For bands that have been around as long as Saga, it can be difficult to add modern elements to their music without sounding derivative. This is not the case, however, on Saga's latest, Sagacity, which manages to incorporate contemporary guitars while maintaining the band's signature, progressive rock roots.
Moody, atmospheric keyboards and guitar lines introduce "Let It Slide," The album's opening cut. A complicated song, it blends heavy guitars with almost funky verses and a chorus of strong, multilayered vocals courtesy of Michael Sadler. Ian Crichton and Jim Gilmour deliver a unison lead on guitar and keyboards respectively in this powerful opener.
On "Vital Signs," keyboards swell and ping-pong while the band mixes in modern rock guitars on the track. A mellow Sadler vocal completes this hybrid of old and new styles for the band. The band mixes soft and heavy on "Go With The Flow." Heavy drums on the intro give way to acoustic guitars before the song slams into its heavy chorus. The band's use of dynamics is in full force here and to great effect.
Elements of EDM music creep in to "Wake Up," a driving track with metal guitars that once again blends familiar and unfamiliar elements in the band's sound. "Press 9" shows that even prog bands have a sense of humor as its lyrics take aim at the automated phone switchboards so many of us hate.
The album closes out with the strong "I'll Be." After a lengthy, intricate acoustic guitar intro, Sadler comes in to give a powerful vocal on this dramatic closer. As a bonus, the album includes a second disc of live performances recorded in 2013. Highlights include a potent rendition of "The Cross" and a heavy "On The Loose."
Saga has managed to maintain their classic sound while incorporating modern elements into their music. The songs sound at once familiar and yet could fit in with modern rock radio as well. Sagacity shows a band still creating interesting music after all these years.