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Interview: Steve Jansson from Crypt Sermon

Interview: Steve Jansson from Crypt Sermon

“To this day, Metallica is still my biggest musical influence when it comes to songwriting.”

Philadelphia’s Crypt Sermon perfectly balances tradition with innovation. The group’s epic doom metal approach recalls the classic underground sounds of the 1980s coupled with contemporary sensibilities. There’s something decidedly addictive about the group’s Out of the Garden effort: Heavy riffs and rhythms combine with Brooks Wilson’s unmistakable metal yawp for an unforgettable combination. Guitarist Steve Jansson, on deck to discuss five of his favorite metal records, says that the group was determined to offer listeners something special.

Doom was a starting point, yes, but there had to be more. “We focused on writing good songs rather than joining the pissing contest of playing as loud as humanly possible through boutique amplifiers,” he says. “I’m not say that there aren’t bands who play super loud and aren’t great (Yob is a good example) but I think there’s more substance to our sound than with groups where being loud is the main thing.”

The outfit was also recently invited to cover Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Doom Sathanas” for Decibel’s flexi-disc series. When the magazine’s Albert Mudrian approached the group about contributing to the series, they were keen to perform a cover. “We’re working on our next album and aren’t a band that has a ton of extra material laying around,” Jansson offers. “There were a few potential choices for covers in the hat Thomas Tannenberger of Abigor suggested doing a doom version of the Mayhem track. I kind of laughed at the absurdity of the idea at first but then sat down and started working on some loose arrangements and thought that it actually had the potential to be pretty insane if we pulled it off. We also liked the idea of stepping out of our comfort zone and really push ourselves to explore and do something really unique.”

The secret to transforming the Mayhem classic into a viable Crypt Sermon tune came down to the arrangement. “We completely gutted it,” says Jansson. “The tonality and essence of the original is all still there, though. When listening to both versions, you can still make the connection with the riffing and hear that it is similar just twisted and rearranged to suit our sound.”

This was one case, though, where a metal act was intent on not committing blasphemy. “We all agreed that we would abort if it fell short,” the guitarist says. “It had to have the darkness of the original, that is extremely sacred territory, we all felt strongly about that. I think it’s a cool homage.” Getting some help from Tannenberger on vocals and some additional sounds (plus the mastering process) deepened the sense that the group was on the right track.

Crypt Sermon will enter the studio later this year to work on a new LP and plays on a bill for Decibel’s metal week in April. If the group isn’t too busy hashing out the final details on the new material, Jansson might even find some time to dip back into the classic albums he’s selected as among his favorites for this feature.

1. Ozzy Osbourne: Tribute

This was what started it all for me. I was 12 or 13 years old when I saw a commercial for a best of Ozzy album that was coming out and it struck a nerve. I begged my mom to buy me a tape when we were out at the store and she finally caved. I listened to it non-stop and was particularly fascinated with the guitar playing and like everyone else, my jaw hit the floor when I heard the guitar solo to “Mr. Crowley.” I eventually went out and bought this album, which was and still is just complete magic. I had to play guitar after hearing it and that lead to me begging my mother to get me a guitar/lessons. I have barely put the thing down a day since.

2. Metallica: Ride the Lightning

Surprise, surprise, huh? While Master of Puppets eventually became my go-to, it was Ride the Lightning that I heard first and really, what is not to be said that hasn’t been said already? I was completely overwhelmed by how powerful and bombastic this album is. To this day, Metallica is still my biggest musical influence when it comes to songwriting. I could really go on and on about any of their classic catalog but this was the introduction and I still listen to these albums are always on heavy rotation to this day.

3. Darkthrone: A Blaze in the Northern Sky

I was going to list Bathory’s Under the Sign of the Black Mark and really could have listed any number of the classic Norwegian stuff but decided to go with this one as it is the album that broke the ice with more extreme stuff. I distinctly remember getting this in the mail and then listening to it on repeat in my headphones while cleaning my shithole, teenage bedroom. It totally clicked after about the third or fourth spin and I couldn’t stop banging my head. This album also gets better and better with age, as well. While the production is obviously very raw and harsh, it’s still very balanced and the performances by everyone are actually really well done. There are tons of weird, snaky death metal riffs in the riffs mixed in with the Celtic Frost/ Bathory worship. The drumming is explosive and just totally fucking kills, as well. It’s just such a hungry and rabid sounding album that gets better and better as I age.

4. Jason Becker: Perpetual Burn

When I was a junior or senior in high school I began to fall deep into the whole Shrapnel Records school of guitar playing. It was after getting this album that really made me up my game as a player and I began spending 6 hours a day in my bedroom practicing technique and trying to become “the ultimate shredder.” Jason is from another planet and it’s insane to hear not only how absurd his chops were at such a young age, but how musical as well as out-of-the-box he was. While it is a total shame that ALS stripped him of his ability to physically play guitar, it hasn’t slowed his mind down in the slightest and he clearly doesn’t let his disability get in the way. He remains my guitar hero to this day and this album holds up and stands out from the other releases in the style of that time. My guitar solo in “Into the Holy of Holies” is actually a bit of a nod to Jason.

5. Opeth: Blackwater Park

I remember when this album came out and it just erupted but for very good reason; It is a fucking masterpiece. Blackwater Park broke at the perfect time for me because I was very young, inspired and enthusiastic and the record’s ambition and atmosphere was just what I needed at that time. I can remember me and my bandmates from my very first band driving around and listening to this album over and over just getting completely lost in it. There is a lot to talk about here and I don’t want to write a book but I can credit this album for really opening my mind to checking out other styles of music as well as atmosphere and dynamics. Like the other releases mentioned, it still blows my mind to this day and completely holds up and I’ll often throw this on because I immediately lunge for my guitar to start writing once I’m finished listening.

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