No pretension and few if any surprises

Ignoring the more commercial side of the so-called “retro-rock” scene (Wolfmother? Jet? No thanks), this year has been noticeably exciting for those with a penchant for unashamedly 70s-inspired hard rock/heavy metal.

After Grand Magus, Spiritual Beggars, The Sword and Airbourne all dropped great new releases, Norwegian crew Sahg have joined in the party with album number three, another enjoyable slab of proudly old-fashioned fare.

This record doesn’t deviate far from the doom/stoner rock/hard rock sound and scope of their first two records, but there’s enough minor differences to please the already converted, while subsequently possessing plenty to attract a fair share of newcomers. To quote a friend of mine, the warm production sounds dated – “but dated in a good way” – and that remark in itself encapsulates their appeal. There’s no pretension and few if any surprises, but the band clearly knows their way around a killer riff. In fact, III has excellent riffs up the proverbial yin-yang – the grooving ‘Mortify’, ‘Hollow Mountain’, Shadow Monument’ and the Thin Lizzy-meets-Judas Priest ‘Denier’ the pick of the bunch. The lead work is also fantastic, fitting the songs without being needlessly flamboyant. Vocalist Olav Iverson’s soaring chorus melodies ensure many of these cuts stick in your cranium after a few spins (opening track proper ‘Baptism’ a clear standout in this respect), yet he simultaneously still retains enough slivers of (early) Ozzy-esque rawness, meaning that the finished product isn’t too slick for its own good. Mid-tempo closer ‘Spiritual Void’ is the most overtly doom-laden track on the record, although there are numerous snippets throughout reminding the listener of their post-Sabbath heaviness.

III is unlikely to attract the same number of attention-grabbing headlines or widespread acceptance afforded those bands mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, but the noise these (not) so quiet achievers are making is surely going to be heard by a few more folks this time around. Justifiably so, too.

1. In Through The Eye
2. Baptism Of Fire
3. Mortify
4. Hollow Mountain
5. Mother’s Revenge
6. Downward Spiral
7. Shadow Monument
8. Burden
9. Denial
10. Spiritual Void