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Cave Sermon - Divine Laughter review

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Band: Cave Sermon
Album: Divine Laughter
Release date: January 2024

01. Beyond Recognition
02. Crystallised
03. Liquid Gold
04. The Paint Of An Invader
05. Birds And Machines In Brunswick
06. Divine Laughter

Between the likes of Resin Tomb, Knoll and Vitriol, the standout metal albums of the early weeks of 2024 have heavily featured releases with strong ‘I hate the world and everything in it’ energy. Cave Sermon’s new release starts off in similar fashion, but ultimately reveals itself to have more up its sleeve.

Charlie Park’s Cave Sermon launched in 2021, with a demo, EP and debut full-length all released within that year. While the sound on first album Memory Spear was already on the extreme side, it was not accompanied by extreme vocals, as Cave Sermon began as an instrumental-only one-man project. Things have changed this time around, as Park has recruited Miguel Méndez from Mico as a vocalist. Mico released one of the most savage albums of 2022 in Zigarut, and Méndez’s fierce delivery further elevates what was already a strong musical evolution on Divine Laughter.

This new release is not an easy album to categorize by any means. The first sound that reached out to me on my initial playthrough was dissonant death metal with atmospheric touches in the vein of Ulcerate, but there was also a clear post-metal edge to the songwriting, particularly on the longer tracks. Further replays highlighted the contributions of black and sludge metal to the album’s extremity, while at the same time, the eerie noise/ambience in the second half of the record cannot be discounted. At its most intense, Divine Laughter is fully extreme, with an attitude as fierce, bludgeoning and uncompromising as those of the bands mentioned in the opening paragraph; however, even outside of the ambience, there is range and nuance in the songwriting here that takes Cave Sermon to a level above pure malicious aggression.

Divine Laughter does commence with malicious aggression, though; blasting drums, sinister deathly dissonance and Méndez’s sickening growls make for a jolting introduction to the record. This initial onslaught is punishing, yet brief; after 2 minutes, everything fades away to near-silence, and a recalibration occurs. Almost euphoric synths herald the arrival of a slower, groovier, chunkier sound, as Cave Sermon orient more towards sludge, albeit an unusual take on the style. Brutal groovy chugs, ominous textures, and a brief yet surprisingly melodic guitar lead take the song in one direction, before an about-face goes more towards black metal, complete with passionate cultish roared vocals. “Beyond Recognition” evolves almost beyond recognition across its runtime, and makes it clear early on that Cave Sermon’s latest effort will be unpredictable, uncompromising and exhilarating.

With one notable exception, the tracks here are all on the long side, ranging from 7 to 12 minutes, and the combination of sprawling, almost progressive writing that spans a range of extreme metal styles takes my mind to Aseitas and their record False Peace. Like False Peace, Divine Laughter has the capacity for full-blooded venom. “Crystallised” is perhaps the most consistently aggressive song on the album; while the particular form of extremity might fluctuate between death, black and sludge, there’s little let-off, with the only faint hints of levity a couple of post-rock guitar tremolo layers and guitar solos briefly entering the fray. The clean opening of “Liquid Gold” doesn’t last for long, but it does hint at a change in tack, and the doomy trudge that follows sees heaviness rendered in a different form; this slower tempo offers a first real taste of Cave Sermon’s post-metal credentials, as the doom crawl serves as a base for adding layers and melancholic textures. The balance of vibes and tempos, with that dissonance emerging in the more extreme portions, gives “Liquid Gold” something of a Nero Di Marte feel.

The first three songs already demonstrate a lot of range, and some highly accomplished songwriting, but the album’s second half shakes things up even more. The ambient/noise comes more to the fore, with the aforementioned exception in song length, “Birds And Machines In Brunswick”, comprised entirely of ominous dark ambience, which spills over multiple times into the closing title track. “The Paint Of An Invader” doesn’t really feature ambience, but there is a cleanliness to portions of the song that is largely absent from the preceding tracks; the more measured black/death sound that opens the track eventually moves into an outright tranquil passage featuring sad clean guitar. After all the preceding aggression, it’s very impressive how well Park pulls off this melodicism, with a really pleasant yet understated harmonized motif featuring in this sequence; it also sets up the song very well for a sadder, more melodic tone to the subsequent extreme metal that follows.

“Divine Laughter” also has its downtime, but it takes a different form, bookending the song with sinister noise that complements the more malevolent feel of the track’s core. It’s somewhat restrained, but frequently bludgeoning, yet manages to slide naturally into a more uplifting, melodic tone around the halfway mark, almost leaving the album on a triumphant note before the closing ambient noise turning increasingly bleak.

Méndez’s excellent performance brings a whole lot to the table for Cave Sermon, but from a quick glance at the debut album, Park’s writing here has also moved to another level. There’s a whole lot going on here, but Divine Laughter isn’t exhausting or draining, even with all its intensity and brutality. Stylistically, it’s borderline impossible to pigeonhole, and that creativity merged with accomplished songcraft makes for a winning formula for Cave Sermon.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8

Written on 08.02.2024 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 5   Visited by: 119 users
09.02.2024 - 12:32

Charlie Park’s Instagram is being followed by Transcending Obscurity, so guess who TO's next signing will be
09.02.2024 - 12:34
Rating: 8

Written by nikarg on 09.02.2024 at 12:32

Charlie Park’s Instagram is being followed by Transcending Obscurity, so guess who TO's next signing will be

Would be a good fit and a strong addition to the label!
10.02.2024 - 12:53
Rating: 7
A Nice Guy
It's definitely a decent album this, although admittedly, I've struggled to get into it as a whole. Although, the closing title track is by far the highlight for me, it's an absolute beast of a track!
11.02.2024 - 00:02
Rating: 9

This might be my favorite release of 2024 so far. Insane stuff. Thanks for the review.
11.02.2024 - 04:01
Rating: 9
Theory Snob
Thanks for bringing this one to my attention, I would've completely missed it without your review!
I'm loving every second of this, from the harsh Warforged blasting to the mysterious space ambient. Not sure how I'd categorise this, maybe post-death?
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