Take the best, forget that rest: that’s the ethos behind Dark Sermon, whose musical outpouring conjures the fist-raising melody of European death metal, the blackened underbelly of bleak blast-beating musical warfare, the churning malevolence of technical death metal and the uniquely down-to-earth flair of the NWOAHM and combines it all into something fresh and potent. All of metal’s power: finely distilled. Dark Sermon may hail from the “Death Metal Capital of the World” of Tampa, Florida that spawned so many genre legends, but discerning ears will hear the influence of iconic bands from across the pond informing the band’s redefinition of heavy metal.
Dark Sermon arrives in the worldwide metal community determined to stand apart from the cookie-cutter garbage and trend-following cretins who have overcrowded the scene. They don’t care about what’s marketable or what sells. Dark Sermon has nothing less than total domination on their minds, armed with a new kind of heavy. The suffocating stomp of Behemoth, the brash experimentalism of Gojira and the all-out ferocity of American heroes like Job For A Cowboy and The Black Dahlia Murder all have a home in the Dark Sermon cookbook, which slices and dices its way through the most exciting elements of metal’s subgenres with relentless aggression.
The five men of Dark Sermon were destined to create heavy music together from a young age, wearing metal t-shirts, blasting classic albums on their Walkmans on the school bus and pounding out drumbeats on their desks at school. “I’ve always found art, music and self-expression to be the most important aspects of human life,” declares vocalist Johnny Crowder. “We were put on this Earth to create.”
The band’s debut for eOne / Good Fight was assembled at Florida’s famed AudioHammer Studios, which was responsible for several modern genre landmarks. Crowder’s command of his forceful vocals works brilliantly with the guitar dexterity and showmanship of riffmasters Austin Good and Neal Minor, who are backed skillfully by the rhythmic pulse of bassist Austin Chandler and drummer Bryson St. Angelo, a monster behind the kit whose name is certainly to gain more prominence.
No two tracks are alike. The diverse record is dark, fast and heavy; plain and simple.
An eerie intro, mind-numbingly fast blasting, heavy riffage and soloing all coexist within the song “Testament,” which is about a writer condemned to only ever write wicked filth. The two part epic “Forfeit,” which begins with “Forfeit I: The Crooked Quill” and concludes with “Forfeit II: Worn Thin,” boasts a theatrical crescendo bridging the two together and wraps up with the album’s heaviest groove. “The lyrics discuss a writer’s exhaustion with life and his feelings of irrelevance and unimportance to the world,” explains Crowder. “He recognizes his work will go underappreciated, so he accepts death, under the condition that he will be buried with his quill.” The second part of the “Forfeit” story focuses on the character’s “perceived cruelty of God, his weakened mind and body, and thoughts of suicide.”
The fast, riff-oriented “Imperfect Contrition” will instantly cause spontaneous headbanging in metalheads around the globe, particularly with its hooky breakdown (one of few tracks to be structured around one on the album). “The lyrics tell the story of a man who can no longer live with himself,” explains Crowder. “A man whose future has been shrouded by his sinful past. All he can do is beg for forgiveness from God, who has witnessed every wrong move he has made.”
The rest of the album follows suit, constantly twisting, turning and evolving with each track (and with each listen for fans) across the band’s wide metal canvass. No stone is left unturned in Dark Sermon’s quest to achieve something new and great.
Dark Sermon have made the seemingly impossible their mission: to bridge the gap between outwardly disparate subgenres of metal, to champion the cause of the downbeat and betrayed, to traverse the globe performing their compositions and to become the biggest metal band they can become through determination and effort. They want to influence the next generation of metal bands the way their favorite bands influenced them, with two powerful weapons: Uniqueness and innovation. And with a debut album like this one, Dark Sermon is well on their way down that path.