Sunday, 3 January 2016

Album of 2015: Sarpanitum - Blessed Be My Brothers...

"Sniff the fingers, my son. Inhale their odorous toffee. That's right my son, give it a kiss now. When you fight for me, never forget the sweet smell of..." - Pope Fingers

Sarpanitum's 'Blessed Be My Brother's' mixes Babylonian mythological barbarity and desolate apocalyptic heaviness with an ear for seraphic godly melody and subtle harmonious heraldry - this is an album that could only have come out of the UK! With less pomposity: This is a 41-minute monster of an album. It is a colossus, monolithic and meaty album that delivers a brutal sledgehammered serving of death metal with an organic side order of Hellenic influenced touches of melodious sound. 'Blessed Be My Brother's...' manages to balance a pummeling technicality - reminiscent of bands such as Nile, Mithras, Immolation - with subtle ambient layerings and playful, imaginative leads - reminiscent of recent black metal releases by Obsequiae and Nechochwen. I thoroughly enjoy the band's willingness to work in sweet sounding melodies against the ferocity of the drums and rhythm guitar.

Vocal delivery is mixed, ranging from a deep guttural tremblings to a mid-ranged snarls; the drum sound is outstanding and varied, never relying on pure speed and violence, instead really working with the atmosphere created by the majestic guitar lines and choral ambience that haunts from beneath.The production is perfect for the album: it doesn't have that glossy sterility of modern tech-death but it also doesn't  fall too far down  into that muffled, crackly, dissonant old-school death metal rabbit hole that some can't escape from. Occasionally the bass lingers quietly in the background, but other than that the sound is clear and diverse while maintaining a natural energy.

At times I can hear the blackened-death sound of recent Behemoth, but Sarpanitum do it better: Behemoth come across as forcing atmosphere, forcing mystique and awe, and - for me- this comes across as occasionally clinical and unnatural; conversely, Sarpanitum balances the atmosphere and the metal with a tender thoughtfulness: songs transition with an organic subtlety, ambient passages are neither melodramatic nor overbearing; melodies, tonal changes and transitions between riff patterns are on point and dynamic. The album is broken up with two aptly placed ambient passages that work to intensify and transition the atmospheres of the album while giving the listener a brief chance to reflect, and recover, from the skull-crushing intensity. Riffs also have that quality we all hope to find at the heart of an album: headbangability. It is Sarpanitum's ability to merge an atmospheric touch with monstrous death metal dynamism that makes this such a powerful album and for that reason I hold it above my head through the cities of the ancient world as a gift received from the Oracle: my album of 2015.


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