Sarayasign – Throne of Gold
Release Date: 24/06/22
Running Time: 36:53
Review by Laura Barnes
We are currently in the presence of courage far greater than any lion or dragon-slaying knight. Step aside snake tamers, deep sea adventurers, people who bungee-jump for fun. This is bravery like you’ve never seen it before: Sarayasign’s debut album is a concept album. A bloody concept album!
For those of you who don’t follow music as obsessively as I do, a concept album is one of the riskiest things a band can do. Even for bands with a massive, quasi-religious following, the concept album can be a double-edged sword bathed in flame and venom. Even Judas Priest haven’t fully recovered from the unholy reaction to “Nostradamus”, and they’re Judas Fucking Priest for God’s sake (note: please do not take this as Nostradamus slander. I would not dare slander Nostradamus). Since then, culture has gotten even less concept album friendly. In an age of algorithm-tailored running playlists and Spotify shuffle mode, concept albums can easily get lost within the ‘I-have-no-time-right-now-so-I’ll-listen-to-this-abum-when-I-have-time’ folder because – you guessed it – there is never enough time. To this I say: move some shit around and make some time, because this debut album is unmissable.
Swedish Hard Rockers Sarayasign deliver banger after banger in the vein of Kamelot, Queensrÿche, Coheed and Cambria (with just a sprinkle of Dream Theater for a dramatic flourish, of course) that is guaranteed to have you singing your heart out whether you follow the story or not. Despite the strong and effective focus on storytelling, “Throne of Gold” never once forgets that it is an album and not a one thousand page Ken Follett novel. Expository monologues and incomprehensible interludes are nowhere to be seen and no song exceeds the ten-minute mark. Instead, the storytelling is built into Sarayasign’s song writing in a way that feels natural, authentic and compelling.
According to Sarayasign’s website, “Throne of Gold” kicks off an epic fantasy narrative that will be told over the course of four albums. In this album, Sarayasign have laid down the building blocks of this narrative with two interweaving story threads. The first thread introduces the world of Saraya to the listener, where chosen heroes are searching for a book that will vanquish the Darkness that is encroaching on the land. One problem: the pages have been torn out of the book and separated across distance and time. The second thread is much less far-reaching: a woman is stricken by grief after her husband dies in a car crash. Eventually, these narratives will connect in some unexpected ways. Although these two story threads seem wildly opposing in tone, Sarayasign maintains a consistent yet varied tone throughout.
That said, whilst songs in each storyline are all fantastically written, it is the second, more down-to-earth storyline that showcases Saraysign’s magical talent for sonic storytelling. Take ‘Distant Memories’, for example. The slower, foreboding verses fill the listener with the same dread felt by the widow as she waits anxiously for her husband’s return; the melodic chorus conveys the beauty and tragedy of lost love; the gentle piano bridge frames the moment of the husband’s death. As powerhouse vocalist Stefan Nykvist spins the yarn, the attentive listener will pick up on sound effects that propel ‘Distant Memories’ into goosebump territory: car radios, police sirens, and the husband’s fading heartbeat in his last moments of life. ‘Distant Memories’ is followed by ‘If Only For A Moment’, an unflinchingly earnest ballad that manages to look grief right in the eye without cloaking itself in bleakness. The lyrics are simple, but effective; Nykvist belts out lines like ‘Home is not where the heart is / All the memories are turning black’ with unwavering conviction and weeping guitars from Daniel Blohm and Jesper Lindberg (who, by the way, is the mastermind behind the vast story-world of Saraya) bring the song to its dramatic conclusion.
This isn’t to say that the songs following Saraya and its battle with the mysterious evil are subpar however. Whilst tracks like ‘Distant Memories’ and ‘Throne of Gold’ pack a spectacularly emotional punch in a way that surpasses earlier tracks like ‘Book of Wisdom’, every track delivers something unique. ‘Stranger in Ice’, for example, is one of the coolest tracks (pun intended) on the album. It features a guy on HORSEBACK galloping across a ‘blood red sky’ and contains enough euphoric ‘YEEAAAAAAHS’ to destroy your vocal chords twice over. What more could you possibly want?
Regardless of whether you’re a fantasy nerd or a high-flying executive metalhead who has no time for such far-fetched things, Sarayasign’s dramatic entrance into the Hard Rock scene will make you pay attention. With such a sprawling world laid out before them and the quiet confidence with which they write their music, it is clear that Sarayasign’s journey – much like their chosen heroes – has only just begun. If you follow my advice and give “Throne of Gold” a spin, then I guarantee you’ll want to see it through with them till the end.
01. The Book of Wisdom
02. When World’s Collide
03. Distant Memories
04. If Only For A Moment
07. Stranger In Ice
08. Throne of Gold
Stefan Nykvist – Vocals
Daniel Blohm – Lead Guitar
Andreas Axelsson – Keyboards
Daniel Lykkeklev – Bass
Jesper Lindberg – Drums / Rhythm Guitar
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Laura Barnes and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.