Album Review: Crypt Sermon – The Stygian Rose

Crypt Sermon

Album Review: Crypt Sermon – The Stygian Rose
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Crypt Sermon. The name alone has become a byword for stellar Epic Doom Metal, as early as their first record, so when I saw Crypt Sermon would release The Stygian Rose, their third full length album, for a June 14th window, I was absolutely ecstatic. Formed in 2013 out of Pennsylvania, United States, Crypt Sermon absolutely exploded out of the gate first with a Demo the same year, but the reputation of the band was already established when, in 2015, the band would release Out Of The Garden, a gloriously well received release. The next year the band would share their name amongst others on a Split named Masters Of Metal: Vol. 1, alongside Hellrazor, Riot City and Old Wolf, and then a Single in 2017. But, and I think their finest hour yet, 2019 would give us the incredible follow-up record, The Ruins Of Fading Light. I absolutely adored this record and must have replayed it time and again without losing interest. Now five years on, Crypt Sermon finally return with album number three, The Stygian Rose, yet feature an altered lineup with new Keyboardist Tanner Anderson taking up the post, Frank Chin is now on rhythm guitar, instead of Bass, and Matt Knox returns as Bassist for the first time since 2016, and so also return with a question: Can the band maintain their incredible streak of quality even now? Their third album through Dark Descent Records, The Stygian Rose is out for release June 14th.

With 6 tracks spread across forty-five minutes of runtime, it’s only natural the band’s songwriting takes time to immerse you deeply and, frankly, I’d have been surprised if their track lengths weren’t long. If the band had written conventional tracks that ended before the three minute mark, the impact they’d infer would be considerably reduced. In addition, the band aren’t exactly playing at the fastest tempo either, so they need that extra time to instil atmosphere across to the audience. But it’s not the kind of atmosphere that’s achieved via special instruments or components not regularly featured in a metal record; every instance of feeling and immersion the band captures is derived solely through their own means which ends up narrowing the band’s attack to a sharpened point as opposed to a blockhead arrowhead. I also found the band don’t rest on their established laurels either, for they’ve firmly got you by the collar before the first track, “Glimmers In The Underworld”, is hardly finished with. So, there is no need for trepidation should you be a newcomer to Crypt Sermon. You’re in safe hands and your time will not be wasted.

The vocals are always an integral aspect of any metal release, but Epic Doom certainly elevates the vocal delivery to a rank of esteemed importance. There’s always an idea of how vocals on such a record should sound and Crypt Sermon fulfil that expectation and then some; following in the footsteps of Candlemass, Cirith Ungol etc, these guys aren’t afraid for their vocals to step into the limelight and take centre stage, not so much moving the riffs aside but sharing in that attention, since the vocals possess this alluring but commanding power. They’re not the kind of vocals that will pin you dead against the wall, but you certainly feel their hypnotic allure surround and consume you. I really couldn’t imagine Crypt Sermon without primary vocalist and bassist, Brooke Wilson, for his voice is rich with timbre that pulls you in.

Album Review: Crypt Sermon – The Stygian Rose

I like how Crypt Sermon know they don’t need to have wall-to-wall power happening at every occasion throughout their record, for the audience to feel fully invested in the songwriting’s trajectory. You know what you’re getting, it’s Epic Doom Metal, so it’s going to more grandiose than other metal acts would attempt to be. However, if you look at a track like “Thunder (Perfect Mind)”, it’s fascinating that the band can write and perform a track nearly six minutes long, your engagement thoroughly maintained, and yet the music in question isn’t totally throttling. It’s a piece carrying this sombre, forlorn aesthetic and yet it eases into Crypt Sermon’s vibe without difficulty. It goes to show the band could write a much more melancholic record if they wished, which I think was partly the reason for The Stygian Rose since its undertones are riddled with darker, more malevolent atmospheres in comparison to The Ruins Of Fading Light. It’s by using the quieter periods of the record that enable their caster power to shine forth and stick in your mind much more fervently than had the record merely screamed at you for forty-five minutes straight.

What you’ll find with this record, is it brings out Crypt Sermon’s natural affinity for storytelling. Unlike other Epic Doom records of the band’s ilk, the band don’t overdo the necessity for grand scaled soundscapes and instead save them for when they would make the greatest impact. As mentioned prior, there are numerous sequences throughout the record where the band’s playing is quieter, more nuanced, but the inclusion of such only helps make the band’s powerful moments stand out more prominently. This calmer approach to this style of metal allows audiences to enjoy the full array of what the band have to offer since they’re not being battered over the head with a full flurry of elements. It lets the drums breathe, so all the smaller niceties are picked up, the basslines given room to breathe and the vocals are rising out at you but are performing in their own time. Granted, we’ve got good runtimes for the band to perform their music to, but even then the longer timespans don’t feel totally arduous since the flow of songwriting effectively feels naturalised. We never feel like we’re being forcefully rushed.

In conclusion, as Crypt Sermon close out The Stygian Rose with the album-titled, longest piece they’ve ever written, it’s apparent they didn’t want to recreate their last record. They could have easily followed the coattails of The Ruins Of Fading Light and crafted a carbon copy to capitalise on that success, but they chose not to and went into The Stygian Rose to craft a much darker, foreboding piece than they’ve ever done before. It’s as if the magic has died atmospherically and, like the artwork conveys, we’re left to deal with the corrupted remnants. It may only have six tracks but the sheer amount of material they give you to enjoy is staggering, whether it be through keyboards, drums, riffs, vocals etc there’s a striking maturity wrapped up in their songwriting. The band may have undergone a lineup change since 2019’s last studio album but it hasn’t dulled Crypt Sermon’s capability as a band. The Stygian Rose is an ambitious record that never loses sight of what matters to them: audience engagement and their ability to write long tracks that never feel overbearing. A vast album that never feels too grand for its songwriting to convey across, it’s an opus I’ll be sure to return to many times over. That’s three for three for quality Crypt Sermon records.

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