagor, as drummer Martin Mileros surveys a number of tempos and tones, giving “Storm” a pulsing sense of vigor and purpose.
The pre-release single “Ovisshet” leads with a dark, foreboding passage that hints toward the kind of mystic, forest-dwelling atmospherics that one might expect of heavy music from Scandinavia. As it grows it observes some classic post-metal territories before bursting into some truly anthemic, triumphant riffing around the 4 minute mark. It’s again very impressive how well they blend their heavier leanings with their melodic sensibilities without these two styles ever seeming to be simply transposed over one another. It’s refreshing to find a band capable of treading an admittedly beaten path while remaining unique, creative and entirely comfortable in their own distinct skin.
An achingly beautiful ambient piece, “Fyr” is a song that could be viewed simply as a bridge, but I see it as being a very important piece of the puzzle. It’s a proving ground moment that reveals an integral element of Sagor’s overall range, particularly in context with the other cuts on the record. The sparse plinking of keys, the tastefully understated strings and softly emotional guitar swells combine to create a lush soundscape that acts as an sophisticated interlude, softening the listener’s heart between the more aggressive arrangements surrounding it. Possibly even more unexpected is what comes after it; “Byljga” is reminiscent of the hard-rocking post-grunge of the ‘90s, evoking thoughts of bands like Hum and Quicksand, which is like fine wine for my soul, being as I am a product of that era.
It’s not that Sagor are chameleonic – that would suggest that song to song they sound like a different band. It’s that they fuse all of these varying elements in a way that makes them all distinguishable, yet when taken on the whole the band’s sound is seamless, confident and ultimately quite refreshing. There are a lot of bands working in the realm of post-rock right now and many of them deserve much credit for what they have created, but Sagor Som Leder Mot Slutet is a band that feels like they are heading somewhere very intriguing, and much larger than the space they currently inhabit. Still a younger band in terms of the length of time they’ve been active, they have released a killer album with II but I still get the distinct impression that their best is yet to come, and when it does it’s going to be very exciting times indeed for this genre.
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