Sometimes I just skip bands, or albums… and it’s always unintentionally. Most of the times, it’s just because I still don’t know the band, or maybe I’ve put my radar into another direction…
Anyway. Sermon is a band from Türkiye, playing Death/Doom Metal in a very melodic way, creating great atmospheres, you can really feel yourself like drowning into melancholy by listening to their debut album, “Till Birth Do Us Part”, released in February 10th this year, via Bitume, a French label. Let me say… Sermon has surprised me a lot. Because if I had listened to this band blindly, I wouldn’t have located them in Türkiye. Probably an European band, I’d have said, attending to their sound… Yeah, surprising. And very good.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cem Barut, guitar player in Sermon, for Blessed Altar Zine. Do you want to read what he has to say about the band, their music and some more personal things? I bet you want…
(Other members in the band also wanted to answer some of the questions 🙂
Hi Cem, thank you for your time doing this interview. First of all, how happy are you with the release of your debut album?
Cem: Hi Silvia, first of all, thank you very much for this interview with us. We are very pleased to release our first album after many years, because it is a great feeling to return to the music scene after many years and then experience the excitement and joy of the first album for us.
We went through a very difficult process until we released this album, and we finally managed to get it out.
In general, we are very pleased with the attention shown to us. It makes us very happy that there are those who appreciate our music and are interested in it.
The feedback about our album and our music has been really positive and great. We have not received any negative feedback so far. We are very glad that our name started to be heard again in a short time when we have not been in the music market for many years, and our music reaches more people every day, and we would like to thank everyone who bought our album, listened to it and supported us.
Can you introduce yourself and the rest of the members in the band?
Cem: I am Cem, the founder of the Sermon band, rhythm guitarist and the only remaining member of the original line-up.
The other Sermon members are:
Harun – Vocals
Durmuş – Lead guitar
Mustafa – Bass guitar
Serhan – Drums
How would you describe your music? Do you think you intentionally went for this style, or you feel more like this kind of music chose you to play it? I’ve heard that this happens sometimes…
Cem: It’s a difficult question to answer 🙂 because
It is easier to make music than to describe it, and it is very difficult for a musician to categorize his own music. But if we define our Music;
I can describe our music as Doom Death Metal, which carries the Doom Death Metal accumulations of the 90s and combines the spirit of the past with the present. In our songs, we have feelings, feelings that we include in them from our subconscious, from our inner world, and our songs are shaped according to them. We feel ourselves in this genre of music because it is related to our dynamics and emotions.
This is the type of music in which we express our emotional states in the best way.
In fact, we make music by sticking to the basics of style with an innovative approach in line with our own wishes and thoughts.
What do your lyrics talk about?
Cem: In this album the lyrics are mostly about a vengeance of nature caused by disasters. A total cosmic perishment, we can say. There is also a philosophical touch referring to views on genesis and transcendence. And we have also applied some verses by Charles Baudelaire into three of our songs.
Can you tell us about how it’s been for the band until today? ‘Cause I’ve read it was founded in the late 90s. Must have been a long (and maybe twisting) road until today…
Cem: Yes, it’s a long story, starting when you’re in 97 and coming up to today. If I summarize the story;
Sermon was founded in 1997. We released 2 demos called “Cosmic Prisoner” and “Sea Of Meanings”.
After these demos, we made many songs until 2004, but we didn’t release them, we just kept them in our archive.
Towards the end of 2004, we had to say goodbye to our musical journey due to the fact that the other band members wanted to continue their lives in different activities.
In 2021, the insistence of my friends and people around me to activate the band again ignited my passion for making music again, and we activated Sermon again with our guitarist Durmuş. Later, during our search for a vocalist, Harun (Forgotten) agreed to do vocals in Sermon and joined us.
We have reunited Sermon, which we left without an album in 2004, with an album in 2023.
When we were preparing the songs of “Till Birth Do Us Part”, our line up was 3 people and we made this album with 3 people. After the release of the album, Mustafa and Serhan joined our band and now Sermon is stronger with its new line up.
