By Samuel Stevens
Release Date: October 23, 2020
Genre: Alternative Metal, Hard Rock
Label: Spinefarm Records
The Sutherland, Iowa based alternative metal/hard rock outfit SAUL have finally released their debut album, Rise As Equals. The group formed three years and the new release marks the follow-up to last year’s Aeons EP. Since their previous EP the band has come into their sound by pulling from distinct aspects and eras from all over the rock and metal spectrum. SAUL’s debut was co-produced by bandmates and siblings, Blake and Zach Bedsaul, alongside producer Chris Dawson.
SAUL is made up of vocalist Blake Bedsaul, guitarist/backing vocalist Zach Bedsaul, bassist/backing vocalist William McIlravy, and drummer Myles Clayborne. Rise As Equals features a few big collaborations for its songwriting as well. Powerhouse songwriter Erik Ron (Godsmack, Panic! at the Disco) co-wrote the track “Here and Now,” Disturbed frontman David Draiman co-wrote the track “King of Misery,” over Zoom during the pandemic, and Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose co-wrote and performed on the drums on “Inside.” The albums lyrical content draws from personal real-life experiences by harnessing the positivity of these experiences.
Rise As Equals opens up with the lead single, “Trial By Fire.” The blistering opening track is heavy on the djenty seven-string guitar riff that’s prominent throughout. However, that’s not all the track has to offer. The track is just a taste of what is yet to come on the album but features the perfect well-rounded amount of what makes the band’s sound stand out. It’s got their staple seven-string guitars, hard-hitting drums, a peek of what Blake is capable of vocally, and programming to boot. “Trial By Fire” is quite an intense personal track for the band. The song is about Blake and Zach’s mother, who unfortunately passed away last year from cancer. The song was written while the brothers were taking care of her when she was in hospice and when they were currently writing new material for the debut record. It’s more about the inner conflict of what the brothers were feeling while they were balancing their personal lives and professional lives at that time. To them, it felt like walking through fire. “Walk in the coals, I’m seeing red / I feel the heat in my head / There’s so much smoke, I cannot see / The fire’s raging at my face.”
Getting personal again on the heart-wrenching track, “Brother,” the band tackle the tragedy that both Blake and Zach had to the ordeal of going through in 2009 with the loss of their older brother Caleb. “King of Misery,” the album’s second single is a reflective song of Blake and Zach’s dad. Their dad is always joking around saying, “I’m the king of everything. This is my domain.” When he was taking care of their mom in hospice, he was the king of his domain, but also he was the king of misery all at the same time. The explosive title track, “Rise As Equals,” is a track directed to their fanbase they call “The Equals.” The track was particularly written for the fans as they all fight together. They are equal.
A few other standouts on the album are the tracks “Levee” and “Sticks And Stones.” “Levee” is a sombre little ballad mixed within the record’s fourteen tracks that showcases an astonishingly different side of the band, unlike anybody may have heard much of before. The penultimate track, “Sticks And Stones,” is the heaviest on Rise As Equals. If you love long drawn out chugging guitar riffs, this track in question is certainly for you. All four members’ dynamism is showcased on this wildly large track.
SAUL is looking to stamp their name within the book of the metal and rock scene. The band’s message on Rise As Equals, and their previous release for that matter, all feature an encouraging and positive message out of their heartbreak and personal experiences. Rise As Equals is the embodiment of confidence that there is hope to move forward in life after tragedy strikes, and the album’s lyricism shows that the band certainly handle it best by channeling it into their music. Over the last three years together as a band, Blake, Zach, William, and Myles have all grown and matured on different levels personally and professionally. With the loss of Blake and Zach’s brother and mother, it has resulted in the tightening of their brotherly bond and to explore their musical side with each other more than ever.