SIJJIN – Sumerian Promises (2021)REVIEW

They were offered a river with its water — they did not accept it. They were offered a field with its grain — they did not accept it. They said to her: “Give us the corpse hanging on the hook.” Holy Erec-ki-gala answered the gala-tura and the kur-jara: “The corpse is that of your queen.” They said to her: “Whether it is that of our king or that of our queen, give it to us.” They were given the corpse hanging on the hook. One of them sprinkled on it the life-giving plant and the other the life-giving water. And thus Inana arose.Inanna’s Descent to the Netherworld

Our insidious well of imprisoned gallûs roiling in the deepest fathomable pits of Irkalla now align in conjure of unspoken spells of vengeance versus the false on high, undulating their collective cthonic force loosed as the ‘soil of no return’ expands into the realm of the living. The mouth to the netherworld is now mere bullhorn from which the voice of Ereshkigal commands and how sweetly it speaks the suffocating directive of ‘Sumerian Promises‘. This debut full-length from German/Basque-borne elite death/thrash metal trio Sijjin flexes experience, dedication and mastery as it simultaneously resuscitates and restates the most classic standards of the artform today. Be you classicist pile or slumping dilettante there is a scripture’s worth of death-thrashing tutelage to be gleaned from the ruthless finesse on display herein.

Of the trio’s lot, whom formed Sijjin circa 2019, bassist/vocalist Malte Gericke is he whom most listeners will recognize from the last twenty years spent directing the influential reign of Necros Christos though the fellow has some considerable experience in the German black and death metal sphere since the early-to-mid 90’s via a couple of early Folter Records releases (Arathorn, Nox Intempesta). The other two members originate from a world within a world, Euskadi, which is not such a stretch in terms of collaboration since drummer Iván Hernández featured in Necros Christos for roughly ten years as well as guitarist Ekaitz Garmendia‘s thrash metal project Legen Beltza and independent death/thrash act Extinction during roughly that same period of time. We won’t find any direct paths to Sijjin within their resumes (some similar logo design was used for a Vale of Siddim reissue in the late 2000’s) but it is worth noting songs like “Amaigabeko Iluntsuna” from ‘The Dark Matter‘ do have a differently mystic early Nocturnus vibe which at least sets us nearby the realm of late 80’s death/thrash metal, the major domain of Sijjin from the start. With just one demo (‘Angel of the Eastern Gate‘, 2019) under the band’s collective belt thus far an album like ‘Sumerian Promises’ might appear as a surprise, a decidedly professional bolt from the abyss, but these folks are pros with several decades of experience between ’em and shit, that demo was ridiculously good.

Sijjin are a real death/thrash metal band. — Bedroom thrashers of the last two decades have proven that all you need to kill on a basal level is riffs, and good on ’em for capitalizing upon the accessibility options available to the craft, but this only makes ‘Sumerian Promises’ that much more exceptional for the precision achieved within live recordings that insist upon unedited takes. The same way this intensely practiced and precision-based capability factors a great deal into the sound of a band like Khthoniik Cerviiks so does it make all the difference in Sijjin, especially when we consider the high standards of ‘old school’ death/thrash metal which are so healthily applied to their craft. This alone is enough to warrant some obsession front my point of view — Few things this life has to offer are as sweet as witnessing this style of music performed yet, as I’ve just implied, an increasingly arcane lineage of stylistic attributes is the key motivation for our larger investigation of ‘Sumerian Promises’. It is an album which practically boasts their cult’s shared history of delve into late 80’s thrash and death metal -riffing- on a level which transcends the usual nods to ‘Abominations of Desolation’ and ‘Pleasure to Kill’ to some considerable degree without losing that vital point of origin when presenting melodicism or atmospheric mystique.

Traditionalism in death/thrash metal is most often overtly referential, wherein brash idolatry or a limited amount of sampled malleable technique yet offers coloration to the cause at hand. This is important to note up front in suggestion of outlier status since you’ll hear some of the textural brilliance of Brunelle-era Morbid Angel threshing about in the musical onus of Sijjin, particularly with consideration for their tightly anchored guitar & drum interplay which allows for complete strings of sophisticated rhythmic statement, readable as elaborate musical phrases beyond riff salad. “Those Who Wait to Enter” best showcases the balance of traditional death metal affect and Sijjin‘s own point of view, which is a few degrees removed from street-level thrashing and should thrill the skulls of anyone indebted to late 80’s thrash metal. ‘Sumerian Promises’ goes places far beyond this base tonal reference, from Poison to Obliveon and elsewhere, but never relents to less energy than the standards set by records like ‘Altars of Madness’. This was similarly true back in 2019 when I’d suggested “‘Angel of the Eastern Gate’ has all of the mystic, angular rip you’d expect from this style of old school death/thrash but there is a sort of blackened coughing vileness to its approach that keeps the tape from sounding like a bland retread of the old ways.” but this time around the music itself speaks more to their Sumerian theme (“Hunting the Lizard”) and less ‘blackened’ in terms of presence and vocal reverb. We need only directly compare the one surviving track from the demo “Angel of the Eastern Gate” to witness the emboldened voice and clearly defined auditorium space this debut album’s recording inhabits. Those original forms are meticulously developed, from the opening solo to the bounding build of the chorus and ultimately to the point that the song is far more memorable than its initial state.

I’ve always got thousand other things to listen to and though I am inclined to get around to all of them it hasn’t stopped me from favoring ‘Sumerian Promises’ as a regular listening habit for the last two months. Part of this phenomenon stems from a strong bias for records in this categorical death/thrash metal style but in this case these guys rip to the point where there is no caveat or complaint on my part. Sijjin‘s debut is compulsively enjoyable, a lotus of a hundred folds which is made so naturally repeatable for its wisened elaboration upon an old high standard. The rare shock of a death/thrash record on this level strikes an exacting chord with the flesh and highlights the year for my own taste. Highest recommendation.

Highest recommendation. (100/100)

Rating: 10 out of 10.
TITLE:Sumerian Promises
LABEL(S):Sepulchral Voice Records
RELEASE DATE:November 12th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death/Thrash Metal

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