Sometimes Looking Back Can Help You Move Forward
Review for the re-release of the first album from Sagen called, Tides Of Succession, available here!
We've seen it dozens of times or more with bands. They form, make some music, then over time their sound and styles evolve, members come and go, and those original recordings seem to have one of three possible outcomes. They either remain in their original state and become collectors items, they get a re-release treatment, or they get lost in obscurity between legalities between labels if the bands don't own their music. Sagen has fortunately recently re-released their first album titled, Tides Of Succession. Originally under the moniker, Ryparian, Sagen founding member, Stephen Hegarty, was the one man band responsible for the creation of the band and the entirety of their first album, aside from a hired vocalist by the name of, Steven "chops" Wood(amazing stage name if I've ever heard one, he also wrote the piano for the opening track, In Medias Res). Tides Of Succession, originally released in 2016 and re-released in 2019 showcases some very good riff work, solid song writing and structure, and the precursor of what was to come with future releases as their sound evolved and grew over their next albums as Sagen.
We start things off with a nice little album intro called, In Medias Res. A piano piece accompanies some emotive guitar solos that help set the stage before ripping into it with bullets flying and explosions heard in the not so distant landscape with the following track, Oppression Under The Regime. A blistering opening riff tears into you with a tenacity and ferocity that a solid album opening track should. One thing is apparent here, Stephen has always had a way of writing killer riffs. His playing has evolved but seems to stay true to his roots. With their more current albums, they tend to lean to a more progressive deathcore sound, but this album seemingly fits more into the death meets thrash metal styling with Stephen's trademark "core" influences in the mix. The vocals on this album are pretty much my only drawback here. Steven "chops ' Wood seems to be holding back or perhaps maybe not quite confident yet with his voice. Other than that, this is a great song to get things moving. On to the next.
The third track up is titled, Dying Mind, which carries over immediately from the previous tracks as one long beginning to this album. A trifecta of metal riffing and musical arrangements. Dying Mind brings in the tempo changes and hooks on this track. Some heavy hitting moments keep things fresh here while the drums and bass beat you into a bloody mess. The aggressive approach of these early songs from Sagen seem to be in the vein of bands the likes of Lamb Of God or Periphery, it's always interesting to discover a bands original sound and compare to their newer material to hear how it all started. This song dabbles into the progressive realms of metal that I feel was key to the evolution of Sagen and their future musical direction. Pretty damn good so far.
Up next is C.B.R. An absolute banger of an opening obliterates your eardrums with this track. Solid drums pound away at your skull as the guitars drive it home with slick grooves and headbanging moments. This is a very angry and aggressive song, almost hateful or spiteful sounding. I appreciate the multiple vocal styles in this song, they add a layer of depth that helps glue this track all together until the very heavy ending of the song that's very reminiscent of old Pantera. The only complaint here is that that groovy Pantera riff section is begging on it's knees for a killer shredding guitar solo, and the final riff of the song, if it were to have been ridden out a bit longer and another solo added over it as it fades or ends, would have absolutely escalated this song beyond what it currently is. It's still a killer track, I just heard those things I mentioned in my head immediately as I was listening to this song.
Immolation is our next stop on this walk down the memory lanes of Sagen. This one has a definite vocal attack that feels like an assault from the very beginning of the track. Here, Immolation features Steven "chops" Wood's strongest vocal effort so far of this release, blending the aforementioned vocal styles, but in a more intense and confident sounding performance complete with some awesome screams throughout. Showcasing a gripping mid section breakdown, Immolation honestly sounds like it would have been right at home on their excellent follow-up album, Mammoth. Nice work on this track all around, complete with a heavy as hell outro.
