CRYPT SERMON "Preaching the Gospel of Doom"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Candlemass is no more and Solitude Aeturnus is heard from so little that they might as well be. Who is left to carry the torch for epic doom metal in this day and age? Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you Crypt Sermon.

The band has emerged from the most unlikely of locations for an epic doom band: the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Not exactly the first name that springs to mind when considering Gothic dirgery in the vein of Candlemass. Yet here they are and I can honestly say no band has ever conjured the spirit of the Swedish masters as well as Crypt Sermon. Their new record "Out of the Garden" is an amazing effort and one of the best true doom records in recent times.

What drove these Philadelphia troubadors to delve into such deep waters? I got the opportunity to ask guitarist Steve Jansson about Crypt Sermon's rise to power and Brother Steve opened the Book of Doom and preached to me...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Crypt Sermon is going to be a new name for a lot of people reading this. Can you bring us up to speed on the history of the band?

STEVE JANSSON: Obviously we play doom metal of the traditional or epic variety. We were all playing in different projects for years. Me and James the guitar player hooked up at a show a while back. We were always acquaintances but we never spent a whole lot of time together. We were hanging out at this show, which was a sludge metal show, we had a few beers and we wound up talking about how doom metal had gotten big in the last couple of years but nobody was doing was doing true doom. Everybody was doing the stoner and sludge shit. We started talking about Candlemass and their style of doom metal and how there weren't many bands working from the template of Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus. That's something we wanted to do and hear more of. That planted the seed that turned into Crypt Sermon.

WC: You nailed that classic doom sound completely. It stands with the bands that you mentioned....

SJ: Oh, wow!

WC:  I was amazed when I found out you were from Philadelphia. I would have thought you were from Italy or Sweden. Is there a doom metal in Philly or are you the lone wolves out there?

SJ: We are the lone wolves out here. We're just a bunch of metal nerds! (laughter) We just noticed nobody was doing this sound. Everybody who comes through Philadelphia is like a stoner band with ten fuckin' amps on stage. You know, I'd like to hear some good songwriting, not just how low you can tune and how many fuckin' amps you have.

WC: You mean you don't wear a trucker hat and wear a beard down to your navel?

SJ: (laughs) No! No neck tattoos, either!

WC: What was it about doom that attracted you to it  in the first place, instead of maybe being in a thrash or death metal band?

SJ: We all fuckin' love thrash. We love everything. Brooks the vocalist and I are in an old school death metal band. I have a kind of speed metal project I'm doing. Before we recorded the album, I was filling in on guitar with the band Vektor. That's definitely something we're into, but we all love heavy metal, especially the doom bands like Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus and Trouble. Doom has the gloom and atmosphere but it still has the metal as well. It's all about writing a great song. with dynamics. I don't know if I'm digressing but those bands I just mentioned are all inspired by the classics like Iron Maiden and Metallica, who could write great songs. I feel that's been lost with a lot of different styles of metal recently.

WC: Crypt Sermon is a doom metal but it's not "funeral" doom metal. The pace is aggressive in some spots and there's also a galloping rhythm to some of it. It's not just slow all the time. And another thing that struck me is that the music is epic, but we don't have fifteen and 20 minute songs, which seem to be the norm in doom.

SJ:  Like I said before, I think people are more focused on the doom than the metal. This might be a long year, but what I'm observing now is that doom has reached the point where death metal once was. But instead of how fast you can play, now it's how fucking slow can you play. (laughs) I think that has about ran its course.

WC: I recently heard a band that had two songs on their record. One was 40 minutes long, the other was 30 minutes long. I had to review it as tongue in cheek. You can't take stuff like that serious anymore. It's like ten minutes before they even get to a riff!

SJ: That's the whole thing. It's getting to be real gimmicky. A lot of bands will say, yeah, man, we worship the riff! Well, if you worship the riff, why don't you fuckin' play one? (laughs)

WC: I didn't get a lyric sheet with the album and looked at the cover and the song titles. The band seems to have a religious aura to it. I don't think you're an actual religious band but how would you describe the lyrical focus?

SJ: Well, Brooks our singer write all the lyrics. There are definitely some huge religious undertones. There are biblical stories but there are some inversions and different perspectives on those stories. I don't want to speak for Brooks, but there's also some personal things going on in his lyrics.. It makes for great content, taking these huge stories and themes and personalizing them. What we do sonically as a doom metal band fits the atmosphere of those lyrics.

WC: A lot of it seems to deal with life after death and redemption.

SJ:  Brooks has talked about his lyrics with me before. He's a really smart dude, he knows a lot of history and philosophy and he puts his own personal bend on it.

WC: A feeling I get when I listen to Crypt Sermon is a lot like the feeling I get listening to Candlemass. It almost seems to belong to an ancient time. Even though it's electric and metal, it seems to take you back to an older age. Is there a resistance to modern times in what you're trying to do and the atmosphere you're trying to create?

SJ: That's a really interesting question. I don't know if we're really resisting anything, but I know that bands like Candlemass are very classically influenced in their sound. They have a resemblance to classical music. There's something so grandiose and powerful about that sound...that dynamic just hits us. We like a lot of contemporary music, too, especially old school death metal, but what hits us the most is the dynamic of epic doom metal. Something like "Master of Puppets", which people have heard time after time. That was a very contemporary record for its time, but there were a lot of cool interludes and things that were very well thought out. We like that kind of feel and we also enjoy hearing where the song is going to take us as opposed to just hearing brutal shit. I like to hear a song take me somewhere, I like to feel different things when I listen to a song.

WC: When I reviewed "Out of the Garden", I said it sounds like something you should listen to in a cathedral.

