[Prosthetic Records, 2019]
Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
10 / 07 / 2019
Gazing at the cover of Birth of the Marvellous by Sermon, the contrast between spiritualism and mysticism arises as a justifiable dilemma. The bilateral symmetry and the detailed design of the dim two-colored cover art add to the mystery which is not confined to them. The members of the brand-new band maintain their anonymity after the release of their debut album and truth is that this makes the whole thing even more interesting.
Yet, the music is here the only means to decode the mystery that goes under the name of Sermon and unraveling the mystery in this department was a much easier task compared to the rest of the above.
The perfect pattern that makes little sense
Sermon is a typical example of a band which debuts to the contemporary progressive metal / rock firmament. Their music is crafted to strike a chord with a large part of the audience of this particular sound. But is it enough to render Birth of the Marvellous a worth-mentioning musical proposition?
The truth is that the Londoners have a clear plan and vision and it is obvious that they have put in a lot of effort to sound so focused in what they do. Their performance and the production are illustrative examples of their professionalism and indicative to the endless hours of their labour. But we should go back to the initial question about the criteria that render an album as a work of art.
Right from the first note it becomes clear that the main goal of Sermon is to approach an audience that relishes the music of Tool, Katatonia, Opeth and generally the alternative side of the progressive metal spectrum. They distribute their influences into their compositions in such perfect analogies that have the listener asking themselves if there is a trace of spontaneity in the music they listen to. From the ritualistic two-a-penny cover to the patented development of the compositions to the calculated outbreaks, everything is carefully planned.
Even so, it could be an interesting result if the compositions were worthy. Unfortunately, inspiration comes out only scarcely out of the grooves and we get a feeling of constant build-up that gets us nowhere. Therefore, we are reduced to name the bands we listen through Sermon (a bit of Tool here, a bit of Porcupine Tree there and so on…) and marvel their undoubtedly high aesthetic criterion. But no matter how we should reward high aesthetic, when it doesn’t come with essence then its reason for existence vanishes.
In Birth of the Marvellous we encounter all of the pathogeneses that are not confined to the modern progressive metal, but in contemporary music as a whole. I don’t know if Sermon will make it in their next move to come up with inspiration too, since they have already found the perfect formula. The only certainty is that up until then there are numerous releases which are much more essential to check out.
6 / 10
Katatonia’s idea to blend their ambient sound with progressive metal is unsuccessful quite a long time now, mostly because they have failed to come up with really interesting compositions. On the contrary, Sermon who are pretty much in the same area fared much better in their first album. Birth of the Marvellous is tight, it possesses a unified aesthetic and its concept is a sophisticated one. Despite that the guitars don’t win over their listener with their technique, the ideas that the group unfolds are smart and they are supported by a very good production. Of course none of the individual elements is as good as in Soen’s new album but as debut albums go they did an admirable work, in my view. By intermixing elements from Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Schammasch they weave a solid plexus in the album’s dark style, a fact that does its bit to help with the flow of the record. The listener won’t get bored, nor will be thrilled by a composition because they lack their own style.
6.5 / 10