Situations like these are why I hate giving albums numerical scores. If you can recognize a band’s talent and skill, but also recognize that said talent and skill are completely outside of what you enjoy, then what the hell do you do as a serious music critic??! This would be far less of a dilemma for me if I wasn’t already familiar with Sahg’s material; While their phenomenal debut record set a standard for sky-cracking doom that still hasn’t been met by most bands, on their fourth full-length Delusions of Grandeur, the band seem to concentrate more on Skye-cracking.
You could easily listen to any two minutes of this album and think it’s a latter-day Mastodon B-side, and that’s not entirely a bad thing (Crack the Skye is a really fuckin’ good album!); my main problem here is that the album veers a bit too far off in the proggy direction. The songs pinball from riff to disassociated riff at a blistering pace, and my sluggish doom-addled mind can barely keep up, let alone find any sense of cohesion. Songs like “Firechild” and “Walls of Delusion” all have pretty good licks, but we never really get a chance to know them as intimately as we need to. In a scant few bars, we’re introduced to a new riff that seems to come from out of nowhere, while we still haven’t even gotten to first base with the one that started us off! It’s the equivalent of musical speed dating, and what I’m left with is a massive, confusing mess with only a few good numbers to follow up on. And it’s not that the rest of the riffs aren’t good, they’re just a bit….oh, how shall one say….
While this is still enjoyable to listen to on some level, just for the sake of seeing a band doing what they love in top form, it’s in the last two tracks of the album where my interest gets lost entirely. The dizzying and downright masturbatory instrumental “Odium Delirium” adds nothing, and the epic-scope closer “Sleeper’s Gate to the Galaxy” is tainted by the trademark proggy guitar solo that goes on for way longer than it needs to. In these cases the album’s concept of a man with delusions of grandeur getting pulled off into the abyss of space seems more than appropriate, as the music desperately needs to come back to terra firma and ground itself back on its doomy roots. But I know there’s going to be a huge number of prog fans out there who will disagree, and I can understand their opinions entirely (as heretical as they may be). If you prefer Crack the Skye to Leviathan, or Heritage to Blackwater Park, then there’s a lot here that you’ll enjoy. You’ll definitely want to add a couple more points onto my score if that’s the case. But if you’re an Iommic acolyte who worships bongwater-drenched riffage above all else, stick to Sahg’s early work. As a Doom fan, Delusions of Grandeur will disappoint you a bit, although I definitely get the feeling that it’s one of those albums that takes a few listens to grow on you.
And hey, it’s still better than Dream Theater.