The next track up here is called Fill The Lake, and it feels almost like it was mixed slightly different than the previous songs. This one has a much deeper bottom end and lower frequency delivery. I love it actually. The bass line here is a fun and groovy line that seems to walk all over you from the onset. This song has some great guitar riffs in it as well, and it feels like it would be a great track to hear live. A very old school vibe pours from the veins of this track and gives me old Grave inclinations with its riffs and production. This one is a quick one here, it's straight to the point, it's vicious and unapologetically heavy, this one gets my seal of approval.
Lurking feels almost like a continuation of Fill The Lake, and it has a nice, "lurking" type of opening riff that introduces this song. The overall feeling of stalking someone before removing them from the face of the earth is very present here on this one. The song's arrangements here makes you feel almost anxious and wondering, "what the hell is going on here?" All the way up to the very ending, this song seems to keep you on the edge of your seat, leading you this way and that, to and fro over vicious vocals that just drives the blade deeper into your stomach. This one is a stand out track on this release solely because of how it makes you feel while listening to it. I do enjoy songs that have interesting effects on me while listening and Lurking is no exception to those types of songs.
After that emotional rollercoaster, we head over to Persistence Bleeds. A more straight forward track, sort of, Persistence Bleeds sounds like it would be right at home on an old Megadeth album. Lot's of slick guitar riffs and licks keep this song blazing a trail through your home as the volume just begs to be turned up. There is a very interesting tempo change that comes at you out of nowhere that I honestly felt was a bit abrupt and felt like it came in from left field, but I do see it's point as it connects and bridges to the next heavy section of the song. This track almost feels like it could have been split up into two different tracks. The beginning is VERY different from the back half of the song. Not really complaining here, it was still enjoyable, just giving you all my listening impressions. I'm kind of curious how this section of the album would feel overall if that approach would have been taken to separate this into two different songs. Be that as it may, Persistence Bleeds is still a banger of a track for you to listen to from Sagen's humble beginnings.
The final track, Snapped Under Pressure, starts things off with some dissonant clean guitars playing before Steven "chops" Wood's vocals come in for the attack with some rather heavy playing. A neck breaking riff section drives this song on in a relentless groove that keeps your head bobbing. This song seems to showcase more of Stephen's appreciation of the deathcore style while bouncing back and forth between old school thrash metal riffing and it works flawlessly. Snapped Under Pressure is an excellent album closing track that delivers the goods and I feel this one is another key song that was instrumental in the future sound and style of newer Sagen material.
One thing is for certain here, these songs feel like they were stupid fast when listening, they went by in a blink of an eye, seriously, you start a song and you get into it, but before you know it, the song is over! Not once on this album did I find myself checking the progress bar or time of these songs. The song lengths on all of them were absolutely perfect and made this album just scorch past me from the moment I pressed play. Not in a grindcore type of way, it's simply that these songs all felt like they were, "baby bear", or, "just right", when it came to their lengths. Tides Of Succession is a fantastic introduction to the music that would become Sagen. The raw and aggressive feelings that are present throughout this release keeps the energy levels high and elevated and seem to never once let up. Since this album, Sagen has released two more solid offerings to their discography, but this one I feel is a rather important first stepping stone in the path that Stephen has walked with his music. Looking back at where your musical journey started always has it's upsides and it's downsides, but in this case, since I am familiar with Sagen's discography, I personally don't hear any downsides to this release. There are some amazing moments on this recording that you all should experience for yourselves, and you can head on over here to their Band Camp page to give their material a listen and purchase it for your own, and remember to show Sagen your support over on their social media pages. I give this first offering from Sagen an 8 out of 10. The only things holding it back is its lack of guitar solos in crucial moments over certain riffs, a few times where it felt like the vocals were being held back a bit, and the mixing could use some more spit and polish, but still not bad for one man doing it all on his own. So, stop reading the ramblings of this metal head here and go listen to where it all started with Sagen and show them your support, you'll be glad that you did!
Review done by Joshuah Jones, the bassist of The Obsidian Resurrection.
Interview for Sagen with Metal For The Masses Radio Show:
Interview for Sagen with BODS Mayhem Hour Podcast: