Interview: Sijjin (2021) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Sijjin

While the band was active, Necros Christos carved out a very particular niche within death metal idiom, that no other band before, during, or after managed to replicate or fit into. Now that the band is not around anymore, it feels as if something truly important and worthwhile is missing from death metal. Is that void something that exists within yourself as well, and was it emotionally hard to put an end to that chapter of your life?

Malte Gericke: I never considered Necros Christos being so unique, but when looking back at the three massive albums we have done, I am sporadically willing to agree. We took the work seriously, I mean, there’s a reason why Triune Impurity Rites sounds like exhuming a foul body from the grave. Necros Christos was always very much connected with my works in magic, but since I stopped with the unhealthy ones, the spirit faded out as well. I feel no emptiness nor am I emotionally broken. It was the perfect time to end and there’re many great death metal bands out there who easily fill the space we might have left.

It’s quite common for bands to wait for the inevitable decline before realising they should call it quits. That said, bands like Necros Christos, that didn’t overstay their welcome and decided to lay everything to rest just as they were hitting their creative stride, are indeed few and far between. When you look back at Domedon Doxomedon, do you feel that everything came together perfectly for the band on that record, that you gave it your all, without anything else left to be said or desired?

Malte Gericke: Yes, absolutely. Domedon Doxomedon is so immense that I wondered at many times how we did it, how the concept has been put into music. You know, the content haunted me for more than seven years, it was a long way to go. At the moment, I cannot imagine anything which I would like to change, but I must admit that I haven’t listened to the record for nearly two years, so maybe I will discover some things in retrospection.

What are some of the fondest memories you have of the time spent in Necros Christos, and what was the most difficult thing the band had to go through?

Malte Gericke: I would like to leave the unpleasant ones unmentioned. Everyone who plays in a band that strives to be decent knows that it is hard work. One of my fondest memories from the very early beginnings is how I spent days and nights while doing packs and sending them all around the world. Later on, we did so many great shows with even greater bands, we had such a good time. But the most precious thing for me is the people I met and the friends I found. Without Necros Christos, I would never have met my brothers in arms like Timo Ketola, Thomas from Sepulchral Voice Records, Nasko of Teitanblood, Manuel Tinnemans, Antti Litmanen from Arktau Eos, my brothers in Grave Miasma, hell, the list could go on for a long time. Not to forget the wonderful musicians with whom I had the honour to play and who belong to my closest friends. What would Necros Christos have been without the Reverend, Tlmnn aka Black Shepherd, Christhammer, Iván Henrnandez, Raelin, Peter Habura, damn, they were all hell-sent.

Do you feel that Necros Christos left a certain legacy behind it, or do you find such a notion too pretentious? If so, how would you define that legacy?

Malte Gericke: If we left one, I am utmost proud of it. Indeed I would refuse to say this by myself, but if we left something, then I hope for being remembered for serious music and integrity. We always did what we wanted, we were extreme, we never sold ourselves, and we were hated by as many people as we were liked by. At some point, especially with Domedon Doxomedon, we were even too extreme for our own scene I guess. Some few praise this album in highest awe, many seem to dislike it. I think we quit at the right point definitely. You know, during one of our last shows at Brutal Assault, we were dressed onstage quite ordinary and one of the comments I read afterwards was I don’t wanna see Necros Christos like that. Fuck, you know what? I can understand it, so luckily, we are not able to ruin our legacy as much as others did.

Given the partial line-up compatibility between Sijjin and Necros Christos, would it be fair to say that those bands share the same sonic and spiritual values, regardless of the obvious differences between them in terms of style and the influences upon which their respective identities were built?

Malte Gericke: Yes and no I would say. Sijjin’s approach is way more traditional than the one of Necros Christos was, and it demands a less spiritual mind to appreciate its entirety. To speak about the sonic representation, Necros Christos always delivered huge operas of the occult while Sijjin is way more brutal and holds the fierce aggressiveness of the ’80s death thrash movement. Our music is meant to destroy stages worldwide and I cannot wait for going on the road with Sumerian Promises.

Sijjin Interview

It took twenty years, three albums, and dozens of splits and demos for Necros Christos to ultimately figure out and define their sound. Does Sijjin operate within narrower boundaries in that regard, and would you say that the band’s evolution will be more about perfecting the songwriting process than about discovering some particular niche within the contemporary death thrash metal, considering that your sound, while eloquent and lush, is also fairly traditional?

Malte Gericke: Yes, absolutely. To write good and remarkable songs was always one of my main tasks, but indeed, this topic becomes even more important when speaking about Sijjin. We take this music bloody seriously, yet it should be a tool for the listener to escape from the ordinary world for a moment. You should be able to hear the sheer passion, the same I can hear when putting Seven Churches or Darkness Descends on my turntable. Our music should grab you by the balls and give you the creeps at the same time, yet I am not willing to integrate any social, political, or worldly matters into it, as it should only blast your soul to hell. This is exactly what I want to hear when Hell Awaits is sounding through the speakers, I want dedication and damn fucking heavy metal in its darkest form possible. I live for death metal and I always did since I took part in the scene by the end of the ’80s.

What made you think that Sijjin would be a fitting word to name the band after? Was it its meaning, the cultural and religious connotations it holds, or was it merely the way it sounded and resonated in your ears after you first heard it?

Malte Gericke: Actually, it was everything that you mentioned. The religious heritage might be less important, but since I came across this term in a book about Islamic afterlife conceptions years ago, I was fascinated by its sound, its meaning, and its spelling. It holds something very mysterious and it looks very odd. When the time was right to give our new band a name, I suggested the term to my mates and they succumbed to it instantly. Fortunately, I must admit, since it was my one and only choice, and I had nothing else in reserve.

What is the origin of the pseudonym Mors Dalos Ra and were there some deeper reasons behind the decision to not use it for this project, but go with your real name instead?

Malte Gericke: First I must say that I really hate my real name, especially my surname. It may sound acceptable when Americans spell it, but it sounds damn shitty when pronounced in German. You know, you do not need any artist name when you’re named Mike Browning or Kerry King. By the way, just a queer thought which I have never spoken of before ˗ my grandmother’s unmarried name was Hannemann. So back in the days, I even thought about adapting this one due to obvious reasons (laughs). Nevertheless, there was a very personal, yet spiritual cause why I took the trinity of Mors Dalos Ra already in the late ’90s, mostly due to my experiences with practical magic, but I would like to leave it like that. Some commitments have been fulfilled and it felt not right to use the name for Sijjin, especially not in my later forties.

If you were to assess separately your rhythm and solo guitar playing abilities, who would be some of the musicians that predominantly influenced your style when it comes to riffs on the one hand, and leads and solos on the other?

Malte Gericke: This is a tough one, really. Since I love playing bass and do the same in Sijjin, I would like to speak about the lower register actually, but well, you asked, and the question is of course justified. My first musical addiction were Dire Straits, followed by Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Talking about metal, and its extreme forms in general, I guess it was the riff tornados of Slayer, early Metallica, Possessed, and later Morbid Angel which put a curse on my soul. Ah, and not to forget about Venom, as Mantas was one of my first guitar heroes when I was a kid. They were such incredible songwriters, I think they wrote some of the best tunes in metal ever. As for solos, I love everything from eccentric masters such as Yngwie Malmsteen, to the wonderful singing phrases of Lars Johansson from Candlemass, up until the invoked primeval chaos of Brunelle and Azagthoth.

Speaking of Brunelle and Azagthoth, would you say that Altars Of Madness is the album that Sumerian Promises looks up to the most in terms of spiritual and sonic guidance?

Malte Gericke: Yes, of course I would. It is no secret that Altars Of Madness is one of my all time favourite records and definitely ranks amongst the top five. I cannot say how many times I have listened to it, but it must be hundreds over hundred. So naming just one single album is impossible, but let’s say that Hell Awaits, Darkness Descends, Seven Churches, and Altars Of Madness share position number one. To conclude while speaking of influences, I would like to name Sadistic Intent, Hobbs Angel Of Death, Mortem from Peru, Florida’s Incubus, Insanity from San Francisco, and Nocturnus too.

Sijjin Interview

Not trying to downplay the importance of other songs, but Dagger Of A Thousand Deaths and Angel Of The Eastern Gate feel like the strongest ones that do the heavy lifting on this album. Would you subscribe to that notion?