This is the story of Sermon until 2023…
Have you played a lot of live gigs? How does it feel for you playing your music in front of the audience?
Cem: Yes, we have played at many concerts in the past. My other bandmates also have many concert experiences from the bands they have played in the past.
It’s an amazing feeling to play at a concert. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a little stressful because you have to please the audience who comes to the concert, which means you feel incredible pressure on yourself, but I can say it’s exciting. And you experience the same feeling every time you play at a concert. Audience participation and accompaniment are very important for a band’s stage motivation. Concerts are your meeting point with the listeners who love you, and you need to entertain the incoming listeners with a good show. Playing in concert is definitely not like rehearsals and recordings made in the studio. When you make a mistake in the studio, you can play a song by repeating it many times, but this is not the case in a concert, you can only play them once, and you need to prepare well and play it.
It is great to experience the excitement of meeting with the audience after the concert preparations, studio rehearsals and all this.
At what age did you start playing an instrument? And how did you come up with the idea of having your own band?
Cem: I’ve been interested in guitar since childhood, but I was able to start playing it at the age of 16-17. I was trying to do something by playing melodies and rhythms according to myself under the influence of the music I was listening to, and then making music by playing guitar alone was boring and not enjoyable. Together with the friends I met around, who were of the same opinion, we decided to form a band and started making music.
Harun: I started doing vocals when I was 15-16. We were entering the studio with friends from high school and then we decided to form a band which is my ex-band “Bayt Gadol” who was established in 1997 and split-up in 2004.
Which bands were you listening to in your teens? Are you still listening to them nowadays?
Cem: Before Heavy Metal, I was listening to A-Ha, Duran Duran, Alphaville, Depeche Mode. Later, the sound of Heavy Metal influenced me and I started to be interested in and listen to this music. While listening to classic Heavy Metal bands, I felt a hunger for a harder kind of music.
In my teenage years, I mostly listened to Thrash Metal, I listened to classic bands such as Metallica, Testament, Sodom, Slayer, then my interest in more extreme music increased, and I met Death and was almost fascinated by it, and then I started listening to Black and Doom Metal.
Yes, today, regardless of genre, I still listen to music that I listened to in the past.
Harun: I was listening to various Metal bands when I was a teen too. Mostly Iron Maiden and Overkill back in the first days. Then my taste became more extreme and I have been much more into Death, Black and Doom Metal. Nowadays I still listen to the same stuff, usually 90s’ and 80s’ Metal. Besides Metal, I also try to listen to almost every genre I come across.
Durmuş: While I started music with Heavy Metal, I later started listening to Death and Black Metal, but at the same time I was listening to guitar virtuosos. The strong sound and also the techniques of guitar virtuosos had an impact on the music I made and the solos I made.
If I asked you to pick three albums that are fundamental for you, these ones would be…
Death – Leprosy
Pestilence – Testimony of The Ancients
Paradise Lost – Shades of God
Talking about Metal, it is really hard to pick only three but maybe,
Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Overkill – The Years of Decay
Rotting Christ – Thy Mighty Contract
If you ask the same question again tomorrow, the answers will be different. 🙂
Erkan OĞUR – Bir Ömürlük Misafir
King Diamond – Them
Badluck – Badluck
Is there any guitar player you admire a lot or maybe has been a big influence for you?
Cem: Yes, Chuck Schuldiner, the guitarist and musical genius I’ve always admired. He has a very important place for me.
He and the albums he released will never be forgotten. I remember him with respect
How is the Metal scene in Türkiye, specially the underground? And how was it by the time you started the band? Was it an easy thing to do?
Cem: The underground scene in Turkey is quite complicated.
A lot of bands just want to make music on the local stage and don’t want to try their luck on the international stage. Very few bands try their luck on the international stage.
There are almost no platforms, labels and organizations to announce the names of Turkish bands on the international stage. For this reason, not many people know much about Turkish bands on the international stage.
And for years, the battle for supremacy of bands and some people has damaged the metal scene here.
