Artist: Dark Sermon
Album: The Oracle
Musical intensity manifests itself in many ways, especially where metal and it’s various types and sub genres are concerned. Countless bands are fast—and even more are heavy, brutal, or crushing—but few are truly dark. Few artists are so adept with their songwriting and conjuring of creative and haunting thematics that they can smother every sense the listener possesses. Tampa based death metal outfit Dark Sermon are all of the above—fast where need be, and heavy beyond comparison—but more than anything they stay true to their namesake, and are darker than an oil spill at midnight. Formerly In Reference to a Sinking Ship, The Oracle sees the band’s former identity completely sunk, with roots entrenched in extreme types of metal ranging from doom to sludge and technicality, as The Oracle is Dark Sermon drawing from an immense array of influences ancient and contemporary to create a stand-out experience for heavy music connoisseurs worldwide.
Where In Tongues saw precious few remnants of Dark Sermon’s former identity, The Oracle is entirely bereft of them. Leaving even a portion of Dark Sermon’s debut sound in the past, the band’s sophomore effort gathers ferocity and aggression from opposite extremes, rather than a balanced sampling from metal’s entire spectrum. “In Each Hand, A Talisman of Sacred Stone” makes this extremely clear—as percussionist Bryson St Angelo is either roaring on all cylinders with demonic speed or looming in the background, creating cavernous, arid dissonance with deep toms and splashy cymbals. The album’s opener, “Ode to the Black Widow” favors the former style, as St Angelo hardly slows down the entire track, working with bassist Austin Chandler to create a roaring undercurrent of pitch-black dissonance. “The Wraith,” however, favors the latter, as St Angelo slows his pace considerably, adding more intricacy to his interplay with Chandler’s chunky bass grooves. Here—and during the climax to “In Each Hand…,” the listener sees different sides of guitarists Austin Good and Neal Minor. Good and Minor spend a hefty portion of The Oracle dominating the listener with razor-sharp riffs and focused shred; however “The Wraith” sees them embracing ethereal, drifting styles of dissonant, dark fretwork. “Children of Gaia” is similar—St Angelo’s percussion takes on a bouncy candor as Good and Minor haunt the track like poltergeists.
Just as Dark Sermon reinvent their musicianship, the band also refresh their vocals—not just in sound, but in lyrical content and purpose. Each song on The Oracle tells a story, and does so with Johnny Crowder’s gruff, fierce bellow. With growls that sound as if they were conjured from standing reserves of muck and filth, Crowder entrances the listener with stories that borrow imagery from age-old lore, twisted with metaphor and meaning from his own past. “The Wraith” is an excellent example—as Crowder’s intimate lyrics couple with musical cues throughout the track to tell a story of his haunted past—just as “The Myth of Sanity” and it’s hurried pace and harsh barks break up the album’s pace and content with uniquely abysmal lyricism. Dark Sermon’s frontman is a man possessed, yet still perfectly capable of painting over the band’s musical canvas with incredible lyrical imagery in a spectrum of vocal hues and tones that keep The Oracle’s content bright and diverse, but its sound murky and depressive.
The Oracle is the sound of diabolical darkness waging an all out war on the listener’s senses. Even moments meant to lend rest and respite still weigh on the listener like a blanket of lead, leaving the album’s truly heavy moments to be truly unfathomable. Those hoping for a continued infusion of sparse –core influences and styles will be let down—but only at the cost of being rewarded with something infinitely more complex and creative. Dark Sermon tell a truly remarkable story on each anthem found within The Oracle’s impressive runtime. Dark Sermon’s latest album is both Yin and Yang—it is this furious Floridian quintet creating something that thrives on destruction, leaving any listener who tackles it bound for torture and torment.
For Fans Of: Nails, Exhumed, Wretched, Enabler
By: Connor Welsh