Above: Frontman Kruk holds aloft a bloody skull while the band shreds around him.
Sathamel are a Blackened Death Metal band hailing from West Yorkshire, previously likened to Burzum and Bolt Thrower. I caught up with them at the Einherjar festival in Halifax, and was lucky enough to see them play before we got a chance to chat. Smeared with blood and black, and with the largest crowd of any band I have seen this night, it’s clear why this dedicated and very dark band have such a loyal following. Said following has helped them on the way to potentially playing Bloodstock.
Mabh: I notice you’re in the semi-final of ‘Metal 2 The Masses‘.
Sathamel: On the 21st of next month we are going back to Selby to do Metal 2 The Masses Semi-Finals. Come along, give us a vote. We’re hoping to get through to the final then hopefully Bloodstock itself.
Mabh: So the ultimate prize is playing Bloodstock?
Mabh: Do you reckon you guys will be at Bloodstock one way or the other anyway?
Sathamel: Myself, I’ve got tickets; I want to see Emperor. I think we’ll be at Bloodstock anyway but it would be a bonus to play it. It will be a good festival either way.
Mabh: Will you be bitter that you paid for the tickets already if you end up on the line-up?
Sathamel: Yeah, I’ll be selling one of them!
Mabh: I gather you’ve had a recent line-up change?
Sathamel: Yes, we’ve just got a new bass player.
Mabh: What brought that about?
Sathamel: We had this member who was playing guitar when we first started, and it just didn’t stick. After a few months we realised it wasn’t working out. We decided to part ways with him and we both agreed it was the best thing. Our bassist moved to play guitar in his place and we’ve been looking for a bassist for a few months now. We played a couple of gigs without bass. We had a few people trying with the band but none of them really fit for whatever reason. Until we found Sultan over here, who’s kind of just stuck with us and given us a go.
Mabh: It does seem like you have a really tight, heavy rhythm section, so you’ve already gelled really quickly.
Sathamel: Valdr – Drums: Me and Sultan are definitely locking in!
Mabh: Would you definitely call yourselves Black Metal?
Sathamel: We call ourselves Blackened Death Metal. We’re more likened to Death Metal than we are to Black Metal. For the new material, it’s getting really dense and atmospheric. It’s a bit more laid back, in a really dark way. It takes ages for a song to kick in from the atmospheric part of it. There’s one song which is four minutes in and it’s still all building up, then it will kick in. We have the brutal stuff in there then we have all the melodies and stuff like that. Sort of in the vein of Venus, Morning Star. That’s like our signature tune at the moment. That’s the longest one. About seven minutes. That’s basically what we are. Death metal, crushing death metal but with some nice black metal stuff in there.
Mabh: You’re obviously very conscious of your stage show; the way you came on stage and the way you present yourselves. Turning slowly to face the audience at the start; there’s definitely a sense of the theatric. What inspires that?
Sathamel: Kruk- Frontman: For me it’s more of, this will sound clichéd I suppose, but it’s a bit more like ritual really. The audience is there to witness it. I don’t really sing; I contribute to the sound we make on the stage. It’s not so much me as my alter ego. Once I put my make up on and my hood when we’re performing I turn into Kruk who is my alter ego on the stage. That’s how I seem really different on stage to how I am in real life.
Mabh: So it’s a full on persona that you have on stage then?
Sathamel: I think when we all put on the paint it’s like we’re stepping into new shoes.
Mabh: Have you always worn the paint?
Sathamel: Since the beginning. There was one gig where we didn’t because of time constraints, but it didn’t feel right. It felt really awkward that gig because we didn’t have it on and it didn’t feel right. We all had our heads down while we were playing; none of us felt comfortable. Not just about our performance but about how we looked to other people.
Mabh: Because in contrast, you looked really confident on stage tonight. What’s been your best gig to date?
Sathamel: Last month supporting Hour of Penance. Hour of Penance are just one of my favourite bands. they are pretty much; well, we have some songs such as Scorch Blind Faith which are quick. Hour of Penance are that personified, then taken to the next level. They’re like idols. We really embrace every gig that we do like for example, we’ve just played here in Halifax and we got a lot of positive feedback from the people that saw us. I had a guy saying he doesn’t like metal whatsoever but he still really enjoyed our set. That’s the best kind of compliment you can get. When someone’s really not into that type of stuff but can still kind of embrace you as you were on the stage, and judge you on whatever you’re doing.
Mabh: I notice you have strong themes of blood and death; for example you have the skull on stage on display. Are there similar themes within your lyrics?
Sathamel: Yes. Eternal Hunters that I did the whole skull thing on, I did that song mainly as a song that we would end the set with. It’s about how we kind of drain the most out of the crowd and how we just want to give in and just relax after a set. I thought about having the skull there to represent night and death.
Mabh: And instead of relaxing you get dragged off to speak to me!
Sathamel: No, no, it’s all good!
Mabh: What’s next? Any more gigs lined up?
Sathamel: The next gig is the semi-final for Metal for the Masses, then we’ve got a gig in July with De Profundis at the Snooty Fox in Wakefield. we’re also playing the Almost Fatal festival in Cumbria, in Barrow-In-Furness. That’s in July. Then we’ve got Manchester after that. Our first show in Manchester is at the QQQQ festival [4th October, Kraak Gallery, Manchester]. Everything in between that is sorting out the songs for release; we’re aiming for the end of the year.
Mabh: Are you going for an album release?
Sathamel: We can’t really say if there’s going to be an album or another EP because we don’t really stress ourselves like, this month we have to write a song and the next month we have to write another one. We just write in the moment. So we can’t tell if by the end of the year we’ll have one song or 20 songs. It just depends on that. We don’t stress ourselves with it.
Mabh: That’s more relaxed than most bands.
Sathamel: it has to be a natural flow because, a song like Venus started off at three minutes and now it’s like seven.
Mabh: So it’s progressed and grown in that time?
Sathamel: Yeah. We just take it easy with the writing process because obviously we’re writing stuff that… well, we don’t want to write stuff like power ballads, songs that are just ‘hits’. We want to put everything into it. Every element of our music, we want to put in each song.
Mabh: So the song needs to mean something to you guys, first and foremost?
Mabh: What bands would you absolutely love to share a stage with?
Sathamel: Definitely bands like Behemoth, Belphegor, Darkthrone maybe? Watain. All the bands that are in the same vein as us. Normally when we play, there’s a line-up of bands who are different, but then we come on and are completely different. We are open to playing with any band, really. We’re not elitist. When there’s a good variation of bands, then we come on, it means we’re reaching a wider audience rather than just fans of death metal and black metal. It gets us more exposure. It’s good to play a gig where no one has heard this type of music before, then people walk away saying ‘Wow, that was great’. It’s like last year when we got taken onto that hard-core gig, just because we had that doomy sense to us. between every song you have that gap where the guitars are ringing out and it’s quite gritty sounding. So we fit in with hard-core and death metal. We don’t really barricade ourselves within black or death metal. We do whatever we think will work for the song, as a sound.