Genre: Experimental Folk Metal Gothic Metal Melodic Black Metal
Label: Haarbn Productions
Year: 2007 2014
Sawlegen is a bizarre band, coming from Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. And what is actually more unusual than their origin, is their music itself, since the band plays a strange fusion of various metal styles. They were formed in 2004 as a 3-piece band under the name “Virgin Beauty”. The positive feedback to their first compositions made them expand their line-up and change their name. Finally in 2007 they self-released their debut full-length album “Stories from an Old Empire“, which remains their only work up to date. And while everything seemed quite silent around the band and few people knew them, the Russian label Haarbn Productions decided to re-release Sawlegen’s debut album in 2014, giving it practically a second chance.
“Stories from an Old Empire” is a very difficult album to review for various reasons. First of all it was released in 2007 and I listen to it for first time 7 years later and it also comes from a country without long history and tradition in metal. These two factors could make someone overlook the mediocre production and dig deeper into the music. Like if all the above were not enough, the music itself is really weird, since the band experiments with various styles and practically sounds unrecognizable between each track! “Stories from an Old Empire” includes 10 tracks, lasting a little over 50 minutes. After the piano based atmospheric intro, the second track is something like a Gothic metal ballad, mostly acoustic, with female vocals (since there is no female member or guest in the band, it’s probably their male vocalist who sings this way)! The next track is a Gothic black metal track, with distorted guitars, screaming vocals and some oriental tunes added in the mix. Then comes “Troyan Licorn“, the forth track, a melodic oriental folk black metal composition of quite raw nature. The next song is another mixture of extreme atmospheric metal and Gothic black metal, while the 6th track “Streets of Agrabah” is an instrumental oriental progressive metal composition, with a much better production, more technical and with a clearly more mainstream sound-approach! The next song is another melodic black metal song with oriental elements and the 8th track, which is actually the last composition of the album, is an 8-minute black metal song with oriental passages and melodic “female” vocals. The last 2 songs are acoustic versions of “Streets of Agrabah” and “Melancophoria“. All lyrics in the album are written in English, except for some verses in Arabic in “Saracen Knights“, dealing with dark epic themes and oriental legends.
Even if there are some weaknesses in the sound and some problems in the coherence of the album, I surely see many promising signs in this debut album. The most important is that this Moroccan band has a quite personal and distinctive sound. Sawlegen don’t hesitate to experiment without caring for music styles and they are actually good in many of the genres they play. They still need work though in order to create something more solid and to present their nice melodic ideas under a better production. “Stories from an Old Empire” is re-released via Haarbn Productions in a standard jewel-case edition CD limited to 100 hand-numbered copies. It comes with an 8-page booklet including all the lyrics, illustrated by Scapino & HH graphics. I don’t know if the band is still active, since there is not much info around, but the fact is that they released in 2014 a demo track entitled “Saladin The Crusaders Worst Nightmare“, via YouTube. It is an instrumental composition with a more symphonic, cinematic approach, still retaining its oriental metal roots. You can visit their official pages below for more details and sound samples, or their label’s page to buy the CD if interested.