“Nature, landscapes, history, culture, poetry, folklore and music are all inspirational to me. I have always had a deep interest in my roots and heritage since I was a young boy. My grampa used to play old Scottish folk music on the radio and it has stayed embedded in my memory ever since. I started learning how to play folk instruments such as the tin whistle and bodhrán around the same time I discovered metal music. At school I used to love learning about William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and other legends of Scottish history. As I grew older I started buying more books and learning more about the Picts, Highland folklore, poetry, etc. I have always loved being outdoors too and I often go hill walking, exploring and camping in the Highlands.” ~Andrew Marshall
Age 30 (born 1988)
Genre: Atmospheric Celtic Folk Metal
Themes: Scottish Heritage, Highland Nature/Landscapes, Traditional Poetry
By Tab Olsen
Do you like Celtic music? How about Celtic metal? Saor* is atmospheric folk metal of the kilt and haggis variety, the brainchild of Scottish musician Andy Marshall. Marshall is a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (bagpipe, tin whistle, guitar, bass, drum pads, vocals, etc.). On May 13, 2013, at age 25 he released his solo début album Roots. It’s an epic tribute to Gaelic culture and heritage, in which he creates an elaborate musical portrait of the mysterious but beautiful Scottish Highlands. (*Saor is pronounced “Seud” in Gaelic, rhymes with feud.)
Roots is heavy, but not just due to the instrumentation. It delves deep into the psyche, with the music drawing out the pain and pride of Marshall’s theme – his Scottish roots. Listening to this album will make you feel like you’re up in the mountains amid the wind and the weather. If you’re a Braveheart fan, just imagine yourself a member of William Wallace’s resistance forces. Or if you’re a gamer, the music will carry you away to Skyrim. You could say it even has some Last of the Mohicans elements. In other words, the music is both majestic and haunting. For a feel of the music within, look no further than the album art, which paints an accurate picture of the sound: rugged and wild but beautiful with an air of uncertainty.
Like classical, classic rock, and alt/indie music, I bet Saor is the type of music that will improve your SAT scores because of its complexity. Melody isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to heavy metal bands, but Saor actually makes it a reality. Marshall is not only adept at catchy guitar riffs, he really knows his way around melodic intensity. He presents a refreshingly wide range of depth and feeling through a variety of memorable passages, both heavy and light. The ups and downs take you on a musical journey that simultaneously pummels and enchants.
The nature of this music means you have to crank up the volume to get the full effect. (We purchased the albums on vinyl which sound awesome on our vintage stereo.) There are many instrumental layers, so you have to listen closely or you miss the subtle nuances like bagpipes in the background. I mean seriously, he will go from a quiet interlude of whispered poetry or what sounds like the distant refrain of a Gregorian chant, to suddenly hitting you over the head with the roar of full-blown heavy metal.
Even more amazing is that this was all done by just one man! Marshall uses some electronic MIDI instrumentation, but it’s hard to tell the difference. On his later albums he does have some help from session musicians. “Saor is very personal to me,” he said, “so I don’t know how I’d feel about it becoming a full band.” But he admits, “I enjoy having session musicians playing on the albums and helping me with the live shows.”
As a Christian girl, I never even liked heavy metal music before, but upon hearing Saor it really resonated with me for some reason. I must admit, the intense heavy metal style fits when you’re feeling angry or frustrated. It’s also great for working out or heavy duty housework because the music is so powerful. If you have any Scottish or even Viking blood in you, I bet this music will speak to you too. Seriously, the Gaels were like the original “Live Free or Die” kind of people!
Speaking of which, Saor means “free” and “unconstrained” in Gaelic. The name was inspired by the Scottish independence motto “Saor Alba” which translates to “Free Scotland.” Marshall explains, “I am very patriotic and a huge supporter of Scottish independence, but I’m not going to try and push a political agenda down people’s throats. My lyrics are mainly based on traditional poetry or love for nature/landscapes.”
As Marshall said, besides composing his own original lyrics, some of the words are derived from the works of famous Scottish poets. But the way Marshall yells the verses, it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. Still, the vocals are fitting because instead of annoying shrieks and screams through a microphone, they sound more like guttural yells from the top of a mountain. I’ve posted the lyrics from his Roots album at the end of this article.
Roots (2013) was followed by Aura (2014) and Guardians (2016). I can’t decide which one is my favorite; they each have their own unique qualities and they’re all great! On the Aura album, you an almost hear the eagle cries in “The Awakening.” I love the brief transition from heavy metal to a kind of jazz swing interlude in “Pillars of the Earth.” And if anyone says heavy metal music can’t be beautiful, I challenge them to listen to Guardians. The music takes you deep into the forested Scottish countryside, where the subdued atmosphere (dare I say relaxing?) suddenly explodes with soaring guitars, wailing bagpipes, and booming drums making your heart swell with emotion. The native instruments really set the mood and “Hearth” even sounds like it has a bit of Spanish guitar at the beginning. Those are just a few things that come to mind; each time you listen, you’ll discover something new!
Listen to all three of Saor’s albums on the SAOR OFFICIAL YOUTUBE CHANNEL.
Let’s do this guy a favor and rack up his views, because YouTube stupidly took down his channel this summer and he lost all of his 800k+ views! That’s when I was listening to him the most and I couldn’t believe it when his music went down for no good reason! So please give him a listen and a thumbs up. 🙂
1. Roots (16:48 min.)
Buried in this soil
Are roots that go deep
Like scars etched in the earth
Ancient wounds, a reminder
Of a distant age
When the heart of the mountain
Pounded in every proud mans chest
Of forgotten oath
When blood and honour
Spoke to every true man’s soul
“Scotia’s thistle guards the grave
Where repose her dauntless brave
Never yet the foot of a slave
Has trod the wilds of Scotia” *
[*Verse from the poem “Scotia’s Thistle” by Henry Scott Riddell; Scotia is a Latin placename for the land of the Gaels, or more specifically the Kingdom of Alba or Scotland.]
2. Carved In Stone (13:54 min.)
When day fades into night
Stars ignite the sky
Illuminating sacred stones
Mysterious carvings glimmer
Revealing archaic prophecies
Ghostly whispers haunt the air
Evoking ancestral wisdom
I stand hypnotised
My destiny unfolds before me
As I ascend to a higher purpose
Beyond this life
I stand free
3. Saorsa (3 min.)
4. A Highland Lament (17:39 min.)
We are sorrow’s children
Torn from Alba’s womb*
A reflection of fallen martyrs
The lifeblood of this land
We are the mountains of heather
And the desolate moorlands below
Aurora and darkness
The pathos of the afterglow
We are the forsaken
Ancient echoes in the breeze
The fallen leaves of autumn
[*Alba is the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland.]
P.S. Saor’s newest album, Forgotten Paths, is set to be released in February 2019!
What do you think of Saor’s music? Leave a comment!