Album: Blessed Be My Brothers
Label: Willowtip Records
Blessed Be My Brothers was released much earlier this year, and after my first few listens I completely discarded the notion of considering it highly. It was not a bad album on my first try, on the contrary, it was extremely competent and well done but to me it felt overly technical and dependent on melodic interludes to communicate its musical fervor. Keeping it in mind, I put it aside for other death metal releases in the coming year.
As time wore on I began to realize that the memories of this album had actually implanted themselves in my brain, calling me back to listen like the echoes of ancient text. It felt as though it were whispered to me, beckoning me to come and surround myself with the sound of melodic interludes and sliding blast beasts.
Musically this is a fascinating technical death metal album. While the difficult playing and extravagant riffing remain prominent, it feels rooted in concrete structure. Sarpanitum write difficult riffs not because they want to seem intelligent or to give their music a pretentious flair, but because they feel that these types of riffs will express the album’s ideas in the most comprehensive way possible.
The standout aspects of this album involve the melodic interludes and prominent blast beats. In many songs, most notably “By Virtuous Reclamation” and “Glorified…,” the technical riffing breaks for a melodic riff to tie the album together. What makes this work is that the album does not hinge on this riff, but rather builds up to it, using riffs to build up tension before releasing into an extremely memorable hook. Sarpanitum refuses to let these riffs carry the album and they act as a climax rather than a pop hook. What also connects the album and grounds these technical riffs is the extremely fast blast beats that crescendo and fall in tempo with a flowing sensation. Their prominence is aided by a powerful and appropriate use of the drum triggers, as they are meant to guide the songs rather than simply aid the background of relentless percussion.
Outside of musicality, however, there are more ethereal aspects to address with this release. Spirituality and metal have an interesting connection, although they hardly ever manifest themselves in technical death metal, preferring black, doom, or power metal. Lyrical themes to me are a less important aspect of albums in general, yet Blessed Be My Brothers invokes heavy use of some intense and brilliant lyrics that I feel take a prominent part in the album as a whole. That is to say, my appreciation for the album increased when I learned the lyrics.
The imagery Sarpanitum uses on Brothers is heavily invoked by imagery inspired by the Crusades—the cover sums up exactly what the album strives for. The lyrics themselves, in fact, seem to directly endorse Christian purpose, albeit in a fanatical and extremist manner:
Holiest of places now swarming
With disgrace and filth
We shall proclaim this land!
(“By Virtuous Reclamation,” Track 2)
I do not think that metal and Christianity are incompatible, and often there are prominent Christian themes that are largely ignored by metal, as many metalheads prefer the rustic and naturalist philosophies of heathen faiths. Blessed Be My Brothers embraces the extreme side of Christianity, one based in historical bloodshed. This gives the album a fantastic mixture of feelings between the harsh militarism of Crusading knights and the mystical aspects of Christian theology.
Sarpanitum’s Blessed Be My Brothers is a fantastic release that encompasses a lot of fresh feelings to death metal in both musical and thematic fashion. It is a fantastic listen for those familiar with any spectrum of metal, so long asthey may tolerate the necessary structural tenets of tech death.