Dark Sermon – The Oracle (eOne)Thursday, 20th August 2015
What seems to be a fantastic shift is how we are moving away from the “sophomore slump” in bands and instead seeing these massive improvements and additions to a band’s sound. The new Rivers of Nihil may set the gold standard currently, but Florida’s Dark Sermon have quite respectively upped the ante on their sound as well with The Oracle.
Dark Sermon’s debut, In Tongues, seemed a bit too generic and straight-forward. A mix of deathcore and death metal (via The Black Dahlia Murder), it provided a few listens when it was released but nothing beyond that. Many have championed the band’s live performances (which this writer has sadly not yet witnessed), so checking out The Oracle seemed to be worth a shot. Listening to a track from In Tongues next to The Oracle shows how far the band has come in two years. The Oracle is grittier, heavier, and a far more interesting beast. The hints at doom metal that the band displayed previously have been fleshed out, some blackened influences have further infiltrated the band’s sound, and the vocals are more intense. There’s more atmosphere beneath it all as well, as a quick listen to the closing “Gargantua” or “Children of Gaia” will show. Things lumber and crawl along without losing a smidgen of intensity. When things get frantic though, as they do in “In Each Hand, A Talisman of Sacred Stone” or “Starve,” you can also hear a noticeable effort in terms of songwriting complexity (not to mention a push away from the ‘core-isms). It’s the little things that the band has pushed together that really allow them to shine with this album.
The leap that Dark Sermon has made from In Tongues to The Oracle is nothing short of impressive. While their masterwork may still be ahead of them, The Oracle should provide many fans of blackened death metal with a great and repeated listen.