The debut album from Sahg was far and away the best metal album of 2006. A record that just erupted from the speakers, reinvigorating classic doom metal and launching it into the 21st century. I acclaimed it as "an absolutely glorious piece of psychedelic tinged doom with a large groovy underbelly."
No one had really expected the assorted motley crew of Gorgoroth, Audrey Horne, and Manngard members to come up with something so immense, and the relatively low key launch saw the album moving stealthily through the metal underground, sweeping all before them. A series of live shows including appearances at the Inferno Festival and US dates with Celtic Frost saw the Sahg name emerging into the metal mainstream, and the album sold more than anyone could have envisaged for a doom metal debut.
But with the element of surprise gone, and with high expectations for this follow up, there was always the potential for disaster. How would they go about creating anything as vital as their Sabotage meets Trouble debut? Well, to be honest, they haven't. The warning signs were there when guitarist / vocalist Olav Iversen said, "the songs are more diverse because we have allowed ourselves to think more freely and be more receptive to a wider range of inspiration. There are so many directions we want to explore with this band, and this is just what we had time for in this round".
Which may explain why the album opens with two forgettable pieces of Black Sabbath by numbers. And not the good pre-1976 Ozzy or the even better 1980-1981 Dio Sabbath. No, it's more the Tony Martin Cross Purposes Sabbath. Not a good thing. Both "Ascent To Decadence" and "Echoes Ring Forever" amble past, the former a boring rocker, the latter at least enlivened with a few twists of psych. But neither would lead you into believing just how good Sahg can be. And I was very, very worried at this point. Fortunately, things get a whole lot better.
"From Conscious Sleep" is the Tony Iommi patented short instrumental intro, replete with Satanic monk like chanting, which leads you into the mad metal psychedelia of "From Conscious Sleep." And this is where the album finally takes off with a swirling trippy, riff made for loon pants and idiot dances, a theme continued by the dense and dark "Star-Crossed." Mid album, things take an acoustic sidestep, but "Escape The Crimson Sun" is a song designed for witches dancing to in the woods and a nicely judged interlude.
It's a brief diversion as the rampaging full on rock of "Pyromancer" arrives, but it's the last 20 minutes of the album that really shows how magnificent Sahg can be in full flight. "Wicked Temptress" and "By The Toll Of The Bell" could easily sit on the debut album but they really have saved the best for last. "Monomania" is the closing number, all eleven minutes of it, and it's a track so good, it makes buying the album essential all by itself.
Let's take up with Olav Iversen again. "We didn't know what the last half of the song was gonna be like, but after a few bottles of wine, we decided to have a go at it anyway. The vibe and the atmosphere were just right for it, and we just jammed out the last part there and then. So, everything you hear on there, except the vocals and the Hammond organ, is totally live."
And it's a stupendous piece of music, the creepiest, most atmospheric piece of psychedelic doom you're ever likely to hear, one part Trouble, one part Hawkwind, one part Pink Floyd. It's a mammoth slab of music that twists and turns its way into dark recesses of your mind, you'd much rather leave without illumination.
This is still one of the best metal albums you're likely to hear this year, saved by an incandescent second half. If you haven't heard the debut, this could still blow you away, but for those of us still besotted with the debut it's a matter of so near, yet so far.