Interview: Sathamel on death metal, touring, and their upcoming album

Sathamel are one of the most exciting extreme metal acts to come out of Yorkshire in years. Known for their blackened death metal and blistering live performances, Sathamel have honed their craft touring across the UK for the past several years. Their performance at Northern Extremity XI at the Fulford Arms in York was a ferocious assault and a rousing success, so I sat down with them to talk about their music, the UK’s metal scene and York.

Though this interview was conducted a while ago, the substance and content remains as relevant now as it did at the time, so please enjoy a conversation with one of the UK’s most exciting extreme metal acts. Sathamel are a blackened death metal band from the Yorkshire area of England, their brutal style of extreme metal characterised by crushing grooves and unrelenting brutality. Following the release of their 2015 self-titled EP they’ve toured with bands such as WinterfyllethFleshgod Apocalypse, and The Infernal Sea. Later this year they are scheduled to play at Incineration Festival and Ritual Festival’s warmup show, as well as the Rites of the Black Mass II festival in Bucharest, Romania – which features Mis├żyrming, Taake, Impaled Nazarene, Urfaust, Aosoth, and many other fantastic bands.

They are also no strangers to this small English city of York. By my count, this is their third performance in our fair little city, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake every time, and the audience are clearly excited to see them perform. Later that evening they treated us to their utterly visceral live show and debuted two new songs from their upcoming full-length album, which looks to be shaping up excellently if those songs are anything to go by.

We take a seat outside the Fulford Arms next to what we affectionately call ‘the beach’. After getting comfy, I open by asking them about the origins of the band, and why they changed their name from She’ol to Sathamel back in 2013. Vocalist Kruk explains that the idea was born by looking at other local bands not taking their craft or performance seriously. He recalls that a band would get on stage, and a friend of the band in the audience would make a joke, and the band would reply – Sathamel wanted to do things differently. They wanted to put on a show that people would actually want to see and experience, not just stand around and get drunk while headbanging a little while joking around with their mates. The name change came about because they realised there were many other bands with the same name, so if they wanted to commit to the band professionally in the longer term they had to stand out. Sathamel’s drummer Matt also points out that their band logo and sigil already began with an ‘S’ helped them choose their new name Sathamel, but in the end they decided “Why not, let’s change it all!”

Sathamel are currently in the process of recording their debut full-length album, almost four years after their self-titled EP. I wanted to pry a bit and find out what sort of direction the new songs are taking. Matt explains that the final track on their EP ‘Eternal Hunters’ is “really fast, aggressive, and in-your-face, so we’re picking up where that left off.” They’re still incorporating heavier slower sections, but on the whole the band agree that the album is shaping up to be faster. “It’s hard-hitting. And it’s got quite a bit more technical as well, because [Nathan, their guitarist]’s been writing some really hard stuff.”

But Kruk adds that “if you play our EP and then go to this CD straight after, I think it would still seem like the same band, but improved. There is still a very balanced dose of death and black metal in the music, so I think it will still work with our old fans.” Nathan adds that the songs they’re playing live from their EP are four years old by this point, so the band have grown as musicians in the mean-time. Kruk also suggests there might be some orchestral or backing vocals, and their bassist Deimos adds in that the album might have guest musicians, though they remained tight-lipped about their identities! This gels with what I later heard when they played two brand new songs for the first time. These new tracks were faster, more technical, and even more sinister in atmosphere than ever before. They’ve clearly grown as musicians since their EP, and the upcoming album is set to be a devastating one.

I wanted to get their thoughts on how the UK’s metal scene is doing right now, and if they think there’s any factors preventing it from doing even better. Nathan thinks the UK scene is “actually incredibly strong. Fantastic bands all over the country, and we’ve been playing with a lot of them. I just think it’s great. We’ve got big festivals being put on, like Incineration Festival and stuff like that.” Deimos also points tout that “looking at the scene even compared to five years ago, you will notice a massive difference. In gigs, there’s more extreme bands on the scene as well. So many new bands started, and it is going well, especially in the extreme scene.”

Kruk, Matt, and Nathan are all in agreement that there’s a real spirit of camaraderie among UK metal bands, with a lot of them sticking together. Nathan points out that the headline band of the night – Necronautical – are guys whose other band – EtherealSathamel have played with before multiple times. Kruk explains “It’s a bit like what our friend in Forneus said the other day on Facebook – five years ago you would only get bands like proper icons of metal in Metal Hammers and Terrorizers and stuff like that – now you open the issue and there’s gonna be someone that you know, or you yourself, in the issue. So, yeah, we’re doing pretty well as a black metal front.” According to Matt, there’s “a lot of eyes on the scene right now. They’ve started paying attention a bit more now”, and Kruk suggests that something must be going on if the legendary Cacophonous Records are returning to the scene.

The band rankle at comparisons to Watain, though they’re admittedly fans of the Swedish band. Just because they use blood and corpsepaint, Nathan adds, doesn’t mean that they’re copying Watain, particularly as they were far from the first band to use that aesthetic. Though they’d love to tour with the band, as well as many of the Polish bands such as Batushka they’re a fan of, they’d really rather tour with smaller bands of musicians they know personally. Nathan explains that their tour with Daemona and Trivax was one of their favourites precisely because of this.

To close the interview, I asked them about York, the city in which I live and study, and in which they were playing. I ask if it surprised the strong turnout and audience excitement surprised them given that York is a fairly small city, and the venue is a small pub. Matt absolutely agrees that it surprised them, and adds that the Northern Extremity gigs he came to later as an attendee were refreshing, with huge moshpits and circlepits in a small area and crowds going nuts for great live metal. Nathan notes that the UK’s local scenes do vary pretty wildly, and that his home city of Doncaster is an absolute wasteland for live extreme metal. Many of the younger crowds are in the camps of Bring Me the Horizon and While She Sleeps, which is tough for blackened death metal groups like Sathamel. So the huge turnout for a small city like York is hugely refreshing, “somewhere that doesn’t get metal as often as you might like, but they’re up for it.” Matt chimes in that there’s “so much passion, and it reflects on you while you’re playing. Even if you’re playing to a dead crowd, you still give it your all, but there’s something missing. But if the crowd’s giving you that much back, you just get so much more into it, and it turns into a massive ritual. It’s got to be on both sides.”

We ended the interview on that note and hurried into the pub for the next band’s show. I’d like to thank Sathamel again for taking the time to sit down and talk with me about their music. If you want to support them you can listen to and purchase their new single “Great Mass”, as well as their self-titled EP on their Bandcamp page. Their debut full-length album Despair will be released in the coming months, and they’re performing at a range of festivals in the UK and Europe, so there’s plenty to look forward to.