Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeo.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

After several years of self-righteous elitism where we largely overlooked unsigned acts, it’s high time we make amends. And so we’re bringing AMGs Unsigned Band Rodeo back from the dustbins of history with a fresh paint job and a butt-load of new reviewers! Every other month we will pluck a band from metallic obscurity, review the holy Bejesus out of them and leave them to the mercy of you, the fickle masses. At year’s end we will crown the best in show and shower them with accolades, cheap beer and day old sushi. Now that you know the score, welcome to the Rodeo, mofos!

We’re a wee bit late with our bi-monthly Unsigned Band Rodeo, but nothing can stop the running of the unsigned bands permanently. They just keep running and running and someone’s got to wrangle em’. That somebody, is us! The first of our two November broncos is the debut album from Denver, Colorado black metallers, Sar Isatum. Their fledgling full-length, Shurpu releases on November 17th and is available via their bandcamp page. Tackling this Rocky Mountain blast of frigid black metal will be Team Vardan Embargo (notoriously high maintenance metal divas all). Buckle up, spit that chaw and enjoy of bumpy, grumpy ride.

Steel Druhm – My days of black metal appreciation may be teetering on the precipice of oblivion, but when done correctly, the style is a potent kick in the arse. Sar Isatum may be unknown, but they know how to kick derriere and that’s exactly what their Shurpu debut does. Taking a base of Dimmu Borgir (before they descended into symphonic poo) and incorporating the razor-sharp riff-work of Ofermod and Dissection, they clearly mean business. Rare is the 8-minute black metal tune I can stomach, but opener “Sar Isatum” is a gleefully frenzied delight, and “Black Gate” is even better, sounding like the gates of Mordor collapsed with all manner of orcish impropriety spilling out to harass mankind. Symphonics are kept in check and riffs and rasps carry the day. No weak tracks, decent sound (especially the drums); it’s the whole suspicious package. Hell, I even hear some Dark Tranquillity influences at times! How are these Denver demons unsigned? 3.5/5.0

Dr. Fisting – Considering that it’s not 1996 and I’m not an angsty teen anymore, my recent exposure to black metal has been minimal at best. However, Shurpu is not a bad way to get reacquainted with the genre. The band wisely avoids the more raw/kvlt approach in favor of a polished sound, reminiscent of Mayhem‘s Grand Declaration Of War and perhaps Demigod-era Behemoth (again, my reference points might be somewhat dated). The result is hardly anything groundbreaking, but these guys have riffs and aggression to spare. This is only enhanced by an ice-cold, atmospheric production (although the drum triggering is maybe a little much). Good stuff here though, and I’d be very surprised if Sar Isatum didn’t find themselves with a record deal in the very near future. 3.0/5.0

Diabolos in Muzaka – To my ears, this is what would happen if we threw Sworn to the Dark, Lawless Darkness, and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk into a blender for a while and diluted it a bit whilst stirring in a pinch of death metal to taste. Watain’s style of beefy tones and production make Shurpu accessible, and while the music isn’t up to par with the above records it’s still a largely enjoyable effort. This is a quintessential good record, containing the makings of a band a lot of people like but nonetheless lacking a passionate fan base. Don’t let that deter you from Sar Isatum though; they write coherent songs, have some above-average Emperor pilfering going on, and the vocals are quality. Good metal is underrated; this is digestible stuff that will probably sneak into quite a few rotations despite not being essential or great. 3.0/5.0

Mark Z. – Now here’s something I wouldn’t have expected. With debut Shurpu, Sar Isatum deliver something like a mix of Keep of Kalessin and Emperor, with the blastiness and riffiness of the former combined with the symphonics and theatrics of the latter. While this style is far from my cup of tea, the quality is undeniable: the riffs whip with a frenzied dramatic flair, the songs are turbulent and exciting, and vocalist “Demothi” delivers a scream harsh enough to peel the Dimmu Borgir posters right off your wall. Though the loud production makes it a bit too easy to tune things out, moments like the backing choirs and thunderous riffing of “Black Gate” or the frenetic fretwork of “Chenoo” and “Vanaspati” are good enough to shrug that off. With how great the metal coming out of Denver has been lately, maybe we should just go ahead and legalize pot everywhere. 3.5/5.0

