SAVN – Savn (CDR Records Norway)SAVN – Savn (CDR Records Norway)

Despite off-and-on rumours of a re-union, Norway’s The Sins Of Thy Beloved was finally laid to rest last year, leading to founder member and drummer Stig Johansen and keyboard player Anders Thue immediately bouncing back with Savn. The story goes that multi-instrumentalist Stig asked his old friend Carmen Elise Espenæs, best known for fronting Midnattsol, to sing on one song and she ended up becoming a fully-fledged member. Between the three of them, Stig, Anders and Carmen have cooked up an interesting and rousing nine-course banquet of goth metal, deep and heavy, certainly, but also accessible enough to cross over to a more mainstream audience.

Given that Savn is Norwegian for deprivation, the lyrics tend to come from a ‘glass-half-empty’ perspective, focusing on loss, loneliness and desperation. Yet although the album’s nine cuts are melancholic and dark they still forge ahead, driven by upbeat tempos and forceful riffs , thus creating an interesting contrast of light and shade within each song. Given this dichotomy and the complexity of the material (together with the interesting use of piano keys and guest violinists) the closest point of reference has to be Theatre Of Tragedy. And if you want to further the analogy, Carmen’s sister Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes (and an original member of T.O.T.) duets on ‘I Am Free’, and the intro to ‘Longing For Love’ does call T.O.T.’s ‘Storm’ to mind. But Savn the band are already busy carving out their own identity and ‘Savn’ the album features a number of highlights: just as tasters, the seemingly confrontational ‘Now Or Never’ and the neck-wrenching ‘Hang On’ (chosen to be the band’s first single) are both interesting and exhilarating work-outs.

‘Savn’ is not an overly long album so it doesn’t outstay its welcome or fall into the trap of repeating itself. Tracks one to nine are done ‘n’ dusted in about forty minutes, although ‘Hang On’ and ‘The Demons In Me’ are then reprised as “growling versions”: whether the addition of Cookie Monster vocals enhances either cut is purely a matter of personal taste, but it’s interesting to compare both versions. Produced by Alex Krull (Carmen’s brother-in-law) at the legendary Mastersound Studio ‘Savn’ is a beautifully crafted and exciting debut, and if the three main players can keep creating material of this calibre the future should be very bright indeed.

© John Tucker April 2014