Some bands just have an enigmatic factor that feels magnetic. Something draws me to them. For Sermon, it is their mystery. The band is back with a new album called Of Golden Verse, and it is quite an experience. It released on March 31st through Prosthetic Records.
Sermon leans into the secrecy. I’m not sure where they come from, and their musical style is also somewhat vague. The band is lead by HIM, who provides guitar, keys, vocals, and tongue drum. The other performers are James Stewart on drums and Lawrence Jenner on bass.
As I mentioned, it is difficult to describe their sound. They are definitely progressive rock and metal of some type, but there are razor sharp alternative elements and atmospheric doom elements that pervade everything they do. There is also a sense of dark spirituality and sacrament here that makes their music feel somewhat unnerving at times.
Yet, the band really rocks, too. The guitar work is sinister and heavy, the vocals are varied and truly silky, and the song structures are climactic and full of highlights. James’ drums are one of my favorite aspects, too, because of how unhinged and yet subconsciously controlled they sound. The band’s music is epic, abstract, and inscrutable all at once.
One thing I’ve noticed about this band is their masterful use of hesitancy. Let me illustrate. After the short intro “The Great Marsh”, which is beautiful in its own right; the album launches with “Royal”. This song instantly sold me on their sound. It, however, is something of a percussion-heavy slow burn. The band allows the climax to flit around on the edges of our mind, on the periphery of our expectations. And when the apex does arrive, it is all the more satisfying and breathtaking. I love that style, and you will hear it on multiple tracks.
For me, even with how much I love “Royal”, the second half is the stronger half. In the first five songs, you’ll also find “Light the Witch”, a single with a great chorus and more of that percussion hesitancy I mentioned. After the ambient interlude “In Black”, we arrive at “The Distance”, another fantastic song with vibrant drumming and terrifically melodic vocals. I love this song for how “right” it feels, whether talking about its attractive rhythm or its interesting lyrics or its soothing atmosphere.
The second half of the album gets even better, though. It begins with one of my favorites, “Senescence”; this track is slower for the most part, and HIM’s keys are big focus. I love how quiet and harmonious it is, and how deceptively cumbersome the chorus is. “Wake the Silent” is the exact opposite. It leans into the heavy and raw side of the band, and yet the titular phrase becomes such a catchy element. I love it.
“Golden” comes next, and it was a great choice for a single. It has a great chorus and a furious rhythm that only gets more and more fervent as the song progresses. I love the intricacy and power of the drums on that song. The song pours into another interlude called “Centre”, which I really like. It sounds like a short keyboard musing from HIM, and it has a subtle hook that does a great job preparing us for the closer, “Departure”. This final track is maybe the heaviest on the album, but it is also quite spatial and dynamic. I love HIM’s vocals on this one between his raw portions and melodic ones. The lyrics remind me of something from Tool, for some reason, and that only adds to the mystery and ritual of it all.
Sermon are proving themselves to be one of the most interesting bands out there right now. It’s not just the thrill of their production or imagery, it’s also the fact that they have genuinely beautiful melodies and powerful performances at the heart of their sound. Of Golden Verse is indeed a tapestry of dark poetry and misty memory, all spliced into a rite of beauty and belief. I’m hooked.
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