L. Saunders – Earlier this year I heaped praise on the debut from California’s Highland. Their straightforward style of second wave-inspired American black metal pushed all the right buttons, led by a livewire delivery and fresh song-writing, minus bells and whistles. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Sar Isatum follows a similarly icy template, paving the way through traditional black metal values and dynamic song-writing, backed by tight and fiercely exuberant playing. Sar Isatum’s song-writing is overcooked in places, but when it sticks the impact is forceful. The versatile and dynamic nature of the writing mostly sustains momentum at a steady clip, striking a keen balance of engaging melodies and ripping aggression. Thrashy speed and frosty blasts are frequently tempered by effective mid-paced gear shifts and melodic counterpoints, well executed on cuts like “Black Gate” and the excellent “Gormandizer.” Shurpu is an accomplished, confident debut, but there’s ample room for growth and improvement, with rough edges in the compositional department and a need for tighter editing. The clean production job is serviceable enough, but the loud mastering proves a tad fatiguing. Nitpicks aside, Sar Isatum have left a positive impression and placed themselves on the radar as a US black metal band worth keeping a close eye on. 3.0/5.0

Roquentin – Despite its orthodox roots, black metal has become one of metal’s most malleable variants. But while modern black metal inhabits many forms and bastardizations, often veering into the hermetic and experimental, there are a few bands that manage to create inspired music while remaining true to the genre’s basic constructs and familiar tropes. Denver’s Sar Isatum is one of those bands. Whilst their eponymous début often reads like a sampler of melodic and raw black metal’s best parts, their continued shifts in riffs, melodies, and rhythms make for an exciting listen. On songs like “Sar Isatum” and “Celestial Diaspora” they play with layered synths and symphonic bits that angrily morph into crude blastbeats and frantic tremolos. Elsewhere, they drown atmospheric and melodious passages in doomy waterfalls. Yet, Sar Isatum never sounds like a random pastiche. Competently performed and with a satisfying lo-fi production, this is one of the year’s best debuts. 3.5/5.0

Huck N’ Roll – As a rule, I’m not a black metal aficionado. But rules are made to be broken, and thus my love for this year’s Dodecahedron album. Can we put Sar Isatum in the same league? Well, of course not – but this band features nasty makeup (did they get that from Kiss?), nasty vocals, and some quite nasty black metal with ample servings of technicality and tasteful dollops of symphonic flourishes. Simply put, this is not your typical black metal debut, especially from a band with no label behind them. This trio from Denver has impressed me with compelling song arrangements, excellent performances, and a solid mix that belies Shurpu‘s DR score. There’s a maturity in the writing that will serve the band well in future releases. This is Huck N Roll-approved black metal. 3.5/5.0

Treble Yell – At the risk of invoking Betteridge’s law of headlines, allow me to pose this question to you: Does the idea of a black metal album taking heavy cues from Alien-era Strapping Young Lad, Nile and early Arcturus have you slavering like a starving dog? If the answer is “yes” then start licking those chops as Shurpu by Sar Isatum is a plump little rabbit. Black metal hallmarks such as wiry chords, agitated percussion and raspy vocals are all present and accounted for but it’s the manic-yet-elastic riffs and metronomic double-kick in tracks like “Chenoo” and “Vanaspati” that reminds me of Messrs Simon and Holglan of SYL-fame. Other times a sense of quasi-Middle Eastern mysticism burbles to the surface on “Black Gate” and “Gormandizer” that channels Nile and Arcturus respectively. Shurpu is tight, focused and wastes little time on self-indulgent fat. Parallels to Cradle of Filth can be heard in pockets but meaner and stripped of the theatrics that the Brits are infamous for. The songs don’t always reach escape velocity and the production is squashed to the point of agony but there’s much here that merits a healthy recommendation. A pleasant surprise. 3.5/5.0

Dr. Wrvm – Leave it to the rodeo to serve up a head-turner just when I need two seconds off. Despite repeated protests that “this is a metal-free honeymoon,” Sar Isatum undermined my post-nuptial bliss faster than you can say “3am kimchi farts.” Debut effort Shurpu barrels through decimating riffs and devilish atmosphere at a whirlwind pace bent on compressing the record’s already compact 36 minutes into grindcore status. Symphonic textures imbue a sense of variety to quality change-ups like “Black Gate” and “Gormandizer,” but at its finest, Sharpu rides on the backs of its rippers. The blistering “Chenoo” crams ears down throats from its first bar, while the tongue-lashing savagery of vocalist Demonthi rakes the torturous lashes of “Vanaspati” across the backs of the now-broken. The record breaks no new ground, but buoyed by commanding performances and an understanding of pace and depth that easily best the average black debut, Sar Isatum produce a bonafide winner. 3.5/5.0

Master ov Muppets – Remember how awesome Dimmu Borgir were, up to roughly In Sorte Diaboli? Yeah, I ‘member, and apparently Sar Isatum do, too. These lads dole out black metal riffs in that diabolical vein for days and keep the orchestral elements dialed down to 10%, a Muppet-approved move which augments passages appropriately without miring the darkness in dairy. The vocals haunt the sonic territory between Dimmu and Amestigon, and the instruments more than match the hateful intensity of the shrieks and screams. There may be nothing particularly groundbreaking here, and I’m not convinced there’s a bassist in the mix, but the strength of this first stab is such that these issues are all but irrelevant. With the bones of their idols, these young Denver nuggets have built a black metal debut for all tid time, a (serpentine) offering of trve goodness sure to incite nothing shy of euphoria for you puritanical blackened misanthropes.
3.5/5.0

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  • Yolo Swaggins

    Typical AMG…no love for the small bands from the big guy, eh?

