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Live Report: Crypt Sermon, Eternal Champion, Sanhedrin Kicked Out of PhilaMOCA, Immediately Moved to Century Bar to Kick Ass

crypt sermon
Crypt Sermon. Photo credit: Tashina Byrd

Everything was perfect: Crypt Sermon would celebrate the release of their latest album The Ruins of Fading Light in a repurposed mausoleum — a literal sermon from a crypt! — in front of a sold out hometown crowd. There was electricity in the air as the local opener Plague Dogs were a few songs into their set when they interrupted their crusty NWOBHM to announce that the cops were shutting down the show.

In the subsequent odd silence, most of the early arrivers felt they were joking. Unfortunately they were not. Allegedly a woman who lives in an apartment across from the venue complained. Despite the PhilaMOCA hosting countless bands over the past several years, the room was quickly cleared by law enforcement.

crypt sermon show

Confusion reigned as metalheads, punks, and other show attendees encamped outside the venue. Everyone seemed bewildered but oddly enough nobody was angry. When it was clear that the show was definitely not going to continue there, Jacqui Powell, singer of locals Witching and slinger of suds at a West Philly watering hole Century Bar, made some calls. She managed to get the bar opened and soon a caravan of fans and musicians hauling whatever amps, cabinets, and drums could be moved with no notice and law enforcement being anything but helpful snaked its way to the corner bar with half the capacity.

This was further proof that although you can’t kill metal, it can definitely be inconvenienced.

crypt sermon show

This review was going to praise Crypt Sermon for putting together such a strong bill on what was their special evening. The events of the day changed the lede, but the not the ability of Sanhedrin to bring the house down even when the original house was literally brought down.

Playing on whatever gear managed to be cobbled together from the PhilaMOCA, the New Yorkers still put on a solid show. The vocals, both Erica Stoltz’s powerful voice and even the backing harmonies, all rang true even from the corner of a bar that was supposed to be closed. When one of Nathan Honor’s cymbals fell over, someone in the crowd leapt to it and fixed it, indicative of the sense of community everyone felt. Sanhedrin’s rousing material is always triumphant but under the circumstances seemed even more so.

Crypt Sermon put themselves on the doom landscape with their Out of the Garden debut. It took four years for the follow-up so a few extra hours and palpable uncertainty before being able to reveal it didn’t seem to phase the band at all. As is typical for record release shows, the band endeavored to play the new album in its entirety. Unfortunately since there was little typical about this show, concessions were made; the last song was cut. Though they were forced to blow through the epic material from the album, it elicited banging from both heads and fists alike.

“The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame)” that leads off the album is a little speedier than Crypt Sermon is known for, more trad metal than doom, with Brooks Wilson’s emotive pipes repeating the chorus enough times to implant it into the heads of the now-packed corner venue. “Key of Solomon,” had a sneaky, shifting rhythm that seemed exotic. “Christ is Dead,” probably the best song the band has penned to date, sees guitarists Steve Jansson and James Lipczynski combining to approximate Tony Iommi at his most iconic.

The band closed with “Beneath the Torchfire Glare,” easily the most conventionally doomy track performed and probably on the entire album. Comparisons to classic Candlemass will be made and they will be accurate. The band’s rhythm section — bassist Frank Chin and Enrique Sagarnaga on drums — gave the song the feeling of a dark funeral procession.

It was obvious even in truncated form that The Ruins of Fading Light is a masterful album. It was a pleasure to see the band unveil it for a crowd that was even more appreciative than normal.

It’s pretty cool to get as tenured a band as Eternal Champion to close your record release show. It helps that EC drummer Arthur Rizk has produced both of their albums (though to be fair it seems easier to name albums he hasn’t produced); regardless, the band’s ability to churn out metal that is simultaneously reverent and relevant was on display.

It was past midnight when they hit the floor (there was no stage) and the room temperature had heated up to triple digits through the bodies packed against one another. Despite this, a pit formed. After all the bands and crowd went through, such a response was perfectly acceptable.

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