Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden

Recently I've been listening to a lot of Candlemass's Nightfall and a trio of Trouble albums (Psalm 9, The Skull, Run to the Light) so Out of the Garden by Philly's Crypt Sermon dropped into my lap at a most opportune time. Already riding high (literally and figuratively) on trad doom, Crypt Sermon's injection into very regular rotation was almost too much to bear at first.

I was instantly blown away by just how epic Out of the Garden is. And as usual when I love something so much, it quickly becomes hard to write about. It's difficult to critique something as a fan, and especially when it's basically without flaw. But I've been telling everyone who'll listen about it. I even tracked down a guy in a Candlemass shirt at a (thrash) show to tell him about Crypt Sermon.

Over the past couple months the litany of hook-laden melodies (both guitar and vocal based) crop up out of the blue. Sometimes though they just as easily morph into a Candlemass tune, or by extension and song by Below. Not to say Crypt Sermon are as blatant in their Candlemass worship as Below. And as for the references to Solitude Aeturnus, well, that's a band I've yet to check out. But if Crypt Sermon draws inspiration from them, then I need to get on that. Pronto.

The band itself is made up of a team of talented veterans. Vocalist Brooks Wilson (who also painted the extraordinary cover) plays bass in Unrest and Trenchrot which also include lead guitarist Steve Jansson. Rhythm guitarist James Lipczynski is the man behind the amazing Labyrinthine. Bassist Will Mellor is also in Hivelords and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga beats the skins for Ashencult.

But as you can tell from the comparisons already made Crypt Sermon sounds nothing like the members other bands. This is trad-styled doom of the most epic kind. Ominous and dark melodies gracefully weave their way through the stories of times ancient. Times of fealty when monarchies (in the back pocket of the church) meant something. When it was the Christians mercilessly slaughtering in the name of their god. Times you'd expect to hear about by taking a look at the cover and what appears to be a member of the Knights Templar.

Out of the Garden is stacked with layers and atmosphere. Even after dozens of listens it continues to reveal itself. It's clear that the band has taken this quite seriously. There's no skimping on just pounding out some doom.

Neither is there any lack of dynamics. Plodding doom pace, heavy-handed mid-paced, and hearty gallop all have their place, often within the same song. Not to mention Jansson's amazing solo work. They're triumphant and honestly add to the overall songs in a way beyond the purely sonic.

At times, such as the chorus of "Will of the Ancient Call" where it seems to come at the listener from all sides, like in the thick of battle without feeling chaotic. And on the title track where they come together in a wave of clashing sounds then spread out and lock into a doomy groove.

The best aspect of Out of the Garden is how moving it is. Wilson's vocals have a lot to do with that. He's simply amazing and what's scary is that he's actively trying to get better. Might we have another Messiah Marcolin on our hands? Wilson (and the rest) really shine on what has cemented itself as my favourite track, "The Master's Bouquet". It features a wickedly dreadful riff that carries death on its back and a terrible vengeance. It's a simple enough story that I won't ruin but Wilson sells it so, so well moving between gorgeous and gritty.

I've no doubt Out of the Garden is going to be fighting for a spot near the top of my year end list for 2015. I'm still working my way back through the 80s and 90s for traditional doom to love and Crypt Sermon have definitely sparked that search. There's only so much funeral or stoner doom to take in so something like this spreads the melancholy around in a different way. The melody, the grit, the solos and Sagarnaga's underappreciated percussion coalesce into a trad doom album that nears perfection. It's too early to label it a classic but that's just a matter of time.

Released February 24, 2015 on Dark Descent Records.

Crypt Sermon on Facebook

Out of the Garden on Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars

Sludgy is as sludgy does, sir! That's the kind of straight backed reaction Poisoned Altars, the newest from Lord Dying will give you. There's nothing sloppy or undisciplined about it. The mission is to pound the listener's will into oblivion under a barrage of chugging rhythms, dangerously heavy riffs and venomous vocals. Mission accomplished.

The Portland group continues on from Summon the Faceless without a hint of a sophomore jinx. They've just honed the edge of their deadly, hammering sludge. The dirty tone and gruff vocals keep it rooted in the filth with fiery runs and galloping guitars emerging from the muck. The resulted blend of down-tuned force and massive riffs makes Lord Dying one of those bands that end up sounding like the energy they put into the tunes.

Their thrash is handled in the same way as High on Fire. It's not all about unbridled speed or flashy solos but you know they'd like nothing better than to see a thousands fists in the hair as waves of hair banged furiously along to their wicked riffery.

On Poisoned Altars you won't hear the band trying to overcomplicate things. Dooming out and steamrolling while remaining dynamic can be achieved with guts and grit and that's what Lord Dying are doing here. They got vigour and dark intent without trying to terrify.

Red Fang's Aaron Beam lends guest vocals to "An Open Sore" and his cleaner voice works well alongside Erik Olson's bullying bite. You can hear a lot of hardcore in Olson's delivery to go along with it's gruff character.

There's isn't a dud to be found on Poisoned Altars. The tone leads to the overwhelming urge to shower, the riffs are epic and profoundly catchy and it's all pulled together by an undeniable groove. They've cemented themselves well in the sludge world, ranging from High on Fire to former tourmates Howl to early Mastodon while bringing in those thrash and stoner flavours a la The Sword.

There's no ill effects to feel from approaching Poisoned Altars. It's got all the muscle and heart of it's predecessor and then some. But it seems more realized and tighter. The guitars are more confident and the attitude is more pissed. High energy sludge with plenty of hardcore edge. Amen.

Released January 27, 2015 on Relapse Records.

Lord Dying on Facebook

Lord Dying on Twitter

Lord Dying on Bandcamp