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Sawlegen: Stories From An Old Empire

Originally released in 2007, the, to date one and only album from Moroccans Sawlegen has been given a new lease of life through the HAARBN label, who, judging by their varied roster, are specialists in unearthing unusually based bands and bringing them to a wider audience. However what they haven't managed to do is improve upon a genuinely awful production/mixing job from the band's bassist Redoune (the rest of the band helped, so blame is shared). Try though I might and I have the main talking point on this otherwise worthy attempt to bring Oriental Metal (back in a time before that phrase was coined) into a Symphonic setting, adding Progressive Metal elements while retaining this band's musical heritage, is just how hard it is to make out what's going on.

Singer Hamza is at times barely audible, the sharp instruments, such as piano utterly dominating, before kick drums rush in to muffle all in sight. It's a real shame, for there appears to be promise contained in the well paced "Darkness Be My Bride", while "Meloncophoria" adds more soaring female vocals, while an unconvincing growl (more of a talking croak sort of thing) attempts to bring a Black Metal edge. Again the low end of everything brings a dark cloud of impenetrable noise drowning out much of what has been created, although the sheer sharpness of the cymbals and keyboards on "Troyan Licorn" is so painful, you yearn for something to dowse it. Other issues also arise, such as songs seemingly just cutting out, rather than coming to a controlled conclusion and yet there's no denying that you are left wishing that the sound wasn't such an issue, as there's no doubt that this outfit had talent.

The pair of bonus tracks; acoustic reworkings of "Streets Of Agrabah" and "Melancophoria" confirm the beauty held within these songs, and while not crystal clear in sound, the simple clean guitar and voice proves much more palatable.

As a set of songs, there's much to attempt to engage with here and yet, to rate this album, the overall listening experience has to be taken into consideration. If you have a deep interest in African metal, or are an Oriental Metal aficionado, then Stories From An Old Empire will certainly be of some interest. However for anyone not falling into those categories, approach with extreme caution, unfortunately.

Track Listing
1. Intro / Mustears
2. Darkness Be My Bride
3. Melancophoria
4. Tortured Souls
5. Troyan Licorn
6. Streets of Agrabah
7. Saracen Knights
8. De Profundis Clamavi
9. Streets of Agrabah (Acoustic Version)
10. Melancophoria (Acoustic version)

Added: December 1st 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: HAARBN online
Hits: 1676
Language: english

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