Death metal, particularly that of the brutal kind, is not often entrenched firmly in the spiritual realms existing far beyond — and above — our consciousness. Rather, the brutal death metal tends to focus on the grit, grime, and abhorrence within the sickening realms of real humanity. It leaves that esoteric shit to the purveyors of cosmic death metal and to druggies.
Perhaps climbing Mount Rinjani or scaling the treacherous summit of Mount Slamet, Indonesian quintet Sufism found themselves entrenched in both worlds. Holding their steel-toed boots firmly in the realism of dark humanity, they have allowed their minds to ascend into a realm of otherworldly inspiration. And, while they claim that there isn’t much more in a name than a collection of pleasing syllables and sounds, their music belies a deeper authenticity.
After the Reptilia Buas EP five years prior, Sufism released their first full-length Republik Rakyat Jelata at the tail end of the tumultuous year of 2020. Like that shorter effort that came before it, Republik is a rager, brutal death done properly, full of pummeling riffs and rawthroated aggression—an old-school attack that feels both organic and oppressive, balancing its brutality with hints of a more expansive atmosphere. From the opening pastoral sounds of flutes and nature, Republik drops straight-away into that swirling Suffocat-ing riffery, chunky twisted rhythms and nearly relentless blasting, and it simply doesn’t let up for 30 minutes. Sure, it wears its influences on its sleeve — Suffocation, as mentioned; Deeds Of Flesh; the usuals — but it’s performed with enough conviction and skill to make it far more than just a br00tal-by-numbers clone. Indonesians are good at brutal death metal, after all, and who doesn’t need more of this type of thing power-drilling its way into their earholes?
With all that in mind, a little while back, Last Rites arranged for a quick virtual sit-down with the minds behind the metal (editor’s note — Let’s be honest: we e-mailed them), so here we have a few words with the fine fellows in Sufism:
Opening my inbox, I didn’t expect to see a metal band taking on the concepts of Sufism. How did you get involved in the mystical aspects of Islam? What is your own mantra for living?
Actually, the name Sufism has nothing to do with religion. It’s just a name for a band. For some people, this may be multiple interpretations! It doesn’t matter. In Islam, there is no word for mystical, because everything can be learned freely by any religion or belief in Islam. It is not a mantra but “Du’a,” (Islamic greetings) “Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhuh,” which means “May Allah bestow salvation, mercy and blessings on you.”
The vast majority of metal takes on the “big guy” by going after Christianity. How do other religions such as Judaism and Islam fit into that mold?
Because music is a universal language. Regardless of ethnicity, nation, or religion, expression is free. People who do not understand the lyrics of our language can enjoy it. We play metal music without ignoring things that are against my religion.
Following up on that, Christianity seems like an OK target for heavy metal attack, but Judaism and Islam are often seen as off limits. How do you guys feel that reconciles?
Everyone is free to convey his expression through his music. But in the band Sufism, we don’t bring the realm of religion to be discussed. All religious teachings have good values about life. Just practice what is believed without disturbing the beliefs of others
More to the point of your lyrics, can you tell us a little bit about the political/religious intersections in Indonesia?
Our lyrics talk about the social fabric of everyday life, what you see and feel. In Indonesia, all religions live in harmony, side by side, even though there is a small group who want to tear our brotherhood apart. The government and our scholars can solve that.
Since we are living in the COVID world, I’m wondering if you guys have a take on how the populace will react to the vaccine being handed out in Indonesia. Will people be receptive to a vaccine or perhaps concerned about pollution of their body?
Likewise in Indonesia, there are also many fears that the vaccine given will be another way of death. May this pandemic end quickly so that our musical activities continue!
With all the political unrest and bombings that have been occurring in Indonesia and the surrounding area, along with natural disasters and lackadaisical governmental intervention and response, what role do you think art can play in uniting (or dividing) the people?
We can only convey a protest / motion of disbelief through the lyrics. Some of the metalhead friends of workers and their students voiced their voices louder by “live demonstrations taking to the streets.” Keep trying to forge unity among fellow metalheads and local residents. For disasters, metalheads here often make charity events or donations or go directly to the field to help. Most Indonesian metalheads strongly condemn all forms of violence / terrorism wrapped in religion or whatever.
Thanks to Sufism for taking the time to answer a few questions!