Crypt Sermon dig deep to produce their best album yet – The Stygian Rose is dark, emotive, and progressive in ways that highlight the band’s whole repertoire.

Release date: June 14, 2024 | Dark Descent Records | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

From doom to classical heavy metal, Crypt Sermon have been a torch in the musty dungeons of the two genres’ intersection, and even with only two albums before now have established themselves as a formidable force able to challenge the old greats and other newer acts rife with talent alike. The Philly band put out The Ruins of Fading Light in 2019, a masterclass of dark melody and a wonderful expansion on their more epic doom metal sound from 2015’s debut Out of the Garden. Between their last LP and this one, many members have worked on other projects like Daeva, The Silver, and Horrendous, all also greats in their own spaces. What I’m trying to get at is, more than ever, Crypt Sermon and its members have commanded an uncommon amount of talent in the ten-ish years they’ve been around.

And if that wasn’t enough, and apparently it wasn’t, they also recruited Tanner Anderson of the similarly masterful projects Obsequiae and Majesties for keyboards, making Crypt Sermon something of an inverted supergroup. Now they set upon us their third album, The Stygian Rose, a captivating title with evocative art calling forth feelings of danger and adventure with a sole cloaked figure in the foreground, lantern in hand, set to enter the ajar gate into a fiery plain. I haven’t been this enthralled with a single image since I saw Simon Belmont stand in front of the towering demon castle of Dracula breaking through the fog in Super Castlevania IV‘s intro as a kid.

The atmosphere and devotion to theme makes for a lovely time where I can feel something again and let my mind go. The Stygian Rose is replete with moments that bring you back in time, but also beset you with fantastical detours that aren’t anywhere in our known timeline, a transformative endeavor built on the backs of soaring guitar solos, progressive movements, theatrical vocals, and macabre tones. Crypt Sermon played it a bit safe this time, paring their track list down to just six songs adding up to a total of just under 45 minutes, a healthy chunk smaller than their last LP (no complaints though – that shit still rips). This means longer tracks and more time to stew in the bowels of whatever vaguely historical world the band conjure up this time.

Truly, The Stygian Rose is the best of both worlds that the band are known for. Nearly all the atmosphere is dependent on the instrumentation itself. You can ponder the “Scrying Orb” for some ballad-like vocals and slower melodies straight out of the Candlemass playbook. I love the more cogitative guitar tones that set the mood between the more anthemic choruses, making for an awesome lead-in to the final track, but I’ll get to that later. “Glimmers in the Underworld” is the gallop into action for the album, a blasting intro track that really leans into the heavy metal aspects of the sound. The vocals are huge with Brooks Wilson really reaching up high into his raspy register, but produces chills when he dives low for a forlorn croon. Goddamn, this song is great – big ups to both guitarists, Steve Jansson and Frank Chin.

“Thunder (Perfect Mind)” is somewhere in the middle, a mid-tempo comedown from the first song, but still commands a righteous amount of heft and drama. Enrique Sagarnaga knows exactly what to do with his drum kit and when for optimal sound, laying down surgical fills and splashy strikes that accent the hell of the track’s movement. “Down in the Hollow” is a great bass and keys track for Matt Knox and Tanner Anderson to play with respectively. I love the moody intro with moaning synths and ominous percussion, and when the rest of the instruments join in, it’s Knox’s rumbling bass creeping forth through the cracks in the earth that play hero for me.

The biggest piece by far though is the title track, The Stygian Rose‘s 11-minute ender that is a veritable culmination of the band’s career wrapped into one song. Pensive piano intro, big-ass guitars, and some of the best progression work the band has ever done. It’s a larger than life moment that really feels well-earned, a cavalcade of good ideas sequenced one after another that adds up to that adventurous spirit captured on the album cover. I can’t help but assume this would absolutely kill live with the playful vocals and dark tones that permeate the entirety of it. One of the best songs I’ve heard this year.

And just like that, Crypt Sermon have made it look easy going three-for-three on LPs. The Stygian Rose is everything I didn’t know I wanted from the band – in fact, I expected/initially wanted more of an adherence to the heavy metal side that the band leaned into more with The Ruins of Fading Light, but to see them deliver something so well-balanced and astute with all the numerous influences their members pull from felt like a confident statement of quality for them and an assurance that there’s more in the chamber for them. Don’t be surprised when this is topping year-end lists in a few months (fuck, we’re already halfway through the year).

Somehow, someway, Crypt Sermon continue surprising and elevating their sound. I never doubted – it’s always been more of a pleasantly surprised response rather than the sundered doubt of incredulity when it comes to these – but to see a band outdo themselves so consistently on top of establishing themselves outside of this project in others just to come back like ‘y’all thought we were done with this?‘ and smack the lips off my face with a open-hand doomy slap that I’d pay for the privilege to have happen again. The Stygian Rose is a stellar album for the black leather-clad, big hair-having, ambiguously religious heavy/epic doom metal fan in us all.

Band photo by Scott Kinkade, low effort yet still heartfelt meme by me

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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