Anyone who knows me will readily attest to the fact that I am, for the most part anyway, NOT down with the whole Doom thing. I want, nay, need, my Metal to be about more than monotonous power chord strumming and faraway whispers, with mountains of static ambience dribbled over it. Jeez, the other day I listened to the supposedly brilliant AHAB, and I literally had to pace about my room and rinse my face off just to avoid dosing off to the utter monotony emanating from my speakers. Thankfully there are bands like SAHG doing the rounds, a band that has single-handedly rejuvenated my waning interest in this particular subgenre of Metal. Perhaps it’s because GORGOROTH’s King Ov Hell, he of the Midas touch, is a part of their line-up, or maybe because their brand of Doom is actually lively, but this shit kicks unholy amounts of ass. Note to all other Doom bands (save for the brilliant REVEREND BIZARRE): try harder!
OK, so after showing us all that they mean business – the business of pontificating the magick of true Doom – with their 2006 debut, these guys are back with “Sahg-II” (or is it just “II”?), an album that easily evades the ‘difficult sophomore album’ trap by actually improving upon what was already a great debut. I guess the key to my liking this band so much is down to the fact that these guys don’t even bother to dip their toes in the dreaded Funeral Doom cesspool, preferring instead to conjure up the vibe of originating 70’s Doom acts like BLACK SABBATH, PENTAGRAM and TROUBLE. Having already perfected the dinosaur-footsteps-in-the-forest sound with their debut, the guys have decided to loosen up a bit on here, and the result is an album that is much more atmospheric, textured and rocking than their at times slightly one-dimensional debut album. This album is thus much more “Vol. 4” than “Master Of Reality”, if you know what I mean, with the urgency of the riffs and the deft acoustic swathes in particular recalling SABBATH’s fourth album. Yes, it’s still total Doom all the way, but with a more detailed undercurrent that ensures there’s many morsels of enjoyment to be had with these nine songs.
Highlights? Well, there’s the straightforward riff-monster of an opener “Ascent To Decadence” that just has such an infectious crunch that it immediately induced limb flailing, with a very tasty Adrian Smith-like solo near the end, while elsewhere numbers like “Echoes Ring Forever” and “Star-crossed” up the Doom ‘n Gloom factor a bit more, with even some very classy Hammond fiddling to be found in the latter, a track that also features a brilliant vocal performance by Olaf Iversen, leaving no doubt that he must be some far-off relative of one Ozzy Osbourne. But the true highlight is to be found in the form of “Pyromancer”, an upbeat track that features some of the best riffs this side of “Children Of The Grave” – a masterclass in Old Metal worship. Fuck, this stuff is just so enjoyable I almost feel unworthy to listen to it! Oh, and did I mention the glorious soloing to be found here? God, people, God. King gets a chance to let his bass rumble in all its unholiness in the slower “Wicked Temptress”, with yet another classy chorus and slightly Latin acoustic guitars twiddling away in the background. By this point I was already convinced that this album is a definite contender for album of the year, and if there were any doubts about this album’s worthiness, then the near 11-minute epic closer “Monomania” dispelled them all in one fell swoop. Lord, this track is the perfect summary of this band’s musical headspace – being an über-atmospheric, tender, beautiful, gloomy, brilliant tour de force through oceans of darkness, faint glimmers of moonlight and fog-swept moors. Or something like that… Just listen to it and be transported away, far, far away…
With not a single weak track in sight and an all-round passionately brilliant performance by all involved, especially vocalist Olaf Iversen, there exists no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that SAHG have utterly outdone themselves with this album – a living testament to the staying power of Iommi and the boys. Light up, turn on, tune in, drop out, and let the Metal happen. Oh, and don’t forget the lava lamps!
(Online May 18, 2008)