It has been called the album of the year. Best epic doom release of the decade. A game-changer. Reviewers who were fortunate enough to acquire the album are praising The Ruins of Fading Light even months before the release, creating a sense of impending doom, as the day of the release is upon us. One thing is certain; The Philadelphian quintet created an almost unprecedented ruckus that surrounds their sophomore release, which comes four years after their debut Out of the Garden. This year will go down as the Year of Doom in the metal chronicles, with releases from newer bands like Atlantean Kodex, Capilla Ardiente, Smoulder and now Crypt Sermon outshining those of established bands like the new Candlemass or the latest Isole.
The first thing that will catch the listener’s ear in The Ruins of Fading Light is just how good and memorable the riffs are. Crypt Sermon’s self-awareness of the quality of their guitarwork drove them to construct their songs based on those riffs from the ground up, subtly adding keyboards and clean guitars to enhance the epic feeling on their songs. But this is only the beginning of what’s going on in the album. The Ruins of Fading Light is a grower and each time the listener pushes the replay button they will discover new elements, like how the vocal elements blend with the compositions, or how the instruments are arranged in a way to provide an intoxicating and hazy feeling. The careful and minimalist addition of flutes, chimes, and other folk instruments mainly at the intros of the songs adds a fairytale twist to the assertive doom feeling of the album. Brooks Wilson, vocalist and key figure of Crypt Sermon, provides a storytelling feel to each of the album’s songs, transforming his voice from crisp and hoarse to deep and gruffly according to the tone of the song.
One trophy that I wouldn’t think twice to award Crypt Sermon is that of “The Most Improved Band of 2019.” While Out of the Garden was a very good album overall, in my opinion, lacked that extra “something” that will stand the test of time for the years to come. This is not the case with The Ruins of Fading Light though, mainly because of the multiple levels of brilliant songwriting that unfolds each time you play the album. The songs have become longer and deeper, without the slightest indication of filler or the feeling of dragging or pretentious pushing. Τhe album consists of 7 songs and 3 interludes that serve as “mood changers” for the tracks that follow. The compositions are more powerful and energetic, especially in the vocals and the guitars. The band is cognizant of the great material they have in their hands and worked towards utilizing and perfecting every single song to a level that will undoubtedly set the bar very high for other bands of the genre and Crypt Sermon themselves in the future.
The Philadelphians don’t try to hide their influences, Solitude Aeturnus and early Candlemass being the bands that Crypt Sermon base their music on, but conscientiously and masterfully they don’t fall into the trap of copycatting the masters of epic doom. Instead, Crypt Sermon takes a very careful approach to revitalize the epic doom subgenre, with a fresh yet traditional perspective. Take the closing title track for example, the listener is immediately drawn into this serene and magical place, and as the songs unfold its riffs, it turns into a devastating doom crescendo. Undoubtedly my favorite track of the album and I feel that Brooks Wilson is at the top of his game here. On the other hand, you have songs like “Christ is Dead” and “Beneath the Torchfire Glare” which are slow, heavy and smothering, closer to the traditional doom feeling.
Lyrically, the Ruins of Fading Light deal with the struggles of the individual and the result of turning to higher powers for answers. The strong become weak and the prideful are humbled, while Wilson assumes the role of the medieval doomsayer. From a production standpoint, Arthur Rizk once again does his miracles as he has done so many times in the past with Smoulder, Eternal Champion, Sumerlands and many more, making sure that the listener will be able to absorb each and every note of the album in the way that was meant to be.
The musical pathways among The Ruins of Fading Light are quite complicated and the uninitiated listener could easily get lost there, between the hype and the intricate song patterns. This album is indeed a masterpiece and given how much is going on there and I am sure it will stand the test of time for the years to come. Buy the album, take your time, sip on each riff and vocal melody slowly, and the result will not only entertain you, but when the time comes you will have a classic in your hands.
Album rating: 91/100
Favorite track: The Ruins of Fading Light
Official release date: September 13th, 2019 by Dark Descent Records