Harbinger of Impious Hordes
CoC talks to Andy of Sarpanitum
by: Jeremy Ulrey
Embodying death metal in all its frenzy, categorical nihilism, and unabated will to power, Sarpanitum come from out of nowhere to stake a Cinderella story claim to the genre throne, virtually nothing lacking in their regimented package of all-around chops, craftsmanship, and pulverizing execution. Just where in the hell are all these fully formed bands coming from anyway? Uni-monikered frontman Andy spells it out for us:

CoC: First of all: from whence the name Sarpanitum?

Andy: Sarpanitum is the Mesopotamian mythological goddess of life, and was worshipped via the 'rising moon' by the populous of Mesopotamia. Depending on differing historical eras and belief systems, she is also known as Ishtar, Inanna, amongst others. I was intrigued by a deity whom was depicted as standing for so much in her extraordinary tales.

CoC: The members of Black Sabbath have elaborated at length over the years on how the bleak industrial nature of Birmingham was largely responsible for the bleak despair of their music. Has the area gentrified at all over the past 30+ years, or is it just as hopeless a place to grow up in as ever?

A: Birmingham has unfortunately bore the brunt of inner city decline since the demise of industry in the UK. This has seen a city once filled with life and industry turned into a place shrouded in an air of abandonment amidst aesthetically displeasing urban landscapes. Although this alone cannot account for the formation and fire for Sarpanitum, it certainly helped fuel it once the band solidified and relocated to the city.

CoC: Aside from the Norse pantheon, Middle Eastern mythology seems to be the second most influential non-Christian influence in death metal. Why do you think this is so? What's the appeal for so many bands that grew up so far removed culturally from the Mesopotamian influences?

A: That's a good question; and some may often argue the authenticity of such musical output when compared to a genre which regards authenticity as highly as 'True Norwegian Black Metal' for example, not to mention the high regard in which its bands hold their ideals. However, I approach this with a comparison in which a film director might similarly approach the creation of an historical film, a documentary or even a film based on a sole, or a series of, books which have either a mythological or fantasy world created within them.

CoC: Your debut has been getting universal acclaim from the metal media. Do you feel reviews -- whether good or bad -- have any inherent effect on word of mouth amongst fans?

A: Firstly, I have to say that we're extremely happy with how the album has been generally received in media circles, and hopefully it goes some way to illustrating how metal fans feel about the album. I think it is always important to remember that reviews are based on the opinion of a sole reviewer, and to keep your feet on the ground. But yes, I am sure that an outstanding review will, for some readers, most likely kindle some interest into checking the album out themselves, especially if the magazine / webzine / reviewer is one that they feel has been accurate in the past. Similarly, a negative review will most likely not go a long way to encouraging the reader into buying the album. However, saying all that, ultimately as learnt from experience, metal fans will, in most instances, be wiser in the sense of trusting word of mouth more so than a sole review.

CoC: What act that you've toured with have you learned the most from musically? Please describe how the experience of touring with seasoned veterans affects your approach to both the business and artistic sides of making music.

A: Honestly, I don't believe playing any of our shows has showed us anything new artistically as you put it, however I definitely believe each show we've played has gone some way to enhancing our live show, even if that is partly to do with the differing line-ups at each. Playing with established bands has definitely helped us quickly adapt to gigging schedules and professionalism. The two main festivals that we've been fortunate to perform at, the Neurotic Deathfest in Holland last year and most recently the London Deathfest, were a great experience for the band; not only performing with many top death metal acts, but also allowing us to perform to a much bigger crowd than we are used to.

CoC: Your band is hardly the only one that has had numerous line-up changes, particularly in its formative years. How difficult is it to find the right person for the job, and is personality or musical skills the hardest trait to come across?

A: It's definitely been a mixture of both; as some may already know, Sarpanitum was formed with the help of a drum machine, which aided the development of the band on and off for several years until we were able to find a suitable drummer in Sean. The thing that held us back the most in the past was the distance between members: we've had members from all corners of England whom have had to commute to Birmingham at various points in our history. The strain that this brought upon the band is debatable, however the time taken to re-learn material definitely slowed us down to some extent. Thankfully Sean relocated to Birmingham last year, and having a more than capable replacement for Tom Innocenti in the form of Sean's younger brother Mark on guitar allowed for a relatively smooth transition into the solid line-up we have now. Touching briefly upon the matter of personality traits within the band: it is extremely important for every band, I feel, to have all members on the same page both musically and on a personal level for the band's progression -- something I feel we have finally achieved since the formation of the band in 2003.

CoC: Your website bios list other non-metal musical interests. How important are alternative musical influences? Do you think there are limits to what influences metal is capable of absorbing (i.e. are there other genres that are fine in their own right but clash when incorporated into the stylings of metal)?

A: Personally I believe alternative influences, be they musical or otherwise, are extremely important for a band aiming to forge their own sound. Trying my best to steer clear of any pretentious tone, as a band we believe in not only looking at the sonic world for inspiration, but also text, film and even moods that we aim to convey in our music. I think all music can be in some way, directly or indirectly, used to inspire the creation of metal. Agreed, some genres can be so far removed from metal that the initial instinct is that they can't possibly be utilised as an influence when writing metal music. However, I think inspiration goes far beyond black and white, and the music one creates is part of one's personality and musical vision, which in turn can be made up of a complex array of influences, and not simply restrained to a death and black metal spectrum.

CoC: And finally, with _Despoilment of Origin_ only recently released, what does the future hold for Sarpanitum in terms of touring and further recording? Can we expect similar lyrical themes on future material, and musically will the next album be an extension of your current identity, or does the band plan to branch out into other sonic avenues?

A: The future will hopefully see an opportunity for the band to tour and continue to build a solid reputation in our homeland of the UK, and with some hope venturing out into Europe again in the near future. In regards to album number two: the writing process is already in motion, and trying not to reveal too much, I can confirm we'll be looking further afield than solely Mesopotamian mythology conceptually, as well as developing the sound achieved on _Despoilment Of Origin_. Even though things are still in their early stages, watch this space...

(article submitted 5/10/2007)


ALBUMS
8/12/2015 D Lake 9 Sarpanitum - Blessed Be My Brothers
3/25/2007 J Ulrey 8.5 Sarpanitum - Despoilment of Origin
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