Saille - Eldritch [Code666 - 2014]As I so rarely dip my toe into the waters of symphonic black metal, Eldritch is my first experience with Belgium’s Saille. Released in November by Code666, this is the band’s third studio album. The reason I generally avoid symphonic black metal is the emphasis on the synths and keys, while the guitars take a back seat on the safe and inoffensive album. Saille avoids this common pitfall for the most part and has actually made a fairly solid, surprisingly aggressive release with Eldritch.
Unlike many symphonic bands, Saille knows that guitars should be at the forefront of a band’s sound, and throws Schenk’s and Vanderwal’s axework center stage. The whole album has an extremely polished feel to it, and the clean-sounding guitars contribute greatly to this cleanliness. Fleshing out the symphonic elements of the album is Gaerdelen on keys. While the guitars take an especially prominent role, the keyboards really give the album its personality. A lot of the use is backdrop atmospherics that manage to convey an air of sophistication and beauty. There’s a thin line between unbearably cheesy and perfectly complimentary, and Saille walks this path without a misstep. The symphonics step up occasionally to help establish a narrative feel to the album, with guest trumpets and strings leading the way. Furthering this sense of a narration are occasional spoken words (courtesy of Winterfylleth band members on “The Great God Pan”) and cleanly sung sections. These moments are scattered throughout the album, and for the most part the vocal delivery is a cruel, emotive rasp. What helps keep this album grounded and gives it a hard edge is the furious kit work from drummer De Leener. I’ve noticed some people criticizing the frantic drumming and I can’t fathom why. This really helps the album retain that black metal aggression that gets lost on many symphonic albums.
Eldritch is a surprisingly good album that avoids the symphonic pitfall of keeping the guitars in the background. The skilled guitar acrobatics, ghastly snarls, and relentless drumming keep the album lean and mean, preventing it from becoming “easy listening black metal.” It’s not a perfect album – there are a few snags in the songwriting department like unsatisfying climaxes, but it’s still head and shoulders above most albums in the genre. As a newcomer to Saille, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality on display on Eldritch, and I’ll be sure to keep an eye (and ear) open for what these Belgians put out next. Tyler L.