Recently, you may have noticed the name Dark Sermon popping up more and more in various metal publications, and on various metal websites, and, to a degree, with good reason. The first single, “In Each Hand A Talisman Of Sacred Stone,” showed a band who had grown immensely, adding Dark Fortress-esque melodic guitar leads, and even toying with small ambient passages to help give the music a more haunting, moody feel amidst the blast beat driven attacks. Naturally, this helped to generate a bit of hype among metal fans and critics who saw the band’s recent changes as a huge step forward, and with good reason, as they were no longer relying heavily on old school death/black metal cliches to help drive their music. Unfortunately, The Oracle only halfway lives up to the hype fully generated around it, as it shows a band who has progressed a great deal, but also has a long way to go before fully recognizing their true potential.
As far as growth goes, as stated above, Dark Sermon have grown into their sound a bit more comfortably. Formerly, they were a band who simply showed immense potential, but at the same time did not have a clear enough definition of what sound they wanted to go for as a band. This led to a slightly awkward fluctuation between them trying to push for their more experimental, often doom-ier, more ambient tendencies, and still trying to maintain a thrash-y, blackened death metal sound. Their 2013 album, In Tongues, showed brief snippets of ideas that could easily be molded into something amazing, but ultimately fell short as they were used in the wrong musical context. All of the above, fortunately, is not a problem that The Oracle seems to have. The album is much more of a decisive, concise effort, showing the band opting for the more melodic, doom metal influenced aspect of their sound, and for good reason. The music is darker, nastier, and overall just helps to set the band apart from a billion other blackened death metal acts trying to rip off Behemoth.
However, the unfortunate news is that the album’s greatest strength also proves to be somewhat of its greatest weakness. Despite Dark Sermon moving away from being yet another blackened death metal/deathcore act attempting to rip off one blackened death metal giant, they drove themselves straight into comparisons to their more melodic, doomier cousin, Insomnium. After all, Insomnium’s influence is written all over this album, be it in the fact that they simply amped up the doom metal influence, or that Dark Sermon now has a much wider array of ambient, post-metal leaning passages through out their music. Where this new experimentation becomes a problem is that the band rarely gives time for the ambient passages to affect the mood of the song (with the exception of perhaps “In Each Hand A Talisman Of Sacred Stone” and “Children Of Gaia,” but even then it’s questionable) before relapsing back into their deathcore chug riffs. When experimentation is introduced as an aspect to song writing, and when it has so much potential to help songs become more interesting, and that much more menacing in the case of Dark Sermon, it is disappointing to see that aspect of the music not being pushed to a further degree. After all, a strong melodic/ambient post metal leaning passage offers a lot more variety to the music than simple walls of choo-choo train chug riffs do.
The Oracle has now helped to establish Dark Sermon as a band to be watched, as it proves that they’re more than capable of breaking the mold of blackened deathcore/death metal, but only if they allow themselves to be by pushing out of their comfort zones. The album is overall relatively strong, and is worth at least a few replays, but overall is nothing groundbreaking or mind blowingly unique, leaving much to be desired as the band gives us only a slight taste of what they’re fully, truly capable of. It is recommended to keep an eye out for any Dark Sermon releases, as if they continue on the path they’re on now, they’re bound to release something wonderful, but “The Oracle” is truly hit or miss, lacking overall consistency and most likely will not stay cemented as a staple of the genre.
Dark Sermon’s The Oracle gets…