Black-Metal Drummer Has a Rocky Mountain High

Black-Metal Drummer Has a Rocky Mountain High
Matthew Zinke
Sar Isatum's drummer Juan Pablo, originally from Columbia, was living in Florida.

"I was already playing black metal and listening to black metal for a long time," says Pablo. When he decided to relocate, he thought, "Denver has a great black-metal and metal scene in general, so it seemed like the perfect place, especially with all the nature around Denver."

After moving to Colorado in 2015, he started a band. That collaboration, the brutal act Sar Isatum, pulls influence from Dark Funeral, Marduk, Gorgoroth and Emperor; the outfit's name is derived from Sumerian and means "King of Fire."

Like Norwegian black-metal acts that drew inspiration from harsh Norse landscapes, Star Isatum writes lyrics inspired by the Rocky Mountains.

"Our music is not only about making extreme metal," he explains. "It has a lot of atmosphere, as well, and I like going hiking a lot and go by myself, because it inspires me to play and listen to that kind of music. You get solitude when you go hiking, and black metal is more of a solitude music, especially atmospheric black metal."

Some black-metal bands have a troubling legacy of embracing white supremacy, and Pablo says he wants the music to shift even further away from its racist elements.

"You have to respect freedom of speech, but at the same time, I don't support any racism or any Nazism," Pablo explains. "I'm not going to protest and riot, but at the same time, I'm not going to buy a CD of a Nazi black-metal band; I'm not going to go see them, listen to their music or buy their merch, because they are focusing on something that has no place in metal. Black metal is worldwide; there are many races that listen to this kind of music, so for it to be directed at one race is, to me, immature."

Sar Isatum releases its debut album, Shurpu, this week.

"I'm excited just to get it out finally, because we've been working on this album for a year and a half and have gone through a few lineup changes," he explains. "We recorded with a new guitarist and keyboardist, and the album was written with them. We are also in the process of writing our second album with new members; these guys are really top-notch musicians. We are definitely going to leave the Colorado black-metal-scene name all over the country and internationally."

Sar Isatum's Shurpu album release, 9 p.m., Friday, December 22, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, $12.

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Addison is a Denver-based writer specializing in metal, dubstep, cannabis and LGBTQ issues. She also contributes to OUT FRONT, CULTURE and New Noise magazines. Addison is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the1960s to Now.