For anyone aware of System Divide, their splitting up was probably devastating news. The formula combining a watered down version of Aborted with female vocals worked very well, but the band had to part ways with singer Miri due to her and co-vocalist Sven’s divorce. As such, System Divide was no more. Enter Sanna Salou of Dimlight and Mendel Bij de Leij. It’s no secret that Mendel joining Aborted gave the band a breath of fresh air and carried them to the next level, and with Sanna being drafted to replace Miri, System Divide was reborn as Oracles. With Mendel’s playing and Sanna’s dramatic range, System Divide 2.0 is much more than its predecessor, surpassing even Aborted. Unsurprisingly, their debut album Miserycorde is nothing short of awesome.
To be frank, while System Divide was great, it wasn’t perfect. The debut album ran out of riffs at points, and the formula often got repetitive, with Sven and Miri trading off vocals in patterns one would expect. With Mendel joining Aborted, the band improved vastly in terms of guitar work, and that seems to have transferred over directly to Oracles as well. His style of playing that blends neoclassical, death metal and modern metal is abundantly present here, and it’s the highlight of the album. Whereas System Divide rested more on the novelty of its premise, Miserycorde stands proudly on the strength of the songwriting and unity of the band’s formula. What’s new here is a flair for the theatrical. Not in the sense that the traditional metal instrumentation is accompanied by an overbearing orchestral section (though there are orchestral elements), but in that the composition and interplay between vocalists emphasizes dramatic tension and release in ways that are significantly more natural than before.
What makes it all work is the sheer expertise in all aspects of craftsmanship. The groundwork is laid by Mendel’s trademark guitar work. Using groovy, technical riffing combined with memorable lines, big chords and a flair for the grandiose, he establishes a good chunk of the band’s character. The ridiculously fast drumming that Aborted are known for is also present here, and it combines well with the clean singing to create truly epic moments. Sanna’s singing is very emotive and goes beyond what is typically present in the “good cop/bad cop” setup that bands with two vocalists use. She makes the chorues soar and carries the energy injected by the screaming along instead of contrasting it. Sven needs to introduction, as his unique style of vocals is as gut-wrenching and powerful as ever. One can never get enough clean vocals on top of blast beats, and Oracles deliver plenty of those, usually followed by Sven coming in to amplify the tension when the instruments transition to a groovier riff.
The inclusion of synths and the more fast-yet-melodic moments overall is another thing that puts Miserycorde above either band’s previous work. System Divide was too plain, too focused on doing one thing, and the lack of diversity hurt it. In a way, the same complaint can be leveled against Aborted, as the band constantly going as hard as possible can get quite old. The variety spices up the Aborted formula without sacrificing too much from it, and what it brings along more than makes up for the slight loss in heaviness. Oracles have a deeper sound, more layers and elements to it, more intricacy and memorability. Credit here goes mostly to Mendel and Sanna, as Mendel’s riffing is constantly interesting and Sanna’s singing amplifies every moment she’s present, making it more dramatic. Long-time listeners of Aborted and specifically Mendel might not find anything new guitar-wise here, but the overall mixture is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
While Miserycorde isn’t truly a debut album, it can be considered a sophomore album that’s taken everything that everyone involved has done individually and put them together, pushing them even further. With additions to the line-up marking a significant improvement in the band’s cohesion and compositional skill, Miserycorde is an instant classic and the best melodic death metal the year has to offer so far, with no contender in sight.
Oracles’s Miserycorde gets…