Released: 2016, Deadlight Entertainment
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The debut album from Belgium's Oracles isn't so much an opening salvo for the band as it is a continuation of what much of the lineup started with System Divide. That band - which itself, essentially, was a more palatable extension of frontman Sven de Caluwe's main act Aborted, with melodo-death/goth/industrial tinges and female vocals – fell apart in 2014 just as a second full-length was in the offing when de Caluwe and co-vocalist Miri Milman divorced.
The rest of the band – de Caluwe's Aborted cohorts guitarist Mendel Bij de Leij and drummer Ken Bedene, guitarist Steve Miller and bassist Andrei Aframov - now return under the Oracles moniker with new female vocalist Sanna Salou of Dimlight. And they essentially pick up where things left off with System Divide, though with some distinctive tweaks.
The sound is a fairly similar mix of corrosive death metal fits and blasts, melodic/symphonic metal opulence, winsome vocals from Salou to counter de Caluwe's legendary growls and barks, ample electronic splashes and a hint of nu metal/metalcore – especially on the closing track “We, The Indifferent” - in the occasional breakdowns and low-end rumble. Like System Divide's lone album, 2010's The Conscious Sedation, Miserycorde is slickly produced and far more grand and nuanced than the sheer bludgeon de Caluwe and company usually dole out with Aborted.
Still, Oracles deliver more oomph and viciousness than System Divide did or, say, the similarly constructed Lacuna Coil, and make the likes of Epica or Nightwish seem like the lightweights some would argue they are. Though there is a genuine power ballad here in “Remnants Echo,” a showcase track for Salou where she takes the lead all the way through, much of Miserycorde finds her and de Caluwe serving and volleying in pretty much equal measure over the band's sonic tumult.
de Caluwe obviously handles the more ferocious parts, but that's not always the case. On “S(k)in,” Salou's voice soars over Bedene's stampeding tempo and gets down and dirty with de Caluwe for some mean-ass harmonizing both here and on a feisty beatdown of Marilyn Manson's “The Beautiful People.” And the two work just fine together while in “beauty and the beast mode” throughout, offering a comfortable, though marked contrast without sounding mismatched or contrived.
In overcoming the change in vocalists – and the domestic strife that it resulted from – the name change and a couple year hiatus, Oracles have come back sounding more confident and accomplished. Miserycorde is as intricate as it is, at times, unrelentingly intense and manages to combine all of its ingredients, for the most part, without feeling forced or calculated. This might actually be one case of having a second chance to make a first impression, and Oracles make the most of it here.