Sael - _Ocean_
(Pictonian, 2007)
by: Quentin Kalis (8.5 out of 10)
In Norway, the limbs of the black metal monster flail helplessly despite the best efforts of assorted legions to breathe life into said monster -- which despite occasional signs of life, is essentially comatose. But the ogre is alive and well in France, and Sael are the latest addition to a legion of such numbers that one can't help but wonder whether there is a Fordian assembly line putting them together somewhere. Not all are good; at least one legendary Gallic project has settled down into comfortable mediocrity, and there are others that should never have formed or should have called it a day many moons ago. But the high standards set by many newcomers never fail to impress, and Sael uphold this tradition.

Sael epitomise the quintessential Gallic black metal band, through a desire to nudge forwards the boundaries of black metal, yet without losing any of the genre's vitality. Infusing a touch of post-L├ęgions Noires despair atmosphere into the mix, Sael quickly draw in the listener in the opener and title track, gradually building towards an explosive climax. The remaining three songs reveal themselves to be no less frantic or dynamic.

The guitarist is not afraid to bring solos into the raccoon-faced realm, whilst the presence of a drummer marks a welcome break from the elementary backing beats and drum machines that seem to be rising vastly in popularity. The vocals are, of course, in typical black metal shrieking style, but vary quite a bit. They range from a post-Burzum shriek through to a more standard blackened rasp, depending on the tempo of the music, occasionally also venturing into some off-key clean passages. Given the calibre of the extreme vox on offer here, "Instrumental" was a bit disappointing, featuring a spoken sample during the median calm section, as if Sael were a third rate grindcore band. As good as these four lengthy songs are, I would have preferred a bit more.

An auspicious debut for both Sael and their label, for whom this is their first release.


(article published 15/8/2007)

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