Saul, Rise As Equals review (Spinefarm Records 2020)

The first full-length album from Saul is a stab at the heart of mediocrity that rises above the tide of ordinary heavy music.

This band from Iowa is Blake Bedsaul (vocals), Zach Bedsaul (guitar), William McIlravy (bass), and Myles Clayborne (drums). Their EP Aeons (2019) received a lot of attention, propelled by the success of the single “Brother.” Their music has a harder edge than Pop Metal and more melodic passages than you might expect from heavy music. Punchy, sawblade guitar riffs and forceful vocals are the hallmark, interspersed with lyrical moments. The songs are typically about experiences of people as opposed to dark or fantasy concepts. Breaking Benjamin might be a starting point for reference, but Saul’s music has a sharper edge and a fuller sound. There are other comparisons, too, but listen to Saul directly if you really want to know what they are like.

The album has fourteen songs all running at radio length and each one a separate success. The opener is “Trial By Fire,” which was released earlier as a single. It is clearly a crowd pleasing live anthem, cracking out with a snapping riff that has a clever bend to it then proceeding on to a sing-along chorus that will resonate with fans. In fact, every song sounds like a single – meaning that they are all tight and constructed for maximum impact. There is no meandering anywhere on the album. Take “King of Misery,” which starts out at a slower tempo than many of the other songs, but the rock solid guitars are there and the execution of the vocals as the centerpiece to the composition is spot-on. The title track is another stand-out piece, and for me, and “The Toll” is maybe my favorite on the album for its pulsing rhythm and penetrating message.

I saw Saul perform on a livestream with Clutch, Crowbar, and Blacktop Mojo a couple months back and their set really stood out. I have been waiting for this album to come out ever since, anticipating something big. The band absolutely delivered. Rise As Equals is even better than I expected. Highly recommended.

You can get the full album this Friday, October 23rd from Spinefarm Records. The quick buy is through Amazon Music for the download, with the physical versions widely available. The Saul Shop link below is a good path to follow if you are in a buying mood.

Links.

Saul website, https://saulofficial.com/

Saul Shop, https://saul.merchnow.com/

Saul Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/saulbandofficial/

Saul YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfVimzkq5EqQ0ZDo_FrP7Lg

Spinefarm website, https://www.spinefarmrecords.com/usa/

Spinefarm YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/SpinefarmRec

Saul, Rise As Equals review (Spinefarm Records 2020)

Clutch, with Crowbar, Blacktop Mojo, and Saul, Live from the Doom Saloon, Volume 1, May 27, 2020

With live in-person music events on an indefinite hiatus, streaming events are becoming more common. Clutch has been holding short livestreams for a few weeks nowfrom their rehearsal space, the Doom Saloon. Yesterday they cranked it up a notch by holding a three-hour concert event through the LiveFrom Events platform with Saul, Blacktop Mojo, and Crowbar as openers. It was not the same as being there in person, of course, but it was a lot fun.

The started about 25 minutes late, just like a regular concert. Before each band, some promotional material was run, interviews or merchandise links or release announcements, that sort of thing. And then the bands each played from their respective remote places.

Saul was first up. Their music is melodic and guitar-driven, reminiscent of Breaking Benjamin. A quartet from Iowa, Saul has been gaining momentum in the last couple years. They clocked a solid 30 minute set to break open the afternoon, playing their hits and closing with “Brother,” their best known song. The production was topnotch on their end – Saul was the only band using more than one camera, and they even had a light show.

The feed headed south to Fort Worth Sound Studios in Texas for the next show. Blacktop Mojo creates a heavy sound that is a blend of bluesy southern rock and grungy riffs. The band has a new EP coming out Friday called Static, and they played a couple songs from it. You can look forward to raucous live sets from these five when we can all get back together again. As a bonus, you can count on some fancy footwork from the lead singer Matt James. They closed their set with “Come Get Your Coat,” from their recent album Under The Sun, and it was a great send off.

Before the next band took to stage, the promoter ran several ads. Not surprising, and after all, at a show or especially a festival we are always bombarded with vendors selling things. It didn’t run too long and it gave me a chance to grab another beer.

The penultimate band was New Orleans’ renowned veteran skull crushers Crowbar. Broadcasting from what looked like an underground bunker, founder and frontman Kirk Windstein was in fine form. The band brought some sludge and doom to the show, with the occasional nod to a classic Motörhead style. The first two bands were new to me, but I have seen Crowbar a number of times and so I was really looking forward to this performance. The band definitely delivered the monster riffs and the menacing vocals we were all hoping for.

The headliner was next, and leading up to Clutch’s performance, the “Willie Nelson” video was played. Then we heard the familiar lead-in that always means Clutch is about to hit the stage: “If I ever get my hands on a dollar again, I’m gonna squeeze on it until the eagle grin.” Ah, the memories.

Playing from the Doom Saloon itself, this performance looked very much like the shorter livestreams Clutch has been broadcasting except this was a full set, 14 songs. Here is the list:

“Who Wants to Rock?”

“Pure Rock Fury”

“Weird Times”

“The Soapmakers”

“The Regulator”

“Firebirds!”

“The Incomparable Mr. Flannery”

“Unto The Breach”

“Electric Worry”

“The House That Peterbilt”

“A Shotgun Named Marcus”

“Minotaur”

“Evil”

“In Walks Barbarella”

It was so great to see Clutch perform their usual mix of fan favorites and rarities. Well, to be fair, for fans all the songs are favorites. They sounded and looked great. I hope there will be more of these coming up – they certainly do seem to be well received by fans thirsty for live music. Neil Fallon mentioned that  the livestream was being broadcast at Chilkoot Charlie’s in Anchorage, Alaska. That’s some reach for you right there. Koot’s! I really miss that place … but I digress. Other bands have announced similar streaming concerts, and a lot of musicians have been doing what they can to reach listeners over the past three months. There will probably be even more innovations the longer this all drags on, but those people who say live in person is music is gone for good are wrong. As soon as it works, we are all going to be out there again. Until then, we’ll keep supporting music as much as we can.

Part of the proceeds from this livestreaming event will go to the Angel Flight West charity (see the link below). And there is a limited Minotaur t-shirt you can buy for only a day or two more (link also below). What is special about it besides its cool design is that some of the proceeds from the shirt sales will go to the Clutch crew who have been idled by the current situation.

Finally, check out the platform, LiveFrom Events. A recording of the entire show is available to watch for a couple days in case you missed it – or if you bought the livestream access, you can watch the show again. Overall this event went really well. There was delay at the beginning, and the chat feature locked up for me most of the time, but I was watching and listening to the music anyway so that wasn’t a problem as far as I am concerned. I would definitely watch another LiveFrom event.

Links.

Clutch

Band, http://www.pro-rock.com/

Minotaur shirt, https://www.indiemerch.com/clutch

Crowbar

http://www.crowbarnola.com/

Blacktop Mojo

https://www.blacktopmojo.com/

Saul

https://saulofficial.com/

LiveFrom Events

livefrom.events/

Angel Flight West

https://www.angelflightwest.org/

Clutch, with Crowbar, Blacktop Mojo, and Saul, Live from the Doom Saloon, Volume 1, May 27, 2020