Saille - GnosisHave you ever been away from someone for a while, whether a friend, family member, or former love interest, and when you reunite, that person has changed dramatically? Was it because they cleaned up, got their shit together, lost or gained weight in a healthy matter, or otherwise became an outrageously successful person without you? Or did you see them with a beer belly, receding hairline, on their third divorce, and you try to find a nice way to cheer them up while thinking in your head, “What the hell happened to you?” Well, Belgian black metallers Saille impressed me back in 2014 with their third album, Eldritch. It displayed some strong songwriting along the Dimmu Borgir vein, and I looked forward to what was coming next from these guys. Now, Gnosis arrived and… yeah.

But first, the good, which will take less time to discuss. “Prometheus,” arguably the best song on Gnosis, builds upon the strengths that littered Eldritch in abundance. Drummer Kevin De Leener assaults his kit with interesting fills and frantic double-bass. Combined with the riff work of guitarists Reinier Schenk and newcomer Collin Boone, “Prometheus” contains enough suspense in its 4-minute length to keep one’s interest fully engaged. Elsewhere, “Before the Crawling Chaos,” crawls with a cool dramatic riff in the beginning, setting up tension and atmosphere before the song changes up shortly after.

Now that we got that out of the way, the faults are two-fold and humongous. First, while there aren’t bad performances to be found on Gnosis, the promise shown on Eldritch, on a songwriting level, is nowhere to be seen. “Before the Crawling Chaos” contains at least four different abrupt pieces that don’t mesh well together, making an almost 7-minute song feel way longer. “Prometheus” also felt like a long tune, until I realized that immediate follow-up “Thou, My Maker” just sounded almost exactly like its predecessor in the track listing. In fact, Gnosis mostly flew by without much notice, and it definitely didn’t grab my attention like Eldritch did.

Saille 2017
But even if Saille crafted one of the best works of symphonic black art known to mankind, the Wieslawscy brothers’ (Behemoth, Vader) mix and master would kill it dead. Within seconds of opener “Benei ha’Elohim,” I was assaulted by the worst compressed guitar tone I have heard since Cradle of Filth’s abysmal Cruelty and the Beast. Somehow, it sounds both wet and fried, like someone threw a Peavey practice amp into a pool, took it out, dried it off by surrounding it in rice inside a paper bag, plugged a guitar into it, and told the producer to press “Record” while it was still damp. When the band goes into Blast Mode, any semblance of dynamics or cohesion is thrown out the window into a swamp. The DR 4 score surprised me, as it doesn’t even begin to tell you how smothered, loud, and obnoxious this sounds. On a symphonic black metal album, where there are violins, keyboard melodies, and airy bits of fancy, there is no excuse at all for your album to sound this atrocious.

I couldn’t wait to reunite with Saille to see what they cooked up after Eldritch, but I don’t think I will be making another return trip. Gnosis, with its disengaging songwriting and horrible production, trips on itself when it should be aiming for the stars. I’m all for a good bit of storytelling, but not if it causes a severe migraine at a low volume. Like seeing someone who’s changed for the worst after a long absence, it’s best to cherish the memory of what was, and move on.


Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Received: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Code666 Records
Websites: saille.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/saillemetal
Release Dates: EU: 2017.03.13 | NA: 03.24.17

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  • tomasjacobi

    I’m afraid I agree completely. I’m a fan of the band and have really liked their previous albums but I just can’t get into this one.
    The songwriting is a big step down from their other material and add to that the worst production job I’ve heard this year and you have a giant disappointment.
    Hopefully they’ll get back on track for the next album…

  • mtlman1990

    Eh 1.0 is pretty harsh. I didnt mind the song linked. I think the production is a definite step down. No where near Eldritch quality but still alot better than alot of the things reviewed lately

    • Grymm

      This is one of the better songs on here. The rest of the album, save where I noted, is lethargically mundane. Add to that a physically painful production job, and this is what happens.

    • Hear, hear. Unless you’re an audio slave, don’t listen to grumpy old Grymm. The album has more than its share of melodies and moods. That production is fucking weird, though. And it IS a shame that it wasn’t given more dynamic headroom.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    I’ve never listened to Saille before, but man, that embedded track is a bad first impression. Can’t believe they went from a 3.5-worthy act to this.

