Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.
Saille: “Plaigh Allais”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/04-Plaigh-Allais.mp3|titles=Saille, “Plaigh Allais”]
Though the genre arguably has lulled for the better part of the past decade, symphonic-metal creators and consumers alike have welcomed any possible heirs to Emperor’s long-abdicated throne. With Irreversible Decay, Belgian five-piece (nine-piece, if you count the in-studio classical personnel) Saille throws its hat into the ring by way of nine tracks that are mostly symphonic in intention, even if not always in execution, and definitely leaning more towards the “black metal” part of the label.
Coupling moments of nominal tastefulness (the acoustic guitar fueling intro track “Nomen,” the quasi-classical breakdown in “Maere”) with wider expanses of muddied percussion and thrashing guitars, Irreversible Decay quickly reveals itself firmly planted in the genre’s time-honored blueprint. Cellos and violins float over acoustic guitars — but only over the acoustic guitars. Saille respects its ambitions but also very blatantly segregates them from each other, resulting in music that constantly sounds as though it’s hedging its bets.
This stylistic isolation and, at times, predictable changing of gears ultimately makes the 63 minutes of Irreversible feel a lot longer than it truly is. On paper, this should make for an hour in which listeners could happily lose themselves, but the overt abrasiveness of Saille’s black-metal tendencies almost prohibit full immersion. Instead, the group aims for the gut more often than the brain, and tracks like the mechanized “The Orion Prophecy” and “Revelations” can’t stand in too stark of a contrast to the similar, though still enjoyable, volleys of “Tephra” and “Tremendous.”
As the album flexes its darkness and morbidity and relies heavily on the tried-and-true tenets of black metal, debating whether or not Saille’s reach exceeds its grasp becomes a pointless discussion. Rather, Irreversible Decay demands to be judged not on what is but on what is possible. The band has the chops; it clearly has an ear for solid metal, and it certainly has a thing or two to say about how to play heavy music. But that’s the problem with a band announcing its intentions to steer black metal — or any metal, for that matter — in any direction other than straight ahead. Solid is no substitute for reinvention, and if any sphere of metal needs reinvention, symphonic black metal is it.
Still, with Irreversible Decay undoubtedly pointing towards an interesting future, Saille shows promise. Listeners in search of metal that relies more on orchestral bombast than on its own sense of doom may want to keep looking, but classic black-metal aficionados certainly can find plenty to love here.