Review Summary: Gargantuan
It’s always interesting to hear the results of a band effectively overhauling their sound. Numerous bands have done this and succeeded (Dark Tranquillity, Bathory, for a recent and relevant example one could look at Job For A Cowboy). Likewise, numerous artists have failed utterly, proof that while this tactic can be a smart, creative move, it can also be a double-edged sword in the wrong hands. In the case of Dark Sermon, it’s unmistakably a success in every way, shape, and form. The band had a solid debut on their hands with In Tongues
, but a case could be made that the band was just masking some high quality The Black Dahlia Murder worship with a deathcore tinted paint job. However, on The Oracle
, Dark Sermon throw most of their old tricks out the window in favor of new ones that are simply more effective.
It’s safe to say that there is neither deathcore, nor TBDM influence to be found here. Instead “Ode to the Black Widow” greets the listener with dense, pounding blackened death metal fury. The tempos have been slowed down from the furious pacing of In Tongues
in favor of slow, stomping ones that allow for Dark Sermon to work on the smaller details. That’s not to say that they don’t kick things up for a few blast beats here and there, but as a whole the album is much more spacious and measured. For the first time atmosphere is one of Dark Sermon’s greatest strengths. The instrumental layering screams density and the melodies bleed black metal (in all caps). Sure, the raucously heavy riffs and beats are entertaining, but half of the album’s effectiveness is the ominous atmosphere that permeates it. The ambient interlude in “Starve” and intro to closer “Gargantua” are shining examples. For a band rooted in deathcore and extreme metal, it’s nice to see that the delivery doesn’t wear thin across the increased run time (nearly an hour) either. Just about every minute of its length remains entertaining and fixating.
If there was a way for Dark Sermon to kick things up more on The Oracle
, it’s not immediately obvious. Dropping all the things that didn’t quite work on their debut was certainly a good move for the young act. It feels almost like a new band, and a better one at that. For an outfit previously pigeonholed as deathcore, Dark Sermon did do quite a bit of growing up in that short period between albums and the effort paid off.