So far, the highlight of 2015 when it comes to epic doom metal, surely belongs to Crypt Sermon. What this Philadelphia-based quintet has achieved on their first full length release, “Out Of The Garden”, is nothing but impressive. Metal Squadron got in conctact with guitarist Steve Jansson to get more information on the band and the new album.
I’ve read that you started Crypt Sermon because you wanted to do something similar to Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. Do the status and influence that these two acts have had say most about themselves, or the rest of the bands that have tried their luck playing epic doom metal?
– They are both great bands and that is all completely on them! I do, however, think that this particular niche style is really hard to pull off well because while there are bands floating around that do it, it seems few do it very well. That’s just what I have gathered, at least. If someone knows otherwise and wants to prove me wrong then please do so.
Who came up with the name of the band? What sort of names were you looking at, and what type of identity were you looking to establish with the band name?
– I believe it was James if my memory serves me correctly. We were all brainstorming and the word “crypt” kept coming up because it just sounded so ancient and doomy as silly as that may sound. As far as what we were looking for in the name itself, we just wanted something that was very fitting to our style and sound as well as just simply cool.
You have described the demo you did back in 2013 as “a bunch of guitar riffs loosely roped together”. Still a lot of people loved it. From your own perspective, what were the main strengths of the demo?
– It’s often pretty difficult for me to detach myself and look at things I’m involved in creating objectively. I guess this is where the trite old saying “I’m my own worst critic” comes in. That said, I listen back and hear a clunky, albeit charming demo. I will say that while we were making it that the highlight was hearing the songs with vocals for the very first time. That was really exciting.
Apparently it was hard for you finding a singer, was that because you had a special voice/style in mind, or because your standards were that high?
– A bit of both, actually. Traditional metal and rock singers are few and far between over here and we honestly thought that we would never find anyone to fill the position. I’m sure at some point we would have found someone who could merely get the job done but it was all or nothing for us.
Brooks has a splendid, towering voice, but being fresh when it comes to singing this kind of metal, I guess there must be some potential for improvement in his vocals?
– He’s been working very hard on his voice. You can hear how much he improved from the demo to the album, and that was only in a little over a year’s worth of time. We were working on a newer song a few weeks ago and he sounded better than ever, so yes, he’s definitely still improving.
You have a combined background from various bands playing different styles. Has this influenced the sound of Crypt Sermon, or did you reset everything when you got together to perform epic doom metal?
– I would definitely say that we hit the reset button.
“Temple Doors” is the only song that also featured on your demo. Why did you decide to include this on your first full length release, and even as the opener of the album?
– Well, it worked out that it was the band’s very first song as well as a great opener for the album. In a way, it’s sort of symbolic to us or at least it is to me.
This song was the first many heard from the band, and I guess it’s partly to blame for the fact that people are considering you a Christian band. Do you have a problem with this?
– We are actually incredibly amused by all of this. We get emails almost weekly from people asking about the lyrics and whether or not we are a Christian band. Black Sabbath utilized Christian themes and imagery often, as did Candlemass. I don’t understand how this gets overlooked. Also, if you sit down and actually read the lyrics it’s pretty obvious, especially to songs like “Into the Holy of Holies”.
Trouble was another band often using references and Christian themes, and people are still debating whether or not they’re a Christian band. Do you seriously think it matters for the average music fan in 2015?
– Not so much to me but I can see how it would be an issue for others.
Some bands claim that the music is always number one, while others will say that the lyrics are just as important. What purpose do the lyrics have in Crypt Sermon’s compositions – to reinforce the mood of the songs, or to give the listener some kind of separate story?
– I shouldn’t really speak for Brooks since he is the one who writes all of the lyrics but I can I think that I can safely say all of the above.
Your music is a mix of doom and heavy metal. In your opinion what makes these subgenres of metal so effective when they are blended together?
– I think one could argue that doom is probably the oldest sub-genre of metal.
You have stressed that songwriting in Crypt Sermon is about more than good riffs. What are the ingredients that make a good Crypt Sermon-song?
– I don’t know if there is any particular formula or ingredients to writing a Crypt Sermon song by itself since we all contribute in different ways but I think that the most important thing is to have each and every song be consistent, yet different from one another. A lot of thought went into how the tracks were arranged on “Out of the Garden” so that it was well paced and didn’t feel monotonous. That being said, it goes beyond just having good songs but a cohesive and complete album as well and in order to do that there must be a varied pace and dynamic.
This new album seems to consist of a mix of tracks written by individual members and tracks that were written by more members together. Does this mean that there is no fixed formula for how a Crypt Sermon-song is written?
– That’s right and this is exactly what I was talking about above. We all have our own way of writing songs and that is going to come through.
Looking into the crystal ball, do you think Crypt Sermon is still a band being compared to Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, when…lets say the third album comes out, or do you feel that the frames for what is accepted within this genre are too narrow, so that you might have to break out of them for the sake of your own development?
– I would like to think that we will have really come into our own by that point and we are already starting to branch out a bit in the writing process for newer material. While the frames are seemingly narrow, not a lot of bands are playing this style when you compare it to other sub-genres like death or black metal that are just so saturated with bands. That being said, there is so much uncharted territory that has yet to be explored, I feel.
While various subgenres of doom has had an uprising lately, it’s not exactly “hip” or “in” playing this kind of doom. It also feels that most of the new bands coming through consist of rather experienced musicians. Any thoughts on this matter?
– I’m not certain on the experienced musicians part but yeah, this style is definitely not popular, especially over here in The States where sludge and stoner stuff is all the rage. While I don’t think epic/traditional doom will be the next “thing”, I do think it will get a bit more recognition now that it probably ever has due to the popularity of doom as a whole right now.
Some band once told me that they started playing doom metal, because it was the easiest type of metal to perform. I know that you played guitar live for Vektor, whose music is considered very demanding. As serious musicians, where do you find the challenge in performing doom metal?
– It’s very easy to get really boring when playing this style. When playing a little faster you can rely on urgency and momentum but in doom it requires a lot of nuance and really making sure that everyone is doing their job just right and working together.
“The Will Of The Ancient Call” and “Masters Buquet” were the two latest songs you wrote for the album. I guess they replaced two other numbers, and that it meant you had to write under some kind of pressure. How was this experience for you, and what did you managed With these two songs that you didn’t with the ones you took away?
– I was touring with Vektor at the time, so I was out of commission on my end as far as writing. James told me that he was going to knock out a new song and sure enough, he sent us the demo for “Will of the Ancient Call” and we loved it. Brooks approached us with “Master’s Bouquet” right before I left, so we actually had some time to go over that one briefly which worked out well. These two songs were written because there was a song that none of us were particularly happy with. I remember James and I sitting on the porch and having a beer after practice talking about how much that song would hurt the album if we kept it, so the idea came up to replace it. It worked out great because we actually had re-recorded “Belly of the Whale” for the album but there was not enough room on the album for it, so we scrapped it and I’m really glad that we did. It’s such a weak song compared to the other, in my opinion.