What would you expect from a band named after a decidedly metal piece of Scandinavian mythology? Metal? Of course. But that’s not all that lies beneath the surface of Saga, The Flight of Sleipnir’s newest record. In fact, the album title is the most apt descriptor of the record. A band named after Odin’s eight-legged horse doesn’t exactly conjure up the contents of the record: bluesy folk metal.
What would you expect from a band named after a decidedly metal piece of Scandinavian mythology? Metal? Of course.
But that’s not all that lies beneath the surface of Saga, The Flight of Sleipnir’s newest record.
In fact, the album title is the most apt descriptor of the record. A band named after Odin’s eight-legged horse doesn’t exactly conjure up the contents of the record: bluesy folk metal.
That’s right, folk metal! There’s a band out there named after a flying, eight-legged horse that isn’t balls-out screaming and metal posturing.
While that is somewhat surprising, it isn’t as shocking as the fact that the band hails from Colorado. More shocking still is that Saga’s incredible synthesis of musical genres is the work of just two people—David Csicsely and Clayton Cushman.
Spread across 12 tracks, Saga is some of the most mature musicianship one can expect to find under the entire metal umbrella. While some tracks have the requisite screams and plodding riffs, there really isn’t enough of just one thing to truly pin down Sleipnir’s craft in fewer than 20 words or so.
Saga is a truly appropriate title, as the odyssey whisks the listener through genuine smoky blues sessions, piercing black metal vocals and stunningly delicate acoustic guitar work, all with a deft cohesion not normally seen in metallic outsider jaunts.
And while all of these elements by themselves aren’t too strange, finding them on one metal record is. Yet somehow the tincture seems strangely familiar and warm. That’s right, warmth on a metal record.
Building on the curveball nature of Saga are the incredibly misleading opening and closing tracks.
I’ve listened to hundreds of metal records in my day, and when a metal band has a relatively short opening track called “Prologue” and a matching closer titled “Epilogue,” that normally means a few minutes of spooky sounds—not a semi-uptempo classic metal jam or a crushing post-black metal jam, respectively. Right away the conventions are history, and Sleipnir invites you to simply enjoy what is in store.
Interestingly, the first few tracks seem like one long acoustic buildup to some seriously punishing metal, albeit split into separate movements. It feels like Sleipnir thought of some simple “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” ways to switch things up, to great success. Nothing on the record is at any point expected.
The real beauty of Saga is that while the record is bathed in blues riffs and progressions, it never sounds likes metal guys trying their hand at blues, which is all too often the case.
In fact, it sounds like quite the opposite, like old bluesmen putting together a metal record, and that tone keeps the always fresh.
In fact, the record is so bluesy at times that fans of darker blues rock a la David Eugene Edwards/Wovenhand would find a lot to like on this record, even if metal isn’t their bag. Tracks two and six, “Reaffirmation” and “Judgment,” feature heavy blues riffing and solos that wouldn’t sound out of place on any number of ash-stained blues records.
Curiously, though Sleipnir’s bag of tricks is ripe with blues and folk tendencies, the structuring of the tracks is still very metal.
“Reverence” still feels very much like a black metal track despite swimming in spiraling acoustic guitar and other general folksiness. The drumming is still very much provided by a metalhead, the pedigree oozing from each slightly overplayed fill and roll.
Let me be clear, though: The full-bore metal parts present on Saga have almost no equal in the metal realm. Each jagged shard of darkness peeled from the skeleton of Sleipnir is some of the choicest metal around. Going back to “Judgment,” there is a passage about two-thirds through that might be the heaviest metal’s seen in years.
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Cushman, the vocalist whose tortured screams really take the record to new heights, pushes the heavy parts into the heaviness red zone. His is a scream so blackened and scalding that you might forget about all that blues stuff.
While the album also touches on doom, Kyuss-inspired stoner rock, post-rock and even ’50s musique concrete, at its core Saga is an incredible experimental crossbreed of metal and blues that never seeks to do anything but entertain.
If you like your blues blackened, or are curious about what that sounds like, heed my words: Saga is worth every cent.