If you’ve never heard the smooth sounds of Dutch crooners Sammath, prepare yourself: this shit is not for the faint hearted. In our initial message exchange, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/lyricist/champion bloke Jan Kruitwagen sent me a recent live clip and asked the question: “did your ears fall off?”. I played it coy with my response, but the truth is they didn’t so much fall off as be ripped forcefully from my skull, flung against a wall, stomped on repeatedly, burnt, spat on, then run through a meat grinder for good measure.
Black/death metal is the game, and these fine gentlemen’s aim is utter fucking decimation. I’d heard their 1999 debut ‘Strijd’ around fifteen years ago and liked it but somehow never heard another peep from them after that, so catching up on their discography in the following days was a total pleasure. When I then found out that they not only have a live tape on the way but their debut had recently also copped a vinyl reissue through Hammerheart Records, I figured I’d be an idiot to not ask Jan to sit down for a chat about it all. Luckily, he agreed. So read on below and do yourself a favor by checking out their stuff; you don’t need your ears anyway.
Hails Jan! Cheers for speaking to us. Your absolute weapon of a band Sammath recently re-released your debut album ‘Strijd’ on vinyl. Can you tell us a little about that? What led to this happening?
– Thanks mate. Strijd had been sold out on CD for years. The re-release on vinyl from 2002 was also sold out as well as the tape re-releases. I kept getting requests from people who wanted it. So Hammerheart did a great job getting it out. Gold vinyl. The thing looks bloody brilliant.
‘Strijd’ was actually the only Sammath album I’d heard up until recently, back then it was absolute carnage and in my opinion it still holds up perfectly today. How do you feel listening back over it now? Is there anything you would change, or anything you’re particularly proud of?
– Thanks. Well, mixed feelings to be honest. Some of the keyboards suck. But overall I’m still proud of the sound and atmosphere on my debut album. It’s rough as hell and we still play some songs live now after 20 plus years. I still like the flow and mood of the songs and some tracks like ‘Drakenbloed’ sound killer live.
Listening through your output since, you’ve not only remained just as uncompromising but have somehow clawed to all new levels of savagery with every release, becoming faster, streamlined, more lethal. Is this a conscious thing? Do you actively try to outdo yourselves with every album or are you just naturally becoming even more violent with age?
– I think the last, haha. I’m never frustrated or pissed off in life, so it must be the music. I live for this style of music. I have enjoyed black, thrash, death and speed metal since ’85. I can get totally fucked up on stage or while writing tracks. I do try to make each album different so I don’t end up like other bands constantly making the same CD. As savage as possible is correct. I’m still trying to create the most ruthless album. Maybe this time… ‘Godless Arrogance’ was close though.
Going back to that last album, 2014’s ‘Godless Arrogance’: This might be an odd one to pick as a standout but I keep returning to the track ‘Death (Hunt Them Down)’. That churning riff is fucking great. Do you have any personal favourite tracks off that album, or from the entire Sammath discography? Are there any that you love ripping out live?
– Cheers. That track is the most death metal I’ve ever done. I like most tracks. ‘Thrive in Arrogance’ and ‘Nineteen Corpses Hang in the Mist’ along with ‘Shot in Mass’ are the tracks that I like to play live, even though ‘Shot in Mass’ is so fucking fast that I almost need oxygen afterwards.
Speaking of playing live, you’ve also got a live album dropping soon on Zwaertgevegt, which I reckon is ace and more bands should also release them. When will that be available and what made you decide to put one out now?
– That’s coming out on tape in a few months. Alex from Zwaertgevegt was in front banging his bloody head off during most of our shows, I’ve known the bloke for years and he also released our demo tapes and ‘Godless Arrogance’. That was his first pro tape. He simply deserves it. I really wanted a live release so people know how we sound these days. Peter Neuber mastered it all. It sounds so damn filthy, but you can still hear it all perfectly. Pure primal madness.
Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Sammath. Does the fire still burn as brightly as it did a quarter of a century ago? Is there anything planned to mark the occasion?
– I feel like we’re only getting started. We have a new drummer, Wim from legends Centurian and Inquisitor. So we sound like a machine now. Nothing special about getting old. All I want is a next release. Sometime Feb would be 25 years. That would fit well.
With a quarter of a century of ineffable black metal power under your belt: What does black metal itself mean to you? Has the meaning changed at all over the years, and how do you perceive the genre now in comparison to the ’90s?
– The same as always. Living life how I want. Wandering my own path. Never listening to anyone except some close friends and family. Not being touched by opinions. Simply not giving a fuck is total freedom. Something my Dad taught me when I was young: follow your own path. I’m teaching my son the same. Its all pretty much turned into fast food for some in today’s scene, but in general the scene is alive and kicking. Many new good bands.
Something I noticed while researching this is the fact you were born in Australia, which is where I’m from myself. Were you here for long and do you head back at all? Any chance of a tour decimating Down Under shores one of these days?
– I’d love to mate. I grew up in Berowra. Northern suburb in Sydney. From 6 to 17, I loved it in Aussie.
Best youth you can imagine. Rowdy bastards everywhere back in the 80s. Bloody loved it. Still miss it, but over here it’s great. 5 hours from Paris, Berlin, London. Australia made me metal and I’m proud as fuck of that. That country was and still is amazing. I’ll always feel a strong connection to Aussies. Whenever I meet one at a concert we always end up pissed.
– Hammerheart is huge. I’m on the same label as Pestilence for fuck’s sake, haha. I got a call from Guido and I said yes and left Folter Records after 18 great years. I’m more than happy with Hammerheart, I even work there now. I do the promotions.
About those future releases… Any news on a new album? If so, what can we expect from it?
– Almost half is done. Totally relentless fuck-you-kill-everything black death metal. It’s going to make the last album sound like nursery rhymes. I have a new drummer as written above. New guitar sound. It’s all dealing with the different action seen here during World War 2, from the places nearby to where I was born and now live again. On the Dutch – German border. All the lyrics deal with death. Hatred. Utter chaos and describing the events.
And finally, a kid (your own, even) comes up to you and says they want to start a black metal band. What advice do you give them?
– Get a job ya shit. Buy a guitar and write riffs cunt.
Sincerest thanks for your time Jan, looking forward to more Sammath annihilation! Any last words?
– Always follow your own path. Fuck religion. Thrive in arrogance. And send me a case of VB.