SJ: That's great, that's totally what we wanted. I know James in particular is really into cinematic sounds. We're going to try to do more of that as we go along. We're still a new band., we've haven't been together so long as a full band so we're still gelling and learning. With this album, we just locked in on the sound we wanted. Now we're going to see what we can add to it.

WC: So much of doom metal today revolves around goats, pentagrams, skulls, hippie that old hat to you or are you a big fan of that?

SJ: I'm a firm believer that I'm pretty fair-minded and diplomatic as a listener. Even if there's stuff like that, there are a select few that are good at it, but most of it is shit. Yeah, I think a lot of that is a gimmick and it's old hat like you said and I'm really tired of seeing it around.

WC: Before four years ago, you didn't have all these 70's inspired rock bands with female singers and occult image. Now you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of them.

SJ: Yeah, no doubt,

WC: When you listen to Crypt Sermon, there are some obvious influences apparent. But what are some of the less obvious influences on your sound?

SJ: As far as stuff that we listen to on our own, we all listen to different things that may not influence us directly. Stuff like ambient music and 70's music. As a guitarist, I'm into a lot of different guitar players. I think I bring some of those diverse influences into my writing.

WC: Any sort of prog rock influence? A lot of times, prog seems to be a cousin to doom metal.

SJ: Yeah, we are definitely into that. I'll elect Brooks as the resident prog rock guy in the band. He is heavy into 70's stuff. ...shit like King Crimson and Yes. I was actually just listening to Camel the other day! (laughs) So yeah, that's definitely something that might interest us.

WC: Do you guys play live?

SJ: We do play live...we actually do! (chuckles) The last show we played was in Baltimore with The Skull, that was pretty awesome. They were great. Eric Wagner sounded amazing. He was doing all the songs while smoking and drinking up a storm! I couldn't believe it! (laughs)

WC: I saw Eric a couple of times at the Days of the Doomed festival in Milwaukee, mostly with his band Blackfinger. He was rarely seen without a drink or a cigarette, but his voice was as unique as it ever was.

SJ: Yeah, he killed it. It was a good show, we were really glad to be on that. It was a great show for us.

WC: Do you have any idea of how Crypt Sermon will evolve in the future?

SJ: We're all really proud of "Out of the Garden", it turned out much better than it actually should have concerning the circumstances. We kind of rushed into it. But listening to it now and listening to Brooks' singing...he had actually never done much clean rock singing prior to this record. He is still developing. Also, listening to the songs James and I put together, the later ones just got better and better. I'm really excited to hear what the next one will sound like. We're gonna do our best to not force anything. We can't beat Candlemass...we want to keep them as a template but we want to evolve and make our own thing out of it, too. Without getting obnoxious about it, if you know what I mean! (chuckles)

WC: You had the good sense to use a keyboard sound in the album. Especially the big church organ. Could you see that becoming a larger part of your sound?

SJ: I think it's just gonna be a lot more of everything. The heavy parts are gonna be heavier, the epic parts are gonna be more dense. We're going to do what we do but we're just going to do more of what we do. Adding the keyboard and synth stuff at the end of the record was a lot of fun for us. We were all sitting there and had our own ideas for different parts. We'd be listening back and say "it would be cool if we put this here!" It's all pretty organic, how it works. A lot of things got added on at the very end and it all seemed to work out.

WC: What's the story behind the beautiful cover art on "Out of the Garden"? Is that something you chose personally or did the label do it?

SJ:  I'll tell you what. Brooks is a fine artist with a degree in art. He did the cover art for our death metal band Trench Rot.  We had other artists ask to do our cover art for guy in particular was a great artist...and we were really into it, but then Brooks said, "Could you guys let me try my hand at doing a cover for this?" Sure, man, go for it. He said, if you don't like it, we won't use it but I just wanna try. Sure enough, he spent some time on it. One night I got a text message from it and it was images he had done. He had two covers he'd drawn. They were both beautiful. But as soon as we saw the one that finally made the cut, we know he nailed what the record sounded like and made it visual. He had a clear vision of what we all wanted.

WC: When I first saw it, I thought immediately of "Ancient Dreams" by Candlemass.

SJ: Yeah, I think that was totally his template. He wanted people to know what kind of band you are going to hear when you see the album art. I miss the days when you'd go buy an album after looking at the cover art. "Man, this looks fucking cool!" I hope a kid buys it thinking it is going to sound a certain way and then it sounds exactly that way.

WC: That's how I used to do it. I used to go by the image on the cover or the song titles. The cover on your album evoked that mood pretty well.

SJ: That's great!

WC: If you could have dinner with any three people from history, who would they be?

SJ: Oh fuck! (laughs) That's an overwhelming one! Let me think! I think having dinner with Ronnie James Dio would be pretty cool! (laughs)

WC: That it would!

SJ: I will keep it in the realms of metal. I'd like to have a guy like Dio, maybe add in Steve Harris and maybe Quorthon.

WC: What's the last CD you bought just because you wanted to get it?

SJ: I just bought a shitload of records. I'll tell you one I really liked was the last Portrait album. I thought that was a really cool heavy metal record. As for as older stuff, I've been on quite a big Scorpions kick lately. Most recently I've been listening to "Taken By Force".

WC: Has there ever been a Spinal Tap moment where things went wrong that you could share with the readers?

 SJ: There's definitely been some. Wheels are turning, wheels are turning. I can think of annoying things that happened to us in live settings, but I'm trying to think of one that's so fucking stupid, it's Spinal Tap. I have fallen on stage during a show. Once I did it not once but twice when we were playing a basement show. I was trying to look cool but I wound up tripping over something and fell over my pedalboards. I managed to get up from that but then I fell back into the bass player! (laughs). He almost knocked over my amp! That was pretty humiliating!

WC: Any last words to wrap it all up?

SJ: If anybody comes to our shows, we all like it when people give us beer! Nachos and burritos are good, too!