Once more something stirs in what I am now convinced is a remarkable UKBM scene. It seems to be growing particularly strong in Wales and the North or England at the moment and it’s the latter from where black/death outfit Sathamel hail. They were another band who I realised after seeing them live I was getting increasingly excited to see them listed on a bill. This is especially notable as black/death crossover is not my natural milieu if I’m honest. But they got me.
Well an EP and a live album, recorded at the Blackwood Gathering, meant all was going well until a catastrophe struck and the band decided to go on a hiatus to regroup and refigure for a year. And thank whatever lurks in the shadows they didn’t pack it in as the band, with the nucleus of guitarist KVN and vocalist Kruk pulled in Nadir (bass, also of Petrichor), Reykr (drums) and Cygnus (guitars) and have roared out of the silence.
‘Libera Me’, open the curtains with a long, classical style intro before the riff falls and an eerie melody picks its way across the top. The drumming is…crushing, hammering in with double kicks and Kruk’s vocals searing the deal. First things you notice is the production, by Samuel Turbitt is a fine job; dense, thick and yet still clear enough to bring the scything riffs out, then the vocals grab you. From a death metal bark to a black metal howl and all points in between Kruk has a great presence. We also get judicious use of keyboards to broaden the sound just here and there and some superb guitars; KVN and Cygnus moving from hard blackened death riffing to fluid, swirls or stabs of melody. It’s a furious sound, with Nadir’s the bass drilling away between the drum hammers.
The title track up next has…well I had the chorus screaming round my head for days. It has a weird, unsettling melody, again remarkable vocals and that hook that nags and nags and curses. Sound wise it’s an intriguing mix too; we get the kind of pummelling you expect from Behemoth, bouts of full on death metal riffing and the eerie presence of the kind of insistent melody that creeps up your spine when older Akercocke plays. Yeah this is pretty darned impressive.
There’s a constant anger and even bleakness here. Listen to the superb ‘Swit’ which showcases more keyboards than most, some almost spoken vocals and yet cranks up the intensity chord by chord as though trying to crush your chest. Oh this is just raging, hateful stuff. This is a band releasing a whole world of pent up frustration and it sounds nasty as you could wish for.
The long closer ‘Of Spilled Wine And Broken Glass’ might from the title sound a little goth, but fear not; this is another song that waltzes through a disturbed melody into screaming lead break and gnarled death metal. It is woven with a deftness that belies the heaviness, and finishes the album with a defiant show of musicality and triumph.
Another aspect here that displays maturity and judgement is that nothing here outstays the initial rush. As a whole the album is a solid well under fifty minute length which for such intense and constantly hitting music is spot on, and they only stretch into longer than seven minute songs when the song justifies it. They layer riff with harsh melody, use keyboards only when needed as this is very much a guitar album, and shake up the tempo with unsettling changes and dense atmosphere.
Fighting back through shit and anger, Sathamel haven’t just regained momentum they’ve stepped up swinging a bloody great club. Honestly can’t think of a better black/death band in the country at the moment.
Just superb. Welcome back.