    • He’s on the other November team.

      • Yolo Swaggins

        Ahh, are you guys gonna start doing 2 a month consistently then?

        • Every other month is the goal.

          • Yolo Swaggins

            Yeh, I was under the impression that it was 1 unsigned record every two months, not 2 unsigned records every two months.

          • The plan is 2 rodeos appearing every other month. Plans though…they’re hard.

  • GrumpDumpus

    WOULDN’T IT MAKE MORE SENSE TO HAVE EACH PERSON DO A MINI REVIEW OF A DIFFERENT BAND AND GIVE MORE UNSIGNED FOLKS EXPOSURE INSTEAD OF HAVING 10 NEARLY IDENTICAL REFERENCES TO EMPEROR BORGIR JR

    • GrumpDumpus

      THEN AGAIN I GOT A TICKET FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE LAST WEEK WHEN SHOVELING MY LAWN IN A BANANANA HAMMOCK SO MAYBE MORE EXPOSURE IS NOT BETTER

    • Nope!

      • GrumpDumpus

        WELL SHIT I GUESS I HAVE TO GET OFF MY OWN LAWN THEN

  • Unwanted Guest

    By the way, you can buy Bliss Of Flesh’s Beati Pauperes Spiritu for NAME YOUR PRICE as of now on Non Serviam Records’ bandcamp page. This is a really good melodic black/death album.

  • lennymccall

    Listened to these guys a month or so back. Really dug it! Need to pick up the whole record.

  • TEAM3MF

    I mean, they are on Apple Music so that’s 2017 for being signed…right?

  • Nukenado

    Holy shit, that “Vardan Embargo…”

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Those are some handsome men….yep.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I like the Rise of the Electric Fatberg cover art.

  • Nukenado

    I like what I’m hearing.
    Not gonna move me away from Hyperion though.

  • Wow that production… those vocals… fun?

  • foreverAlfon

    Hi, first of all, sorry to Sar Isatum because this post is in no way related to the article, I just thought of it now and felt the urge to write it in the latest review available.

    I’ve been reading this blog almost daily for about two years since I discovered it, and I just wanted to say thank you;
    – Thank you to all reviewers who carefully and (almost always) objectively choose albums in a regular way to listen and review, i cant imagine the amount of time and work you must put into it and I for one value it enormously.
    -Thank you for making me discover a miriad of awesome bands and albums. I thought I knew metal, how innocent of me, until I discovered this incredible site.
    -Thank you for becoming a part of my daily life. I’m a med student and as you can imagine I spend a lot of time studying, and many days this site provides me with much needed escapism and excitement. Everyday I click on the link and wait for the two, three or whatever number of albums you kind and mighty people have reviewed for us mortals, and everyday I enjoy it, even if somedays there is not even a 3.0+ review.
    -Finally, thank you for doing this which such energy, such dedication and such love for this music genre. A lot of my friends are (lovable) indie-rock nitwits and I am very grateful to have this blog in which to discover new music and read the opinions of people who love this music.

    The work you do here in AMG is priceless and I hope this awesome anomaly stays active and trve for as many years as you guys can. I, for one, will be reading voraciously.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      I love lamp.

      • I killed a guy with a trident.

        • Huck N’ Roll

          A five-pronged trident.

      • The Unicorn

        LOUD NOISES!!

      • Eli Valcik

        THE GHOST OF STONE WALL JACKSON!?

    • Nukenado

      HI ALFON
      There are some other sites that cover some bands that AMG don’t have time to cover, like Toilet ov Hell or No Clean Singing. Go check those sites out.
      Comment more!

      Actually, that’s about it. Good luck on your studies!

      • GrumpDumpus

        OPAQUE LEMONS ARE ALSO A PLACE

        • Nukenado

          Oops, I forgot about transparent tangerines.

      • foreverAlfon

        i have read them, and i like them too, only thing is amg is my go-to source of metal :)

        • Nukenado

          Nah, no worries. Just that there are many more metal to be discovered.