Since bands, stage and social media are under the monopoly of some “decision makers” in the Turkish scene, it is becoming difficult for good bands to progress and hold on to this stage. Since these decision makers dominate the organizations on all platforms, you cannot play live unless they accept you. And they don’t feature your band in magazines unless they want to. You cannot progress in such an environment.
That’s why some of the bands that are trying to grow are trying to work with people in other countries.
If you do something successful in our country, someone does not want your name to be heard and tries to drag you down. Most of the time you do not get support, you are not invited to organizations, festivals. They won’t let you use their opportunities unless you surrender to them. There are many talented bands and musicians in Türkiye, but these people we are talking about decide who will advance, and isolate the bands who do not concede.
Some bands can’t reach the audience because they can’t find a place in magazines or live broadcasts. That’s why many bands stop being active and end their careers.
While many bands continue on their way by submitting to the decision-makers, some are also trying to do something on their own.
If you’re a band that’s creative and trying to grow, some people try to erase you from the local scene. If you are a passive group and obey them, your reward will be a few magazines and a live concert. They won’t give you more.
We are not making music for a narrow and restricted Metal scene. Our goal is not the local scene, we also aim to be active in the international arena.
When we started the band, nothing was easy. There were no good conditions, no equipment, no understanding, but despite everything, we continued to fight.
Due to the undeveloped perception of music in our country and the inability to place this music in people’s memory, it still cannot fully feel its presence. There are still prejudices against Metal music today.
It is quite difficult to be a Metal band in Türkiye. We live in a country where the whole world looks at us with different eyes due to the geography we live in.
Maybe because of our culture, maybe for political reasons, many people take an insensitive attitude towards our country.
We are not politicians and we do not do politics, we are just a music band, we don’t understand why some people are still like this to us.
The political and economic developments in the world and in our country are putting too much pressure on us, and you cannot act as you want. While you are struggling for life on the one hand, you are trying to make music on the other. It is very difficult to balance these two. You don’t know which way to adapt.
Due to the conditions I mentioned above, it has never been easy for us to start and keep a band going, and the same problems still continue today, and we have been trying to keep our music going since the past by still struggling with these problems.
Are there a lot of Metal shows, festivals… where local bands can play, in your country?
Cem: Yes, there are good venues where local and international bands will perform. But in general, the venues where local bands perform are not of very high quality, because the rental fees of quality venues are very high, and bands cannot perform there. In general, small venues with low rental fees are preferred.
Previously, there were many affordable good venues where Metal bands could perform, and while bands also organized joint concerts by cooperating financially among themselves, now bands can no longer do this due to the very high rental prices of the venues where concerts will be held.
There is no problem about the venue where the concert will be held in Turkey, the only problem here is that the venue rents are too high.
Which is the most impressive show you have attended as a metalhead?
Cem: I have watched many international bands’ live shows in the past. The most impressive live show for me was the first Metallica concert in Türkiye on June 25, 1993. It was an unforgettable concert and they were amazing.
Harun: It was Overkill’s first ever live show in Ankara/Türkiye back in 1999. Or maybe Rotting Christ live in Ankara 1997. Cannot decide.
What does Metal music mean to you in your life?
Cem: For me, Metal music is primarily a culture, a part of my life and a passion that I will never stop listening to in my life.
Harun: It is the most important and main instrument that made me discover almost everything in my life spiritually, visually and mentally. It is so difficult to express or define the spiritual impact of listening to a Metal track which is your favourite (especially with a headphone). Only metalheads would understand this.
Many thanks for your answers, Cem. Also thank you Harun and Durmuş. Is there anything more you want to say to our readers?
Cem: Thank you very much for this pleasant interview in which you gave us the chance to express ourselves. I hope we will play there one day. Many thanks and greetings to everyone who supported us and read this interview.
Interview by Sílvia
Check out Sermon and their debut album, “Till Birth Do Us Part”, and let yourself be dragged into this dark and melodic slow-paced music. It brings calm to the most tormented souls.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**