Sermon of Flames – I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive Review

I was more than ready to write off Sermon of Flames as just another dissodeath album. It meets all the criteria: lurching riffs, wormy dissonance, bellowing insanity, and above all, violent disregard for its listeners. Its black/death breed recalls the mighty Mitochondrion or Abyssal with its hellish intensity and atmosphere – like many albums of its ilk. Just like every person, Sermon of Flames’ debut I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive is full of flaws and inconsistencies, highlights and strengths. There’s something remarkably organic about it as it bombards listeners with liturgical fury and blackened blasphemy: somewhere amid the jagged edges and ruthless soundscapes smothered with fog and fire is a beating heart. Maybe it’s just “Mephitic Seraph,” but there’s more to it than a single song. Sermon of Flames is vastly imperfect, sloppy and imbalanced, but in that imperfection lies its strength. While it embraces an ugly recipe of the oft-maligned outskirts of metal’s vast offerings, it reflects the chaos of a human heart and its struggle with purpose.

Black, death, industrial, war metal, and harsh noise. It’s easy to read this list of influences and prepare yourself for another laughable Tetragrammacide outing, but former raw black Irish duo Sermon of Flames approaches the insanity with a certain atmospheric je nais se quois. There are electronics and noise influences that rear their awkward heads in tracks like “Cauldrons of Boiling Piss” and “G.O.D,” but otherwise tracks harness these influences for maximum vitriol. Imagine Portal’s lurching riffs on fast-forward, the vocal insanity of Amnutseba, the grinding suffocation of Infernal Coil, and the bizarre cavernousness of Chthe’ilist, and you’ve perhaps captured a piece of I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive. Perhaps limited to an audience of masochistic soul-searchers, Sermon of Flames nonetheless offers dissonant devastation that revels in both menace and suffering as it glares defiantly upon the heavens.

As perhaps the band’s moniker and title suggest, there is a liturgical dimension about I Have Seen the Light… Its lyrics display this to near perfection as it hurls insults at divinity and degrades human experience to nearly DSBM proportions, shamelessly indulging in shuddering riffs and blasting unhinged insanity to match. A fair comparison to Sermon of Flames would be Aseitas’ stunning 2020 effort, but while False Peace was intently calculated and planned to the finest detail in their complex and insane mathcore-influenced antics, I Have Seen the Light… indulges in the chaos, as messy and derailing as a crisis of faith ought to be. Abruptly shifting from grinding riffs to blasting passages layered with thick electronics and nearly overwhelming vocals, tracks offer no reprieve.

Utilizing blackened viciousness, noise, and electronics for maximum abrasion, tracks like “Chords Wrung from the Ribs of Earth,” “Vacuous & Disjointed,” and “Dancer of the 6 Agonies” are some of the best examples of the style the year has to offer, while “Vehemence” and “Jahr Null” are relatively straightforward doom-influenced death metal tracks that shine as brief moments of menacing clarity amid the chaos. As vitriolic and relentless as Sermon of Flames creates its music, I Have Seen the Light… offers quiet for reflection or madness.  Instrumentals “To Behead One’s Desire” and “Hymn of Apotheosis” grant the album a Terra Tenebrosa-esque horror feel with noise and distortion-laden vocals. The true star in this right is “Mephitic Seraph,” an instrumental that stands out with its crystalline melody that provides a brief moment of humanity, which shows stark and beautiful (albeit brief) vulnerability amid the crushing walls of brazen and unrelenting bleakness.

Is I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive inconsistent? Absolutely. Does the chaos overthrow the songwriting? Often. Are there moments where its influences and tricks stick out like sore thumbs? You bet. But does Sermon of Flames create one of the most intriguing releases of the year? Absolutely. It’s a battle of the head and the heart, as its absolutely repulsive blend of black, death, industrial, and noise create the soundtrack of struggle with just enough vulnerable melody to avoid senseless noise. Flaunting chaos in the front-half and menace in the second act, Sermon of Flames showcases a range that ultimately compromises its consistency. As we arrive at the pained growls of “I want the world to ache as I have ached, I want to fall and for man to bleed, I want the pain of life to cease” to close out “Dancer of the 6 Agonies,” the Irishmen finally show us their cards. A painful, haunting conclusion to a painful, haunting album.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Releases Worldwide: September 3rd, 2021

« »