Artist: Slaughter to Prevail
Album: Misery Sermon
It’s another day stuck in another ritual-turned-routine we all know. You sit yourself at the pew, placing one knee on the cold, hard ground before moving the other down alongside it. The man at the front of the house straightens himself, clearing his throat. His gospel is coming—you bow your head, close your eyes and open your ears, readying yourself to receive his words of worship and adoration. You prepare yourself for the psalms and sermons as you know them.
But this is no church you have ever been in before. This is someplace different—someplace darker. This is the Ruthless Russian house of hatred founded by slam-tinted, nation-devastating deathcore act Slaughter to Prevail—and in their house, there is one sermon: Misery Sermon. Crafted with skull-splitting slams, bone-busting breakdowns and riffs that rip skin from bone, all in a melting pot spiced with dismal, atmospheric doom blended in stark contrast with speed and sinister, pointed aggression, Misery Sermon takes the band’s absurdly aggressive debut Hell and gives it a facelift, adding even more diversity and maturity to make a well-rounded and positively riveting display of ravaging power that is more than enough to incite the next World War.
Since their earth-shaking debut EP, Slaughter to Prevail have always been a band that dwell in the darker corners of heavier music—obfuscated behind shadows that hide the fine lines between deathcore’s more straightforward elements and its slam-tinted counterpart. Oscillating between fast and straight-up furious with the spasticity of a late-stage Schizophrenic yet with the careful and crushing precision of a machine hellbent on annihilation, the group’s sound quickly took over the worldwide heavy music community. Misery Sermon, in many ways, isn’t so different—but in others, it’s hardly even comparable. Where Chapters of Misery was more homogenous in its quick candor and oppressive brutality, Misery Sermon takes on a darker and more anthemic hue. Here, percussionist Anton Poddyachy and guitarist Jack Simmons are (obviously) still masters of murderous aggression and slaughterhouse-style slams, but they combine it with a penchant for sprawling, atmospheric and enormous moments of almost-doom tinted ambience. “Malice of Rites” and “The Ills of Man” display this excellently, with Poddyachy’s percussion roaming from ridiculous blast beats to steady, churning patterns, while Simmon’s fretwork follows suit. Other songs—like “Russian Hate” (which delivers on its name tenfold) and “Failed Hope” are furious from start to finish with no sense of atmosphere or ethereality to be had. Other songs are more moderate, blending the two together; this can be heard in “Chronic Slaughter,” which takes terrifying heaviness and tosses it in a blender with a catchy chorus and bouncy, groovy portions. Meanwhile, “Born to Die” begins with a contagious vocal hook that very quickly explodes into an eruption of quick-riffed but chug-friendly malice that doesn’t pause once to take a break from beating the listener in a tear-stained and blood-spattered submission.
To speak of “blood-stained” is to speak of the sheer aggression and raw, tactless grit that defines the vocal element of Misery Sermon—brought to life by frontman Alex Shikolai, or, as many might know him, “Alex Terrible.” Where Shikolai shook the entire heavy music community with Slaughter to Prevail’s eruption into being with Chapters of Misery, he simply decimates it now. With lows that leave the listener trembling down to their core and harsh, ear-shredding mid-range yells that hollow out the listener’s head like a power drill coated in sandpaper, songs like “Born to Die,” or the single “King,” Shikolai’s vocals follow the remainder of Slaughter to Prevail’s musicians in their maturation and development—even if this does leave the listener ever so slightly in want. Where songs like “Born to Die” see Shikolai taking center stage, the immense “Russian Hate” or “Chronic Slaughter” are catchy and crushing in one fell swoop, there don’t seem to be as many instances where the listener is simply floored by Shikolai’s range and power. It’s still there—this is proven at several intervals throughout Misery Sermon—but it isn’t as pervasive as one might like. This has it’s pluses and minuses, so to speak: on one hand, it matches the more solid and well-rounded instrumentation of the album ideally, but on the other, it detracts from the band’s more gimmicky and instantaneous appeal. At the end of the day, it just means that those who were in it for the vocal range alone need to work to find something else to fall in love with when it comes to Slaughter to Prevail’s latest effort—although make no mistake, there is no shortage of things to love.
Cruel, crushing and creative for its entirety, Misery Sermon is far from the album listeners likely expected from ruthless Russian task force of terror Slaughter to Prevail. A little less emphasis on speed-for-the-sake-of-speed and what-the-hell-was-that vocal dynamics and a little more emphasis on fluid, full-bodied songwriting with anthemic moments and awe-inspiringly aggressive moments both, Misery Sermon is a hymnal dedication to the end of all things pure and beautiful—it is a blanket that covers the world in an acrid cloak of darkness, devastation and despair.
For Fans Of: Oceano, Aversion’s Crown, Ingested, Martyr Defiled
By: Connor Welsh