Sermon’s debut full-length album Birth of the Marvellous quickly proves an exercise in sheer gothic magnitude without ever turning overwhelming. The unique metal forms into a diverse array of shapes bound together by ambitious religious imagery and sonic authority that would fit a religious service that for whatever reason doesn’t operate in the modern spotlight. Whatever version of the underground you’re transported to, it’s clear once turning on Sermon’s new record that you’re no longer where you first thought.
The band’s utilization of sonic pageantry and more specifically, religious imagery, doesn’t serve what might be its most familiar purpose in metal — mockery. There are no inverted crosses to be found here. There’s not really even a sense that they’re just going through the motions in order to get at some sort of message of the irony of rushing after a supernatural being in the sky while that sky crashes and the world burns. Instead, thanks to the confidence that permeates Sermon’s ultimately clearly formed and poignant songs, Birth of the Marvellous feels like the emergence of a new religion in a system that it might even be inappropriate to call religious. No longer are we all alone while stars fall to the earth in balls of fire, but instead, we’ve taken on these calamities as our defining points for something greater than ourselves, even if that “something greater” constitutes suffering.
The band’s songs allow for plenty of space for contemplation, feeling like a metallic, heavier-than-normal version of British post-punk. They’ve combined ethereal anxiety with sheer force, allowing for their songs’ impact to be that much deeper to the point of at least a measure of surprise.
That impact feels core to the band’s ultimate aims. Broadly, they’re not calling attention to themselves via sheer technical prowess, and they’re definitely not aiming their instruments downward and utilizing any kind of overwhelming hellish glare. Instead, Sermon feel as though they’ve taken deeply rooted darkness and opened it up towards the light, letting their melodic constructions reach ever more upward and outward. They only get more intense in those aims as Birth of the Marvellous proceeds, offering a unique window into apocalyptic thinking where this time, we’re not so powerless after all — even as the world crashes and burns.
Listen below via Bandcamp. The full album is available via Prosthetic Records on March 22