Malte Gericke: Well, no, I think I would not. I am very well aware of the fact that the following sounds fucking corny, but I truly believe that we have no fillers on Sumerian Promises. Your comment leads a bit astray, cause there are so many other good ones on the album. I would name Daemon Blessex, the aforementioned Dagger, Unchain The Ghost, and Outer Chambers Of Entity as the four grand pillars on which the temple is built upon, but there’s not one single tune that I am not in love with.

There is the same, quite simple image featured on the covers of both the Angel Of The Eastern Gate demo and this album, that feels like some improvised coat of arms. The symbolism behind it must be considerable since you didn’t mind using it twice, without anything to complement it but the bare black background. Could you say something about that symbolism?

Malte Gericke: To deem our logo an improvised coat of arms doesn’t really sound flattering, but of course I know that it is all a matter of taste. Well, I hope most people won’t get the impression of me being too cocky with some aspects, but in my humble opinion, I think we have one of the best logos around these days. It was created by Theby, with whom I used to play in Drowned, and who’s hell of a maniac and artist. We told him what we would like to see, and he came up with this insane sigil. Besides the music, I regard the logo as one of the most important things, so I would like to leave it to the viewer what he actually sees in it, and if he finds it appealing enough. By the way, we had a different cover for the demo which showed a wood engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. It was on the tape, the CD version, and the vinyl, so I guess you don’t own the demo in a physical format. We just used the yellow logo version for bandcamp.

The Sumerian and Babylonian cultures are considered a prominent symbol of wealth, luxury, decadence, vice, corruption, and ultimately inevitable ruination. That being said, what particular promises did you have in mind when coming up with the album title? Is the title perhaps a reference to the decadence of today’s world, a warning that Sumerian promises are getting fulfilled at this very moment all around us, hinting imminent collapse of our civilization?

Malte Gericke: I really like your interpretation, but I am afraid that the answer is quite simple and might disappoint you. First, I would like to say that the album holds no overall theme. Many people have been fooled by the title and without reading the lyrics, they assume it must be a concept album, which it is not. When we wrote that particular song, I think it was Iván who first mentioned how great the title is and that it would be a suitable name for the whole record. From a certain point during the writing process, we always spoke about Sumerian Promises when referring to the album, so we left it like that and never scrutinized it. As for the lyrics, there are less historical references to ancient Sumer actually. Most lyrics on the album are classical horror stories, as I am a huge adorer of Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, and Lovecraft. A few exceptions are Daemon Blessex and White Mantras Bleed From Black Magic, that deal with my unhealthy experiences with black ceremonial magic.

Presuming that the ancient Sumerian culture, history, and mythology are still a very important source of inspiration to you, did you learn more about them by visiting places like Pergamon Museum, for example, and being in the physical presence of the artifacts witnessing the culture’s prosperity and downfall, or by reading about them?

Malte Gericke: Both, yes. Unfortunately, I have never been to Iraq which is still a dream of mine to visit. Sadly, the turmoil and war did no good to the whole region, not to mention the endless suffering of the local population. It’s a shame, really. Fucking politics, fucking economic interests.

There is an opinion that mainstream music is about how we’d like things to be, whereas metal is about how things actually are. Do you think there is some validity to this sentiment?

Malte Gericke: Yes, indeed there is. Metal is not here to whitewash, but should show you the ugly side of things. Having said this, I am not fond of integrating political or worldly matters in my music, especially not in death metal. If I get asked about my personal views, I will answer directly, but I would never write any sociocritical lyrics ever. I leave this to others.

Do you believe that there is a spiritual unity between metal bands of different generations, and that bands of today basically just carry the torch lit decades ago by the bands of yesterday, waiting for the bands of tomorrow to take it from them at some point? If so, do you take pride in taking part in that process?

Malte Gericke: Hmm, difficult. I just can say that I am indeed proud to continue with the unrelenting power of the ’80s death thrash movement, as this is the music I love the most and want to hear. I see no need for some kind of evolution as the best trademarks have already been invented, at least for me. If others want to travel different roads, it may be so, but I have chosen my path since decades.

