Saturn- Ascending (Live in Space)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, August 7, 2014

I’m pretty sure every other band I review that plays some form of blues rock or heavy metal is from Sweden. The sheer number of groups the country has produced in the past decade or so is downright overwhelming, and while some are better than others one thing I’ve always been able to appreciate is that each one has a fairly different set of influences. This is the case with Saturn, who recently released their debut full length Ascending (Live in Space) on Rise Above Records. Saturn has plenty of familiar elements on display throughout these eight tracks, but unlike the heavy psych influence of some of the other recent Swedish acts their style meets at the intersection of blues rock and NWOBHM. Is this enough to help them stand out from the crowd?

Compared to some of the others I’ve listened to lately, these guys are able to deliver a bit more variation from one track to the next. Although they occasionally dabble in spaced out melodies that have a bit of a psych rock feel, the primary style on Ascending is a combination of blues rock and traditional heavy metal. Saturn seems as though they like to go full speed ahead and hit the listener with galloping NWOBHM leads or louder blues grooves on one song, and then fall back into a softer groove on the next with more of an emphasis on melody. This transition between high energy and mellow works to their advantage, and it’s one of the main reasons that I think they’re able to offer a bit more diversity than some of their peers. With that being said, I did find that this was one of those releases where the entire thing was able to hold my attention and was enjoyable to listen to all at once, but the individual riffs didn’t quite stick with me afterwards. Some of the best blues rock and heavy metal albums are able to offer both diversity and individual moments that really blow you away, and while Saturn does come close they don’t quite get there. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the instrumentals were recorded live, and that makes the songs sound like they could’ve come straight from the same time period as many of the classics, which is sure to make Ascending quite appealing to a wide range of listeners.

Saturn’s lead singer Oscar has one of those vocal ranges that immediately grabs your attention, as his voice naturally hits the higher ranges and the performance is consistently high energy. It’s the type of pitch that is sure to remind listeners of a number of different rock vocalists from classic blues rock and straight up rock ‘n roll, though who you’re initially reminded of will likely vary depending on what you grew up listening to. I realize that description probably doesn’t sound that different from every other Swedish rock singer, but there’s something about Oscar’s pitch that genuinely felt distinguishable to me. Some of the other members perform backing vocals on a few of the songs, bringing a slightly gruffer range to fill out the sound. This is one area I would like to see the group expand upon, as even though the main pitch is so enticing the sections with lead and backing vocals really fleshed out the sound and I believe Saturn could use this to their advantage as they progress.

Ascending (Live in Space) is an album that I’ve enjoyed listening to and plan to give some repeat spins, but it doesn’t quite hit that point where it’s one where I’ll remember specific tracks for years to come. They may not necessarily become your new favorite just yet, but Saturn’s worth checking out for fans of the classic blues rock and NWOBHM sound. I do believe that they can reach that must listen to level in another album or two though, as they have established a solid foundation that doesn’t sound like a clone of every other Swedish group out there and a respected record label’s backing, so expect greater things still to come and keep these guys on your radar.

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