Year of release: 2019
Released by: Avantgarde Music
Rating: 7,3 / 10 (in terms of band's discography) / 8,5 / 10 (on a global level)
There are bands in the world that are so important that we have to evaluate them by several criteria at once. SAOR is one of them, therefore at the beginning of the material you see two ratings. As, for example, NILE, SAOR in its uniqueness surpasses most of it's colleagues in style by default, so each release of the band is undoubtedly a big and joyful event. However, at the level of their own creativity, each group has its ups and downs, and “Forgotten Paths”, unfortunately, is definitely not the peak of the SAOR discography.
The work of SAOR has an amazing property: it is equally liked by both the left and the right. The former admire it's magic despite the former collaboration with Darker than Black and the fact that SAOR is pissing in the eyes of lowlife Marxists who say that national cultures are no longer needed. The latter admire SAOR's ability to present the national pride in all its glory, despite Andy's hipster image and cooperation with the leader of PANOPTICON in the past. Andy himself remains neutral, but his patriotism is obvious, and SAOR is all about patriotism. It is the Scottish aura that makes this music so unique and stunning. The first acquaintance with SAOR is always shock and mistrust, because in the modern world you rarely find something so peculiar, memorable from the first notes.
For the same reason, the third and fourth albums of SAOR no longer have this stunning effect. Accustomed to the style of music, you begin to pay more attention to its performance. “Guardians”, for example, was redundant - almost an hour of sound, many parts of folk instruments, an unprecedented density of events. “Forgotten Paths” in this regard is its antipode: it does not even reach 40 minutes, and the songs are mostly based on riffs; violin and keyboards mostly work during the interludes. Everything is familiar - recognizable atmosphere and epic in its place. The title song is undoubtedly the best - it’s close to perfection, and the guest vocals of Neige from ALCEST (I wonder who has been more honored by this cooperation - Andy or Neige) adds to it's beauty. This cutesy Frenchman is controversial person, but he knows how to sing. Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse in the next songs. SAOR fell into the trap of many projects that produce albums in the same style; the longer it revolves around the same set of patterns, the more forced its works become. The situation is far from catastrophic, but one already feels that some riffs come from the heart, and some are inserted simply because it is necessary. On “Roots”, for example, this was not the case - every sound was filled with genuine inspiration.
Another problem of Andy is the inability to do choruses. I don’t know why he needs them with such music. It’s as if the 60s are now, and behind the back is a producer with a one-hundred-percent hit scheme telling him where and how to sing. The desire to present his girlfriend (of wife?) on the album is understandable and excusable, but you can't do it so rudely. “Bròn” needs this female vocals chorus as the car needs the fifth wheel. The music flows smoothly, maintaining integrity ... and suddenly the chorus, breaking the whole rhythm and mood, invades it. A very unpleasant moment, which is repeated several times. Finally, the lastinstrumental track, completely made by some Gloria Lyr, is also not particularly impressive. Some SAOR's acoustic fragments inserted into the songs just for the sake of dynamics are perceived much better.
Despite the above shortcomings, “Forgotten Paths” will give much pleasure to any SAOR fan, and newbies will most certainly be delighted. It is still one of the leading atmospheric heathen metal acts on the planet. There is no doubt about the success of the album: even before the physical release, Avantgarde Music sold all the limited editions. Only digipack CDs and black LPs are still in stock (and the release date is February 15th -there is still 9 days of waiting!). SAOR deserves it.