Sijjin Interview

Miles apart yet inseparable, each of the classic death metal bands from the late ’80s and early ’90s had their own unique, personal sound, and it was nearly impossible to mistake Morbid Angel for Cannibal Corpse, Obituary for Suffocation, or Deicide for Incantation. Today, things are quite a bit different as most bands are content just recreating the past. Do you have an explanation for that prevalent identity crisis in the contemporary death metal underground?

Malte Gericke: Hmm, is there any crisis? Without a doubt, I get what you mean, but there are truly some bands out there with a unique sound and without pushing it in an unauthentic manner. If you take Negative Plane and Grave Miasma, for example, both bands are unmistakably great and both have their own signature sound. In spite of that, there are so many new great bands who don’t give a damn about any evolution and play as furiously as if the ’80s never have ceased to exist. Look at Chilean Mayhemic for example, fuck, they sound as if Kreator never would have become mainstream. There are plenty of such new forces coming up fortunately, so I pick up and hail what I like and leave the rest completely out.

Would you rather have bands that you love and admire do something different with each album, at the risk of you not liking it, than repeat what they have already done before? Are bands authentic only if they evolve, or can they refuse to evolve and still stay authentic?

Malte Gericke: Well, take Sijjin and you have the answer (laughs). I am quite sure we will never experiment much, yet we are definitely authentic. If people don’t wanna hear this, well, it’s up to them. Maybe I am not the right one to answer this, but I often wished that some of my heroes had better stick to their roots instead of betraying their legacy too much. I could name so many examples, but I better shut up. Let’s face the facts, most times artistic evolution did no real good, and I would have longed and prayed for a second Ride The Lightning instead of Load for example. Just talking about it makes me feel nauseated.

Obviously, you consider Thomas Pietzsch, the owner of Sepulchral Voice Records, to be an invaluable and reliable business associate, otherwise you probably wouldn’t release all your music through his label. Having said that, is his professionalism the only thing you appreciate about him, or do you admire him personally as well?

Malte Gericke: The most important thing is that he’s one of my closest brothers and one of the most dedicated metalheads I know of. The support he is giving his bands is beyond words, and he would always give them more than agreed upon. Sepulchral Voice is not a fucking business machine, it is run with passion, blood, and the love for extreme metal. It is a home for maniacs with the only reason to support them, so I never thought about moving my ass to some bigger label while becoming a number amongst many. I am damn fucking proud to be underground, and I always will be. So it is the case with Sepulchral Voice, and looking at the Thomas’ roster, it proves to be that he has some of the best bands to offer.

If we die young, we die petrified. If we die old, we die weak, ill, deteriorated, and also petrified. Is it even possible to die with dignity?

Malte Gericke: Well, yes, I think so, but it is getting harder and harder, especially in western civilization. The renunciation from spirituality and the adherence to material belongings often cause horrible deaths. You shall die as you have lived. At least, this is what I have seen from those persons whom I accompanied until the grand finale.

Being intrigued by the mystery of death and all the questions without answers that inevitably come with it may sometimes lead to loathing life. Is the fact that life is short and must end at some point something that makes it essentially worthless, or all the more precious because of it?

Malte Gericke: For me, it is the latter. I had a period where I rejected the gift given to us hard, but this was a long time ago. Life can be tricky, yes, life can suck bad sometimes, hell yes, but it is mostly all for a reason. I don’t want to sound as in a know-it-all manner, but the fact that we all go the same way in the end is a wonderful thought if you ask me.

When it comes to satisfying your basic physical needs or the way you feel about material things, which philosophy in your opinion carries more weight to it, asceticism or hedonism? Do you feel that, while any kind of abstinence can be very healthy for both mind and body, degenerating in excess is for some reason much more appealing?

Malte Gericke: Of course it is, because it is way easier to revel in excess than to forgo something. As much as I value asceticism, I am afraid I’m a sinner and more of a hedonist at some times. To be precise, I always try to take the path in the middle. I try to keep my pace with certain things, but I am not willing to live an ascetic life in general. To give some trivial examples, I like to smoke and drink, but I am not doing it every day. I do a lot of sports, but I am not the healthiest eater all the time. I try to take care of myself, but I am allowing myself some good nights of sin and metal. I prefer to be satisfied with the life I live instead of chasten myself to the bone.

 

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