Sermon of Flames - I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive [i-Voidhanger Records - 2021]
Sermon of Flames is an Irish death metal duo with such an impenetrably thick sound, you'd think they were a full lineup. With a low register stygian distortion, they channel the demonic subterranean sound first explored by the likes Immolation and Gorguts.
The oppressive weight of this recording is immediately palpable, from the Prurient-esque noise and harsh vocals intro to the first lurch into neck-snapping blast beats with "Cauldrons of Boiling Piss". We get everything you might expect from a release with that sort of song title, and quite a bit more as well. This is a brutal death metal release for the gorehounds, yes, but contains significant industrial and noise influence that elevates the atmosphere into something wholly else.
Certainly, there is a great deal of technicality and precision in the drumming and guitar playing, but a 'melodic' death metal release this is not, and there are no triumphant leads, colourful sweeps or solos. Dissonant tremolos are the preferred mode of expression, and the guitar generally stays out of the higher registers. The general emphasis is on stark, shocking sonic hugeness, on startling the listener with sheer ferocity before they are fully prepared.
Though the music typically does not reach grindcore tempos, they have the genre's restless impatience, with many of the albums' twelve songs being one-three minutes. This serves to showcase the band's ambition as we travel rapidly through ideas, from mid-paced chugs to all-out blast beat pummeling. This is not the sort of death metal recording where the entire album passes in indistinguishable sameness. There is a theatrical flair to the way in which new sounds emerge.
I appreciate the power electronics interludes, such as the aforementioned intro and "G.O.D" later in the album. The raspy 'voice of wind' in this track, the gothic choral wails of "Vacuous / Disjointed", the nigh operatic chanting of "Vehemence" indicate the band's intent to establish an esoteric ritual atmosphere on this recording, and create a natural dynamic ebb and flow between interludes and denser metal sections.
The band likes to incorporate a noise oscillator behind the drums and riffing, but honestly, it doesn't often make a huge difference, becoming noticeable only as the other instruments subside. There's also a nostalgia-soaked shoegaze interlude ("Mephitic Seraph"), which imbues a romantic melody into guitar feedback as per My Bloody Valentine. Honestly, I'd love to hear these sort of emotive progressions incorporated into their heavy passages, as well.
This is a quality release for those who appreciate a deep 'hellworld' tone in their music. I appreciate their forboding atmospheric take on the brutal death metal full length. On its own, the dissonant tremolo-picked riffing isn't particularly new idea, but it is executed with vicious intent and enthusiasm. The graveyard fog energy of the power electronics interludes is nearly worth the price tag on its own, and I applaud the fusion of these genres.Josh Landry