    • Alfon, thanks for the very kind words and your readership. We heartily appreciate it. We keep doing this because of people like you. Good luck with med school!

      • foreverAlfon

        thanks, i will be needing it! keep rocking :D

    • GardensTale

      I know you people enjoy those 0.0s and 0.5s, don’t lie to me.

      And thanks!

      • foreverAlfon

        maybe even more than 4.5s and 5.0s

      • sir_c

        The reviews tend to be very enjoyable to read.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    > Team Vardan Embargo

    Boo, I say! Boo!

    • Boo nothing, this is an unprecedented level of agreement amongst staff members which must surely be cherished. That, or the end is near, in which case: also yay.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        How would you know, ya noob? Back to the metalcore mines with you!

        • I’ve been following the site for years, yo. I was the creepy neighbor staring through the windows at night long before I got adopted, this place is my home, homie. Jorn Himself saw fit to keep my path free of metalcore, so I shan’t be taking such orders from the likes of you.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            I too have grazed these pastures for quite a while. I have never been in the presence of the lord Jorn himself, however. Ye hath been truly blessed, good brotha.

          • There will be so much damn metalcore in your Christmas stocking, it will be a two ton heavy thing.

          • Yay, I get a stocking this year!

  • Why, why, WHY AND FUCKING HOW DID I NOT GO WITH “OV” WHEN I PICKED MY NAME!?!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Just do it.

      • While an identity comprised of black metal, Metallica, and Muppets references is so me it’s disgusting, I didn’t think of it and I know better than to give anyone that power. I can just picture the “son” jokes now.

    • I can fix it for you, but it’ll cost yo bigtime.

      • As much as I really wish I’d thought of that, the fact that I didn’t means I’ll just keep my crest of failure. It does sting, though.

    • Kronos

      You also missed the spoonerism “pastor ov Muppets”

      • Nah, that one I was all set with, although fun fact: when I was emailing the band for lyrics, Ben from Hobosexual signed a response as “Pastor of Muppets”.

        • Lithophyte

          Then there is the album PoM by Catollica and the brass metal band Pastor of Muppets – check ’em out on youtube (worth a look)

        • sir_c

          Meister ov mopeds?

  • Monsterth Goatom

    In addition to all the great stuff reviewed here, I’ve found many other fab releases through brief mentions by the AMG staff both here, in Metal-Fi, and elsewhere.

    L. Saunders brought the great Ingurgitating Oblivion release to my notice after their name popped up in the Suffering Hour review. Kronos introduced me one of the great Death Metal releases of 2017 (Phrenelith’s Desolate Endscape) through a Metal-Fi post reply. Most recently, El_Cuervo’s purchase of the Vaivatar release (which Bandcamp pinged me about) pushed that great symphonic black metal monster onto my radar. These are only a few examples.

    I think periodic posts (“Things you Might be Missing as we Speak”? Ha) by staff, wherein they list a few such gems they discovered, along with 1-2 sentences of description, would be nice. Granted, many of these turn up as Honorable Mentions in year-end lists.

    • Kronos

      While this might be nice, it robs fans like yourself of the chance at smug superiority afforded by paying very close attention to the website. And really, that’s the most meaningful thing we can offer you.

      • Kinda my thoughts. I find enough music on my own that I’d certainly like to be able to do something like this, but finding the time to do anything is already a nightmare for one, plus there was always something kinda neat about commenting here and introducing a writer to something I’d found elsewhere.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Just a thought. I probably should have posted it over Druhm’s Reader Complaint and Suggestion Box in the forum. As always, I’m grateful for everything you guys do.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yes. I do enjoy to enjoy of deep smugness.

  • The Akerstache

    What is a tid?

    • For All Tid is Dimmu’s first studio album.
      I’m shouting because I want to be sure that you can hear me from outside the hall.

      • The Akerstache

        Oooooohhhhhhhhh…

        ‘Scuse me while I go catch up on that…

  • Javier McDrifter

    Fantastic review, this. Speaking of unsigned black metal bands, check out Morvigor, from the Netherlands. Their new full-lenght has just been released and sounds quite interesting

  • Thatguy

    Not br00tal enough.

    • Kronos

      You’re a guy after my own heart.

      • Thatguy

        We are fighting the good fight.

  • Planex

    I still really like this format. I also really like the embedded track. I think I really like this website.

  • Sounds good to me… on Spotify. What’s going on with the embedded track? It sounds like it’s in mono. The same track on Spotify sounds completely different. It’s not even close. Bandcamp seems fine too, though there’s only one track. I understand YouTube may compress stuff, but that can’t be all it is. There’s another track on YouTube be that appears to be okay.

  • Welcome to commenting!