Saor aren’t an entirely new prospect, having began life in 2012 as Àrsaidh, yet Aura is a significant step up from the debut Roots and an incredible testament to learning, growing and becoming better. On Aura, sole member Andrew Marshall takes everything he has and creates a record of constant movement and power while also staying true to the roots of the band and being essentially, a lovesong to his homeland of Scotland.
This time around, Marshall allows other musicians to mark their mark on his sounds and Aura features performances from Panopticon’s Austin Lunn on drums and violin/strings are provided by the hardest working player in the business, Johan Becker. The traditional elements of the music are still in place yet everything seems so much more solid, rounded and thought out. That’t not to say that Roots wasn’t an exceptional record, but that time is a glorious thing and Aura benefits from it immensely.
Aura begins on the wonderfully grand “Children of the Mist” which is ushered in on howling winds and swirling mists before breaking into life and showcasing Marshall’s intense vocal approach. It’s powerful in its depth and his voice layers over the gorgeously progressing landscapes underneath in a way that creates images and memories of days long passed. Becker’s strings add a light to the music that is woven into the fabric of the song and gives it a moving atmosphere which continues throughout the track and beyond. Lunn’s drumming drives the song ever forward and the occasional martial tone pushes the song into increasingly propulsive areas. It’s a fiery start indeed and one which bodes very well for the remaining tracks on the record.
The title track bleeds with drama and the scale of the project reaches out across the song and imbues it with a tangible history, the folkier elements of the sound coming through the soaring tin whistle and driving it increasingly into epic territory. “Awakening” breathes with a gorgeous sorrow and the delightfully harmonic chorus serves to build the melancholic beauty of the song into something that is definite and whole. Saor has a lot of feelings about the history of Scotland and the land that it once was and Aura aims to give a voice to that anguish.
“Pillars of the Earth” closes out Aura on genuinely furious tones – the anger in Marshall’s voice is set against the lightning quick pace of Lunn’s drums before everything gives way to a soft, uplifting string section and ultimately to Marshall’s rage at what we have done to the Earth. It’s clever in that there’s no preaching to be heard, but honesty in that as a species we have done much damage to the land as we have taken over. Aura is a record that will stay with you and give you much to think about.