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Saor: Atmospheric Celtic Folk Metal Music

By Tab Olsen

Andrew Marshall

Age 30 (born 1988)

Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Atmospheric Celtic Folk Metal

Themes: Scottish Heritage, Highland Nature/Landscapes, Traditional Poetry

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.). His solo début album Roots (released on May 13, 2013, at age 25), is a tribute to Gaelic culture and heritage, creating an elaborate musical portrait of the mysterious but beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Roots is heavy, but not just due to the instrumentation. It delves far deeper, with the music drawing out the pain and pride of Marshall’s theme – Scotland, his 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. For a feel of the music within, look no further than the album art: rugged and wild with an air of uncertainty.

Melody isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to heavy metal bands, but Soar 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 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 vocals are more like guttural yells from the top of a mountain rather than annoying shrieks and screams through a microphone. But the nature of this music means you have to play it loud to get the full effect. 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! He 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.)

I never even liked heavy metal music before, but Roots really resonates with me for some reason. I must admit, the heavy metal style fits when you’re feeling angry or frustrated. But 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 ancestry, I bet this music will resonate with 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.” Andy Marshall said, “I’m personally a 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.”

It’s too bad the way he yells the verses, though, you can’t understand what he’s saying. So I’ve listed the lyrics from his Roots album below.

Roots by Saor

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” *
Never forget
Their sacrifice
[*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
Now awake
I stand free

3. Saorsa (3 min.)

[Instrumental]

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
Withering away
[*Alba is the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland.]

Listen to all three of Saor’s albums on the SAOR OFFICIAL CHANNEL:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe2gMOs54LhkwD8XHW3GcaA

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 stuff went down! And for no good reason! So please click on the link and give him a listen.

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