Dark Sermon hails from the legendary death metal wastelands of Tampa, home to collectives such as Morbid Angel, Obituary and Hate Eternal. Ready to raise the flag for a whole new generation of metalheads, Dark Sermon presents songs that will creep you out and then make you want to bang your mortal head into utter oblivion. With their debut album now out on Eone / Good Fight entitled In Tongues, Dark Sermon presents the death metal gospel in their own unique yet devastating way. Here is a recent interview we conducted with front man Johnny Crowder to find out more about their hellish incantations that metal nightmares are made of. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Dark Sermon, and how long the band has been together.
I play the vocals and I have been in the band for about four years. We started in the very beginning of 2009.
Where is your band based out of and what is your overall music scene like there?
Our home venue is in Tampa. We’re all from different cities like Clearwater, Palm Harbor – but we normally play in Tampa. And the scene is a lot less death metal than you would figure, which is weird. Because most people, when they find out we’re from Tampa, they’re like “Whoa! They’re from the national capital of death metal! What’s it like?” Mostly the scene has been overtaken by hardcore, melodic hardcore, metalcore, deathcore, stuff like that.
How did you wind up on EOne and Good Fight?
We shot a music video back in August. And it was just a series of the right people seeing it and showing it to more right people. Carl from Good Fight and Scott from EOne ended up watching our music video in a bar in New York – and I guess they liked it – because they sent us an email the next day asking for more music. Just a series of right people seeing it and everyone showing it to their friends – and they ended up watching it. I think it was on an IPhone or something.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the CD title In Tongues?
I touch a lot on the concept of duality and the lyrics are just like the battle between good and evil, right and wrong. I speak a lot about mental instability like depressions, schizophrenia, suicidal thoughts, stuff like that.
Select two songs in particular from In Tongue and what inspired the lyrical content.
The Tree Of New Life is one of my favorites. It’s about treating death as more of a goal than something to be feared. I’m sort of like defending my right to death – it’s an inborn right of a human to die – and I don’t think it’s something that should be feared. And there’s like such a stigma with it, but I think it’s more of a blessing than most people let off. And Testament is one of my other favorites. And that song is about being tortured as a writer and feeling that no matter what I do, I always end up cranking out like these evil, twisted lyrics – and I can’t really help it, because I’m just called to write it.
The cover art on In Tongues is stunning! Who did the cover art and how much input did you have on it?
The guy who did the art was Eliran Kantor and he’s actually astonishing. He did the cover artwork for Hatebreed and Testament. The cover art concept was derived from track five on the record called Cursed. We kind of took the concept from that cuz the refrain is “The more I struggle, the deeper I sink into the sea of writhing blackness. Their putrid limbs slither around me, I am entangled in their wretched grip.’ We knew before we even contacted Eliran that we wanted a vast sea of snakes – people trying to reach out which ended up being my different selves – like past, present and future. And they were all reaching towards this cold stone pillar which was supposed to represent what the men thought was salvation, but it’s really providing no assistance whatsoever.
Who produced the album and what was it like working with them?
We recording at Audio Hammer Studios with a guy named Eyal Levi and he is a straight up genius. It was definitely our first choice, being able to work with him. It didn’t take nearly as long as we expected it to just because we kind of buckled down. He’s a very efficient worker and he really wanted more of a raw sound than a clean one – and I think it definitely came out the way that we wanted it to.
Have you ever played out here in Los Angeles area or plan to do so?
We have not been over there yet, which really bums me out. But we should be over on the west coast this year.
What could one expect from a live Dark Sermon show?
That’s a heavy question! Expect to get creeped out for sure. We put a lot of effort into our live show. I think the main thing that sells us beyond merch, beyond recordings, beyond what tours we’re on. If you come to a show and see us, I feel like that’s what sells us. It’s just creepy man! Definitely come and see us when we’re over there.
You’re about to go on another tour with Abiotic. Why do you think you guys always wind up on tours together?
We’re both from Florida and we’re both of pretty comparable size. I know that Abiotic is playing the Pre-Fest of the New England Metal and Hardcore Fest and we are playing the last day. The main reason we are on this tour with them is just so we can get the hell up to Massachusetts to play that show. And it was just convenient that we’re both from Florida and we’re both playing.
Are there any strange or scary happenings while out on the road?
Ice is definitely scary anywhere you go in the winter. It wasn’t too bad when we were up North, but in the Midwest, the weather was just horrid. We were driving on this one stretch of road – I think it was in Kansas or Nebraska – there was just a stretch of road that was just semi after semi after truck after car just slipped on the side of the road because of the weather conditions. And we were like freaked out dude! But we made it though, thank God!
If you could open for any band, either now or from the band, who would it be and why?
Wow, that’s a good question dude! There are so many bands racing through my head right now – but I would have to say Slipknot. It would be absolutely incredible. I mean, we played Mayhem this year, we played the Tampa date – but we didn’t play on the same stage as Slipknot and they didn’t watch us. But I’m talking about if we could open a Slipknot show and play on the same stage – dude, I would lose it!
What is the experience like playing a show like Mayhem as opposed to just a regular tour date?
I like the duality, because it keeps you grounded. Like you play in front of 300-400 people – and then you play in front 50 people – and it reminds you to be appreciative of whoever you play in front of, no matter how many people are there.
What would you like a listener to remember the most after hearing your music for the very first time. What would you like to leave them with?
Probably that it’s different and creepy – I think that’s all I’m going for.
Do you have any messages for your fans out here in Southern California who are waiting to see you guys?
Thank you so much to everyone who has pre-ordered the record. Those numbers count more than you think. And please keep an eye out for us – we should be over there soon.
DARK SERMON is: Johnny Crowder (vocals), Austin Good (guitar), Neal Minor (guitar), Austin Chandler (bass), Bryson St. Angelo (drums).
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
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