The Sermon - Volume (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Sermon

Volume (2004)

Alternative Tentacles

Little late getting' in on the retro-rock trend, doncha think, AT?

SF's The Sermon throw their hat into the ring, trying to make a buck at a current trend: MC5-inspired loud rock, where each band is trying to be louder than the last. Every band tries to add their own little twist to be apart from the others, but it really comes down to the songs. The Sermon's twist? Apparently their singer also plays some theremin, but I could not detect it much on the record because it is buried in the wall of noise. Also, The Sermon like to stay more on the punk side of things, with most songs being up tempo. The Sermon has some ex- people contained therein, with members from The Dukes of Hamburg, The Fells, and Mount McKinleys, in case any of you know them `cuz I sure don't.

These guys do sound a hell of a lot like Born in the USA-era MC5, except they kept some bass in their mix, and they add even more fuzz on the vocals and stay away from melody more. To compare them to modern retro-rock outfits, they have the loose swagger and style of Mando Diao without the pop hooks, instead adding the punk speed and gritty vocals of The Hives without being as rigid. Although they are certainly not breaking any new ground, these guys are pretty fuckin' powerful.

This, their debut full length, starts off hard-hitting, as any album of this genre should, with "Time Has Come" a blistering rocker. Second track "Latent Image" features some awesome harmonica, the most intense harmonica I've heard. This song cools down the volume a bit in the verses but is no less passionate, and actually it reminds me a bit of Mando Dio's "Motown Blood", the "groove" part. Harmonica appears on the next song as well, but nowhere else, which disappointed me. The player is not in the band, but maybe singer Mike should pick it up and add it in more songs. "Miss A" was a favorite track of mine, even though it's a bit down tempo (for them at least), it has one of the better melodies of the record and it has some cool "woo's" at the end. "Luzerne County" is a strong track with some audible theremin squeals in the bridge, but the vocals are buried and try to hide the cool dark lyrics recalling a murder. "Surprise" fixes the vocal problem and it is actually kind of melodic and simple, it is one of my favorites.

This album is powerful, but not any more than… well let's say Mando Diao again, a band who vary their songs a lot more and snag you with hooks. The songs on Volume tend to blend one into the next, and I was pretty tired of it by the end. Each song listened to on its own stands up and is pretty damn good, but the wall of sound gets a little stale, sorry to say. I bet they're kick-ass live though.