    • Feytalist

      Definitely give Eldritch a go (should be right up your alley, heheh). It’s a great symphonic black metal album, and just a good album in general.

  • herrschobel

    haha..i love how you know where this review is going after the first couple of sentences…kaboooooom

    • Yeah. I don’t quite agree with the Grymmster on this one, but I have to give it to him, the linguistic composition is sweet.

  • Zach Ward

    This is a real shame. The albums saille released before hand were some of my favorite black metal albums, but this doesn’t even remotely resemble what I so enjoyed from them.. Today is a sad day..

    • Feytalist

      Same here. I had such high hopes for this one, because Situ and especially Eldritch were such good albums. But even I have to admit that this just sounds… bad. Shame.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    You mean Cruelty’s abysmal production, right, not quality? Right?!?!

    • Grymm

      That’s what I meant, yes. Sorry for not clarifying.

      • Ferrous Beuller

        Don’t you scare me like that!

        Great review and I completely agree. Shame.

  • Norfair Legend

    Am I the only one who can never hear the difference between DR scores? Can someone help me? What’s a good modern DR album of this similar style (Saille) so I can compare it to this one.

    Do I need a good stereo or would my iphone with headphones be ok?

    I’ve read all the DR explanations here whenever they’re put out but I’m still struggling, lol.

    • Frost15

      You definitely need a decent pair of headphones to appreciate the differences more clearly, but even with a mediocre ones you should be able to notice less “space” to breath between the instruments. Also, often louder than your average volume at your default volume settings.

    • tomasjacobi

      The issue here is not just loudness/low dynamic range(DR). Their previous albums were also quite loud, but sounded a lot better. I’m not able to identify exactly where or what the problem is, but I would say the mix is also to blame. It takes more than a loud mastering to make something sound this bad.
      IMO this album will sound bad no matter what equipment you listen on. Try comparing with their first 2 albums (“Irreversible Decay” and “Ritu”).

    • Grymm

      In this case, it’s the loudness of the (horribly mixed) guitars, the massive clipping and brickwalling when the speed picks up at a clip, and the fact that there’s some orchestration (violins, etc.), but I’m not risking permanent hearing loss to pinpoint them out.

      • Norfair Legend

        Maybe this is a “sick day” from work excercise for me, just put on albums at home and look for differences.

      • I absolutely agree to a very strange guitar sound. Very strange indeed. Particularly noticeable at the 45 second mark of opener “Benei ha’Elohim”, and I’m not going to argue that compression has nothing to do with it. But compression alone just cant ENTIRELY alter the whole soundscape of the guitar. Not all by it selves, right? The basic sound of the guitar must (at least in my mind) hail from an odd production choice, with the compression sitting atop as an elephant in the room.

        • Grymm

          In this case, it DID alter it significantly, as Eldritch didn’t suffer from this problem at all.

          Honestly, without the production guffaws, this was a 2.0 musically for me. The production pulled it down a full point because, well, it shouldn’t have to physically hurt to hear every minute detail in the symphonies or guitars.

          • I am by no means an expert, but I’m inclined to agree with tomasjacobi a few notches below. I really believe those guitars must have sounded that peculiar coming out of the mix.

            On the positive side, most metal sounds normally good, bad or middling. This bizarre sound is actually singular enough to separate Gnosis a bit from the mass. For better or worse, obviously.

            I’ve heard albums with low DR score that is actually painful to crank up. Blasting Gnosis makes the brickwall more obvious, but it doesn’t hurt in the same physical way. The pain lies not in the ears, but in the mind of the beholder, so to say.

    • El_Cuervo

      It may depend on your listening equipment. You’re listening experience is only as good as its weakest link. If your headphones / earphones / speakers are default or bad then that will limit definition right there.

    • Zonk them in iTunes. Have Soundcheck on. Compare this one with the last one or the one before it. Your iPhone with headphones are just fine (though if you are using the earbuds that came with your iPhone I do highly suggest upgrading them).

    • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

      So at the 44 second mark for the embedded track, the guitar gains in volume before the riff.

      Except it doesn’t, it’s loud the whole time, and the riff when it starts has zero “oomph” becuase it’s just as intense dynamically as the guitars statically gaining volume.

      Every instrument is completely cranked in volume, making it hard to feel like there are multiple people playing at the same time, just a lot of static that makes it into a loud chug.

      • Norfair Legend

        Ok, got that, thank you. Maybe it’s not a good thing asking this question because if I do start to hear it, it could mess up my listening, lol.

    • Some times it’s easier to notice than others. Good DR is best perceived when the basic recording paves way with good instrumental sound, and the production applies diversity even to the volume, allowing things like drum bashes to sound booming by temporarily drowning out other sounds in a natural exploding fashion.
      Good DR often make for a natural, lofty sounding environment, whereas a crappy DR is best noticed in the instruments sounding cramped together, and the clipping creating some unwanted interference/jarring.
      Take your favorite 80’s album as an example of the former, or the intro to the latest “Iced Earth” album if you’d like a newer example.
      “Einherjer – Av Oss, For Oss” being an example of the latter.

      Now, sound is subjective. And some are more geeky about it. DR is not the most important aspect of sound, but as an aspect, and the only objective and measurable one at it, it’s still worth fighting for.

      Well, that’s my two cents anyway. The most important thing is nevertheless to do what you’re already doing; listening to and enjoying what ever the fuck you want.

      • Norfair Legend

        That was a great explanation!

    • seasonsinthesky

      Norfair, just pick up the last Witherscape album deluxe edition. Listen to the first disc in FLAC or off the CD until you get used to it. Then put on disc 2 and compare to what you got used to. We listen to music not just with ears but with our brains, so use all of it to help train yourself.

    • In general I agree, but I’m sure you’ve had some albums that just grate on the ears – even though the melody etc is good, it’s irritating to keep listening without a break. Extreme example might be the first Carcass album (Reek of Putrefaction) vs the rest.
      The track here is really painful to listen to, even to my uneducated ears

    • Wilhelm

      The plastic-y drum sound, the artificial sounding guitar tone, louder than necessary, and usually accompanied with slick production and a bad mixing job. Spend some time listening to high DR scores through headphones, or your car, if you have a good balanced system. …then listen to the bad ones. I think most people can detect this, but they just don’t want to make an effort. Remember that low DR doesn’t always mean bad, especially in Black Metal, but the good compressed BM albums are usually on the raw side.

    • Here’s Johnny

      That’s because the DR score on this site is absolute nonsense and so are a lot of the reviews(like this one).

      • Grymm

        “I think they were trying for a Mayhem Ordo Ad Chao type production and it wasn’t that successful but the music rises above it.”

        OAC wasn’t nearly as symphonic as Saille tried to be on here. Also, as I stated earlier, the music was fairly benign and unmemorable BEFORE the production threw it into a tailspin.

        Glad it doesn’t give you a headache, though.

  • Finq

    Holy Mary, you weren’t kidding with the production.

  • Maximos662

    I’ve really enjoyed both Ritu and Eldritch, and this production job even sounded bad through my crappy Apple earbuds (the sort of headphones only really adequate for podcasts…..) while walking my dog.

    I’m going to feel sad a deflated for the rest of the evening, because I normally look forward to a Saille record.

  • This record was absolutely ruined in the studio. And I literally have no idea why since their last few outings were “fine.” I really liked the green one.

  • antitayyip

    great release

    • Your words says one thing, but the looks in your eyes suggest another sarcastic option. So, which one is it?

  • Asral

    Never heard of them before, and the song sounds like shit… I like the cover art though.

  • Alexandre Barata

    When they released the first song of the album I had to comment on their FB page, that although the music was somewhat surprising, the brickwall of noise was just too much to listen to this… Sorry they didn’t take me seriously and just re-did the whole album! ahaha I even bought the special numbered edition of Eldritch, but this? This is just an headache.

    EDIT: Instead of surprising I wanted to say good!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    woah… time to drop some rohypnol put CDG on at 1/2 speed and have a solid relax…