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The last decade of metal has seen, among other developments, disparate subgenres intertwined and (for the most part) embraced. It may feel commonplace now, but think about explaining Alcest to most metal listeners circa 1999. Still, like all trends, the post-black/blackgaze sound is approaching the saturation point where third-rate talent attempts to do the same thing that’s been done a dozen times already. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Poland’s Saule is a relative newcomer to the scene and have taken a somewhat minimalist approach to both promotion and performance, but judging by their debut album it works. They have the requisite post-rock layering, sparse vocalization and atmospheric production covered; the composition and tension are where Saule set themselves apart. On standout track “VI”, there’s more ISIS and Altar of Plagues than Immortal going on. The slow buildup teases at first, with light instrumental flourishes and vocals floating along the edges, until the band kicks on the distortion with a droning, monstrous riff that builds and builds…until it doesn’t. Saule doesn’t dwell on one theme for too long.

After “VI” has its ‘metal’ moment, it just as quickly pulls back, fading in and out with a restrained drum pattern and delayed echo-drenched guitars, until the screeches and distortion come roaring back in unannounced, over and over. The ensuing album follows similar patterns, exploring peaks and valleys within this somewhat-new genre while still managing to stake out a singular sound. Much like “VI”, the rest of the album sounds purposeful; it’s still metal at its core, and metal tends to be carefully crafted much of the time. Overall, Saule sounds like a band taking what they do seriously. That’s a good thing, and should lead to greater things.

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Saule will be released on May 13 via Avantgarde music. Pre order it here.

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