Sermon – Of Golden Verse Review

UK’s mysterious Sermon burst from out of nowhere on phenomenal 2019 debut album, Birth of the Marvellous. The debut was an incredibly accomplished, polished jewel of intense and emotive progressive metal, boasting excellent production and top-shelf writing and performances from the duo. Masterminded by the elusive Him, who prefers to reside under a veil of anonymity, aided by right-hand man and Vader drummer James Stewart, the debut’s coursing melodic core, clever intricacies, and tense, melancholic atmosphere shared some aesthetic similarities to prog heavyweights such as Soen, Katatonia, Tool and later-era Porcupine Tree. However, Sermon’s intriguing, steely, and unique edge stood out from the pack, arguably appealing to listeners not enamored with the aforementioned acts or traditional modern prog-metal. Four years on from the debut, glowingly reviewed by the recently departed purveyor of cool taste Huck ‘N Roll, we step into the crimson-dappled world of Sermon’s sophomore LP, Of Golden Verse.

Sermon bided their time crafting the follow-up to an unexpected underground hit, with combined efforts and careful craftmanship resulting in another triumphant release. Doing justice to the quality and potential showcased on their stunning debut, Sermon refines and expands the scope in exciting and compelling fashion. The brooding, sinister atmosphere Sermon creates crawls under the skin in all the best ways. Like its predecessor, Of Golden Verse simmers with boiling point tension, as an ominous, almost ritualistic edge envelops the material, expertly shifting from foreboding menace and anxiety-inducing build-ups to soaring melodic passages and throat-grabbing hooks. These moments do not so much brighten the mood but offer a cathartic release while supplying numerous memorable moments not easily forgotten.

Although Sermon’s unique, complex and emotionally powerful sound fits in the realms of progressive metal, the overall style is pleasingly versatile. Elements of rock, doom, black and a Gothic sense of mood and drama infiltrate the muscular progressive core, without veering into cheesy or melodramatic territories. Initially, I had doubts when the first listen or two didn’t quite grab me with the force of the debut, aside from the vibrant, attention-grabbing hooks of lead-off singles “Golden” and “The Distance.” Any knee-jerk disappointment was swiftly erased, as the album reveals itself as a bigger, bolder, more adventurous outing than the debut. Subtle, short pieces such as the beautiful, vocal-driven introduction piece “The Great Marsh,” and ambient interludes “Black” and “Centre” are slotted amongst the more compelling, fully fleshed songs. Although I’m generally opposed to interlude tracks, they don’t greatly disturb the flow. However, it’s the remaining seven meaty cuts that really capture the interest. The hulking menace and charged atmosphere give way to the soaring melodicism and penetrating, blockbuster hooks on “Light the Witch.” Meanwhile, the delicate swells, gorgeous melodies and striking climax of “Senescence” showcase Sermon’s songwriting growth throughout a beguiling progressive rock piece.

Listeners seeking the lean, darkened heaviness of the debut’s, “The Descend” and “Contrition,” need not worry, as the tense and turbulent “Wake the Silence,” and blasty, charred authority of closer “Departure” are teeth-gnashing exhibitions of metallic crunch and smart melodic sensibilities. Him is a one-man tour de force, expertly handling guitars, keys, and tongue drum in addition to the ever-growing development of his powerful, emotive singing skills. It’s an astonishing all-around performance to match the album’s multifaceted and dynamic progressive metal, demonstrating his strong grip on creating textured, intelligently crafted compositions, ominous atmospheres, and soaring hooks, conveyed with heartfelt emotion. Lawrence Jenner supplies bass, while the aforementioned Stewart is a revelation on drums. Stewart’s crushing, dexterous and hugely creative drumming performance cuts an imposing presence throughout the album. As far as quibbles are concerned, there is little beyond nitpicking to report. The debut’s unsuspecting punch is hard to replicate, while one may quibble over sequencing and song length, but honestly, neither issue is of significant concern.

Sermon caught many by surprise with Birth of the Marvellous. The element of surprise may be less pronounced; however, Sermon have resoundingly met the challenge head-on with a second album of tremendous quality, accessibility and meticulous craftsmanship. While difficult to replicate the sucker punch blows of a surprise debut hit of immense creativity and originality, Of Golden Verse is the perfect follow-up, not just consolidating groundwork, but confidently striding ahead to explore expansive new pastures with intelligence, ambition and creative flair.

Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2023

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