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Salduie - Ambaxtos review


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Band: Salduie
Album: Ambaxtos
Release date: June 2021

01. Kennis
02. Caraunios
03. Ambaxtos
04. Mores Maiorum
05. Tagus
06. La Muerte De Asdrúbal
07. El Último Olcade
08. Las Llamas Del Ustrunim
09. Ataecina
10. Descarnatio

I discovered Salduie while looking for another Saurom. Their base state might, in fact, be more like another Eluveitie, but I guess Salduie got bored in lockdown, too, because the ancient times are growing up.

Viros Veramos, the album that drew my attention to Salduie and made an instant fan out of me, now seems like the black sheep among their previous three albums: tightly produced, laden with poppy hooks, and irreverently shrill at times, Viros Veramos combines the effervescent bonhomie of Saurom and Boisson Divine with the renegade party energy of Dirty Shirt. Imbolc and Belos, by contrast, function more like conventional folk metal albums, gruff and growly collections of melodeath blueprints overwritten by traditional instrumentation.

Ambaxtos could be said to reflect the humble folk-melodeath mixture of the first two albums as much as it reflects the hearty and roguish Viros Veramos, for the band's sound regained a lot of weight during quarantine. The nomenclature of pre-Roman Europe and the Gothenburg-style supporting riffs ride out in full force, and there are a couple of heavily layered neofolk marches in the vein of the Evocation duology. Yet Ambaxtos reveals a mercurial quality that prevents Salduie from being reduced to an alternate version of a different band. The ominous intro track, "Kenis," is already one of the most intensely orchestrated tracks in the band's catalogue, and it turns out to be proper foreshadowing of more changes to come, not merely an overture toward novelty.

One thing that Eluveitie definitely does not have is stop-start techy deathcore chug/pick scrape riffs, which you'll find on "La Muerte De Asdrúbal" and "El Último Olcade." And as the heavy side gets heavier, the party side pushes in the opposite direction: "Tagus" precedes this deathly duo by spinning off into Salduie's closest approximation of an epic power metal quest (in between breakdowns, that is). All throughout Ambaxtos there is more emphasis on achieving this kind of scale, turning melodies into massive choruses with a dozen concurrent instrumental lines to build something not just folksy but spectacular. I'm on the fence about how well this serves the acoustic pieces, because the many-person choruses, marching percussion, and layered instruments generate such volume that they're about as "heavy" as the metal tracks; I like those songs as much as the rest and I'd probably admit that that kind of neofolk is more interesting than simple acoustic-metal-acoustic chiaroscuro, but it does mean that Ambaxtos doesn't feel particularly dynamic.

It's still an exciting album, though, with all that energy packed in, and we can probably blame the evolution spurred by Viros Veramos for that. Salduie's vocal approach has grown a lot more elaborate and exotic over the years - even when singing individual verses, Diego is often harmonized or doubled, and when it comes time for the chorus, you get a whole army: deep tones and high-pitched screams turn this into a Blind Guardian-style vocal extravaganza. Hoarse growls surface from time to time, and some of the melodic parts get quite nasal (another point of comparison to Dirty Shirt); with all of the rampant stylization Salduie is undergoing, I suspect we'll be seeing them pop up in increasingly diverse circles, and with how very listenable this is making them, I'll be glad to see it.

The highlight for me is probably "Caraunios," a track-of-all-trades that incorporates "The Musical Priest," a traditional Irish tune; aside from the fact that I love that tune, it's so very rare that when listening to a folk metal band I actually recognize the specific song being reconstituted (and by name, no less). It's only the first part of the tune, and its inclusion is brief, so for all I know it's a complete coincidence that "Caraunios" resembles it, but it's cool for me anyway. The entirety of Ambaxtos is a pleasant surprise, though - Salduie's first two albums are a little unpolished, but they hit a confident stride with Viros Veramos and Ambaxtos finds them at their most fun and most accessible without sacrificing the best bits of their personality.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 15.06.2021 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 1   Visited by: 81 users
15.06.2021 - 19:47

Never heard of this band somehow, will definitely check them out.
"Nullum unquam exstitit magnum igenium sine aliqua dementia [there was never great genius without some madness]."

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