Without insulting too harshly the nigh thirty years of close calls behind it, it’d be fair to suggest that ‘Out of the Garden’ from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania epic heavy/doom metal band Crypt Sermon remains the lead contender in the dethroning of ‘Nightfall’ since release. That level of memorable and moderately inventive traditional doom metal theatricality rarely foams up in earnest from the ever-twitching shores of extreme metal yet members of TrenchRot, Unrest, Daeva and several black metal side projects persist within the line-up of this gloriously adept visage of classic epic doom metal; Now well into their sixth year and second full-length, ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’, Crypt Sermon cast all sigil and scrawl aside with ominously bound tome in hand. Is the not so distant past plainly rose-colored on my part, or has this quintet spent the last four years raising every bar possible? While I don’t doubt my own capacity for delusion in reference to past glories, the growth evident on this second LP from Crypt Sermon is unquestionable. The palette is lurid yet the strokes are pure grace as this newly profane ‘epic’ portends the subversive rites that’d talk ever down to the shrouded cultist and the uncertain follower alike.
Though the greater doom metal population were slow to catch onto the debut album all would eventually join in the years between, warming to it and crystallizing that musical worth in due time. The life beyond initial release surely held fastest within the greater heavy metal press who’d include the Crypt Sermon name in reference to any epic doom metal styled release since without fail and especially with anticipation for ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’. In most every sense this new record isn’t an intended follow up so much as it is a delivery upon the original concept of the band and a reinforcement of purpose through adaptive growth where ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’ finds the band embracing change for the better along the way. The title track is abundantly clear in its farewell statement for the greater piece; There the point of transcendence entails acceptance of all coming doom upon mankind and inspires mastery the self above all else. This is perhaps a loose example of meaning derived from religious mysticism conveyed without the filter of cult and zealotry, hence the common perception that this sort of doom metal band is ‘Christian’. If anything a mockery of lost meaning in modern religion is most clearly presented on “Christ is Dead”, a song detailing the impact of martyrdom upon manifest destiny and secular violence the world over. This should at least breach the tip of the iceberg of meaning packed into ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’ that’d branch beyond themed prose and commentary upon existence towards greater personal fortitude.
Although comparisons to 80’s Candlemass (pre-‘Tales of Creation’), 90’s Solitude Aeternus (especially ‘Through the Darkest Hour’) provide a clear enough ballpark figuring of what Crypt Sermon do, that assessment will appear incredibly shallow to those of us deeply entrenched in the nuances of epic doom metal and the wholly related trip of epic heavy metal. The keystone that’d serve as a great shining marvel among the already glistening gold of Crypt Sermon‘s performances is surely that of Brooks Wilson (Trenchrot, Unrest) who’d temper and hone his range to include Mustaine (“The Snake Handler”) styled hooks, ‘Dehumanizer’ era Ronnie James Dio-worthy melodies (“Beneath the Torchfire Glare”, “Christ is Dead”), and Quorthon ready chorales all ring on through true heavy metal halls and yet avoid any truly sticking comparison to those of Messiah Marcolin or any nearby talent. The closer I’d listen the harder it would be to truly accept any real comparison save for Wheel‘s ‘Icarus’ holding some similar treatment of theme and impassioned vocal work. Surely no greater barometer for the aforementioned growth since 2015 is better encapsulated in the first single, “Key of Solomon”, a song that’d have been no less fitting on ‘Out of the Garden’ that also shows Wilson‘s expanded range as well as a tightened sense of (what I’d consider) traditional late 80’s/early 90’s heavy metal songwriting from guitarists Steve Jansson (Daeva, Trenchrot) and James Lipczynski (Ancient Flame, Labyrinthine). Crypt Sermon were world class epic doom metal to begin with and now that all the world is listening they’ve put their best foot forward with ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’.
You’ll likely be halfway through “Our Reverend’s Grave” before stopping to appreciate how righteous a guitar album Crypt Sermon have put together here between at least 6-7 castle-burning, church-storming guitar solos each fittingly performative for these heavier traditional epic heavy/doom metal songs; None of these points of shred are so willingly indulgent that the feeling of the song is ever lost. This is but one of many finer balanced aspects of composition that indicate a study of the masters within. From 80’s heavy rock, sub-genre endorsed epic doom metal, towards the various traits of spiritually thick extreme metal there is a mountain of smaller notes to keep on long internalized references within, and some clearer influences upon, the delivery of ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’.
It all plays gloriously as a dense and highly dramatic classic feeling heavy metal record with a great expansion of Crypt Sermon‘s already worthy epic doom metal operations. So, why wasn’t I on board from the start? That’d be a key point towards expectations set by ‘Out of the Garden’, as I’d felt the Candlemass-esque sound was more or less rescinded in favor of pure epic heavy metal and that the band had moved in a sort of Visigoth styled direction. Closer listening of course set those thoughts afire but the first impression was nowhere near as glorious as the fifth listen when all pieces had clicked into place and some of the greater meaning gleaned. The full listen is yet a bit daunting at around a full hour but roughly five minutes of filler interludes offer no real obstacle for the average doom metal listener. ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’ does exactly what a sophomore release should in moving beyond formative years towards sticking points that’d establish new horizons to explore in the future. Because it was a joy to examine through a microscope and a pleasure to enjoy without a thought I can give a high recommendation for this second Crypt Sermon album. For preview purposes I’d suggest Dark Descent Records have already done the work in providing the gripping hooks of “Key of Solomon” and “Christ is Dead” to start but additionally recommend “The Snake Handler” and “Our Reverend’s Grave” as my personal favorite tracks.
At the master’s table. 4.5/5.0
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