My friends, you’re in for a treat; Oracles is a (super) group filled with incredible musicians from other bands that manages to make an album that is exceptional in its catchiness, brutal in its arrangements, and that never once feels forced or overly gimmicky. It’s an album that basically answers the question: what would happen if Aborted mixed up their sound a bit and added a female vocalist?
While Sven De Caluwe is far and away the most recognizable member of Aborted, given that he’s the only consistent member from inception, he’s also one of the most instantly recognizable voices in modern death metal, period. As such, it would be no surprise were he to have been the standout on this album; his most recent endeavor with Aborted, Retrogore, was easily one of the best of their career, and he has never sounded better. And yet…he was not far and away the standout on this album. Nor were his band mates from Aborted; nor was Ryan Knight, formerly of The Black Dahlia Murder. No, the standout and MVP status of this album belongs to Ms. Sanna Salou, of the greek metal band Dimlight.
Having never heard System Divide before this, but being a big fan of Aborted, I simply expected to hear a slight variation of the Aborted sound; this lack of upfront knowledge was for the best, as I was blown away with the fantastic dynamic present throughout. Typically, openers like An Adagio for the Callous, with a sub-two minute length, simply set the mood but offer little else; such is not the case here. Salou’s range is on full display, Sven makes a small appearance towards the end and we are fully shown what this album is going to sound like: heavy yet melodic, with the vastly different vocals of Salou and Sven acting as the perfect compliment to one another. This is where Oracles truly leaves their mark and succeeds in spades: they actively aim to make this an album that fans of Dimlight and Aborted can enjoy equally. Want songs with Sven’s signature vocals? You got it. Want the incredibly melodious and unforgettable cleans of Salou? Done. Love the sound of raging Aborted deathgrind? Awesome, there’s some tracks here that fit the bill. Want music that’s a touch less aggressive that fits Salou’s vocals perfectly? You’ll find it here. Most of the time, within the four minutes or so that each song lasts, fans of any of the above sounds will be pleased. The Tribulation of Man sounds like it would fit perfectly on any Aborted album, with blast beats and Sven’s beastly death growls alternating with his high pitched shrieks, and a hell of a nice solo by Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry. And yet, fans of Salou will be just as pleased, as her performance somehow just makes the track that much more diverse, and thereby more accessible.
Fans of guest appearances will no doubt be thrilled as well; Per Nilsson has by this point made his presence known, and a couple tracks later, Ryan Knight, formerly of TBDM, owns Quandaries Obsolete; his solo would fit perfectly on that groups album Ritual, and he’s just got that perfect signature sound so even if it wasn’t released that he was on the album, there was no hiding it; that main riff and that solo just scream his name.
To be perfectly honest, this album works best because Oracles doesn’t try too hard to make it work: each song has the perfect balance of the two vocalists and their musical background; that is, except for one Remnants Echo. This song belongs to Sanna Salou, and her gorgeous voice is on full display, with the rest of the group basically acting as a backing band just for rhythm. Nowhere is Sven found, nowhere are the blast beats found: this song is all about Salou, her beautiful voice, and her impeccable ability to make it sound like everything was written just to compliment her. As this rather large fan of Aborted/Sven De Caluwe will tell you: this song is the shining moment of Miserycorde. There are high quality tracks in abundance on this album where each member shines, so for one song to stand out this much is a compliment to the power of Salou and what she can bring to the table.
Sadly, there is one song on here that is pretty much a swing and a miss, but really only because of its place in the greater context; the cover of Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People is by no means a bad song, but it follows such quality original material that it feels jarringly out of place.
What Oracles has done with Miserycorde is cement themselves as one of the better ‘super’ groups to emerge in the metal scene; the guest appearances only bolster the quality of the album, Sven sounds as good as ever, not once does the album ever truly drag, and Sanna Salou has proven that she should be a damn star, not someone who the casual metal fan may never have heard of. Make no mistake, this is not Aborted featuring Sanna Salou. This is a whole different beast, one that should please fans of Aborted while hopefully bringing the name Sanna Salou to the masses, making her just as recognizable as her counterpart on this album.