Mortality closes in.
Evils of fanatic religion.
21st century imperialism.
Destruction campaign against the earth.
Immortal idols pass away.
Cancer in our minds.
In our way of life.
In the veins of those we honor the most.
It is in our darkest times we realize how swiftly life can end.
We all die.
In a time when threats of religious hostility and environmental decay loom heavily over the world, we have no choice but to acknowledge the inevitability of death. Not only does it spread fear, stigma and hatred, but it also reminds us of the grasp our own mortality has on us. Death is just a heartbeat away and our fear of the unknown is apparent now more than ever. Thus the title, Memento Mori (Latin: remember that you must die).
For a long while, the album title remained undecided. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Olav Iversen comments:
“Memento Mori was one of several options that we had on note for a long time. But then Lemmy died. And Bowie died. And all of a sudden, all these rock icons disappeared, one by one. People that have made their imprint on history and influenced us musically since childhood. It made a great impression on a personal level, and started a grieving process that influenced the making of the album. Suddenly it was very clear what the album title would be. “Remember, you must die”. Even immortal legends like Bowie and Lemmy don’t live forever.”
Following last year’s departure of drummer Thomas Lønnheim and founding member Thomas Tofthagen, Sahg faced existential challenges.
Olav Iversen comments:
“At that point it seemed like Sahg was heading towards the end. But we turned around and came out stronger than ever, with this album as our testimony. We got a feel of how fragile existence is. But Sahg is still alive. Memento Mori is living proof of that.”
The change in lineup came as a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Sahg to explore new avenues sonically. Olav Iversen and Tony Vetaas were joined by guitarist Ole Walaunet and drummer Mads Lilletvedt, who both hail from the more extreme end of the metal genre. Their aggressive approach was decisive in shaping the sound on Memento Mori.
Musically the album dwell in a heavier landscape than its predecessor, Delusions Of Grandeur, with metal infused heavy rock containing clear progressive elements. The voices of Olav Iversen and Tony Vetaas are more present and insistent than ever. The musicianship has never been in question with Sahg, and Memento ... is no different – the impeccable craftsmanship is second only to the astute songwriting and its nuanced musical content.
Thematically the lyrics of dynamic opener Black Unicorn sets precedence for the overall theme of Memento Mori. History shows that both religious and material values hold the root to much evil. The slow, yet heavy nature of the music amplifies the gravity of the lyrics.
Other titles, like Take It To The Grave and Sanctimony, add weight to the album’s underlying theme.
The norse/pagan inspired closing track, Blood Of Oceans, is the first Sahg song ever to feature Norwegian lyrics. The song was co-written by Wardruna frontman and original Sahg drummer, Einar Selvik, who also contributed on the recording. His trademark sound is clearly present, with pagan inspired vocals and the use of old Norse instruments like the Tagelharp – well known from his work with Norse powerhouse Wardruna.
Both the band and Einar hail from the stormy west coast of Norway, where the powers of the ocean create much life, but also demand sacrifices.
Einar Selvik comments:
“It was an instant match for me, and Olav's lyrical concept for the song was very inspiring and made it easy to work with. It's a killer song, and after hearing the whole album I have to say that I am really impressed with how the group continue to grow, evolve and continue to make interesting music of high quality after all these years."
The cover art for Memento Mori was created in collaboration with illustrator and graphic artist Robert Høyem, who also made the artwork for the previous album, Delusions Of Grandeur. But this time, the visuals make use of a different side of Høyem’s design skills.
“We wanted a very iconic, simplistic expression for this artwork, to emphasize the harsh thematics of the album”, Olav explains. “Robert’s hand-drawing style is perfect for this, and combined with the stylistic symbols we use, it visualizes exactly the powerful, dark atmosphere that we want to create with this album.”
The new Sahg album, Memento Mori, will be out on Indie Recordings, September 23rd.
1. Black Unicorn
3. Take It To The Grave
4. Silence The Machines
6. (Praise The) Electric Sun
7. Travellers Of Space And Light
8. Blood Of Oceans
Produced by Iver Sandøy.
Recorded at Duper Studio & Solslottet Studio, Bergen, Norway.
Mixed by Iver Sandøy at Solslottet Studio.
Mastered by Kai Blankenberg & Jens Dreesen at Skyline Tonfabrik GmbH, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Artwork by Robert Høyem at Overhaus & Olav Iversen.
All music by Sahg, lyrics by Olav Iversen.
Analogue and digital soundscapes, piano and percussions by Iver Sandøy.
Additional backing vocals by Iver Sandøy, Mads Lilletvedt & Torbjørn Schei.
Blood Of Oceans co-arranged by Einar Selvik, Wardruna.
Additional vocals, tagelharpa (bowed-lyre), deer-hide frame drums, various
percussions and soundscapes on Blood Of Oceans by Einar Selvik.
In admiring memory of Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister & David Bowie.
+ FIGHT CANCER +
Olav Iversen, vocals & guitars
Tony Vetaas, bass & vocals
Ole Walaunet, lead guitars
Mads Lilletvedt, drums
Photos © Anna-Julia Granberg/BLUNDERBUSS