Crypt Sermon – Arise the Ruins

Monday, 30th September 2019

Dead Rhetoric: What is the band’s outlook on live shows/performances? Do you believe this is a genre that doesn’t extend itself to prolonged touring and that it’s better to be selective and thoughtful on proper excursions with mini-tours or festival appearances?

Sagarnaga: Part of me want to say yes, if only to excuse our lack of live activity, ha! The reality is, we have very busy lives. I have a demanding job that I love, two of my guys work in education at the same school. Something as easy as “can they both take off work at the same time” quickly becomes more difficult to manage. Brooks has children, and that can be a handful for anyone. It’s one of those things where if we are going to do something – and trust me, we would love to be doing more shows at all times and play out forever – it needs to be special.

Whether it’s a tour, a one-off festival appearance, or a secret show, it always has to matter. It should be more than that.

Dead Rhetoric: What have you learned most working at Season of Mist and now Relapse Records that gives you more insight into building things up for Crypt Sermon – or do you try your best to keep what you do with the band separate from your label responsibilities?

Sagarnaga: First and foremost, the biggest asset that a band will have in terms of developing a career- whether it be by themselves or with a label – is the actual band and their dynamic. What that also means is that their greatest enemy will always be the mirror they have to look at when something goes wrong.

What’s very interesting is that over the last few years, whether it be through praise or critique, it’s become clear to me that some people don’t even know what a label actually does- or will blame a label for an artist’s poor decision making when it comes to their career. Did a legendary artist put out a stinker? Guess what, the label probably didn’t want them to write a bad album, either.

I like being as self-reliant as possible when it comes to all of this because I know how hard of a job people at record labels can really have. Whatever I can do to make things easier at Relapse, Dark Descent HQ, or 20 Buck Spin HQ, or beyond, I will always try, and I’m appreciative on the other end of it when bands I work with adopt that mentality too.

It’s hard to answer your question as to what I’ve learned that could directly benefit my band, because consider the following– this is the first Crypt Sermon interview I’ve done myself, and I don’t really like representing my band. I never wanted this to be the “Enrique from Relapse” band. I never want us to have any sort of recognition because of who I am and where I’ve worked. That’s always why I’ve wanted Brooks and Steve to help me with interviews. Ultimately, I think they are the most recognizable parts of this band sonically, and that’s what should matter.

Dead Rhetoric: What fuels your passion for metal – and can you think of a time or two in your life where the music was able to pull you through a difficult situation or period that ended up becoming better in the end?

Sagarnaga: I grew up in South America, in Bolivia. That is a country that demands a very strange way of navigating social life. This is a country that has a 75% indigenous population, and up until recently, the majority of those people were way below the poverty line. Our middle class/blue collar class there is relatively new. It also has a history of being South America’s poorest country. Poverty, the depression that comes from it, the things you see, and how it shapes you, are very different from poverty you see in this country.

I grew up in a society that is heavily Catholic, and if anyone knows anything about Catholicism, it’s that everything you do stems from the notion of “guilt”. This also means that too many people around me grew up with a mentality allowing them to be the shittiest person on the planet, and it would be fine as long as they asked for forgiveness eventually. There’s a palpable hypocrisy in that and well, its not what Jesus would do, is it? This hypocrisy is evident in other ways – it’s the beautiful church cathedrals built on the backs of slaves – these things result in people dealing with a convoluted sense of shame and disdain for our shared past. Social strata is clearly defined by skin color and money there, and has real life consequences – access to clean water, actual living spaces, things like that. Living in a country that poor, you are witness to these gross injustices every day, and they reverberate across aspects of your life as fundamental as your composure, your social circle, and your psyche.

I don’t want to say I had a totally oppressed childhood or anything like that, but I could easily see the affects of the oppressive regimes and the church back home. I always felt this inclination to rebel against it. Sure, we all have a phase like that in our teens, but for me, it turned into something I could express through music. I found a passion for it.

Metal helps me every day. It’s how I make a living. I could not do the job that I do unless I really loved it – that goes for anyone in my office.

If you want to get more into it, everyone who even casually knows me knows that Iron Maiden is my all-time favorite band. Somewhere in Time is the best record they ever made (people can argue with me over that, that’s fine.) I remember specifically when I first heard that record, it was around the time my grandfather was dying. I was still very young, but mature enough to recognize what that entailed and I was able to understand the profound sadness that hits you after the fact. I had a hard time watching my mom going through the motions with that – so I found a lot of solace in this record especially the song “Heaven Can Wait”. It was a key moment in my youth.

Dead Rhetoric: You recently announced a collaboration with Hammerheart Brewing Company for the release of a new ale Nehushtan, featuring label art from Brooks. How did this take place and how do you feel about the extended collaborations that have happened over the past decade in the genre?

Sagarnaga: It’s interesting. I’ll start with the Hammerheart collab. Austin Lunn and Tanner Anderson are very close friends of ours; in fact Tanner wrote the hurdy-gurdy parts you hear in the closing track of our album. Austin has been very vocal about supporting our band. I guess it felt like a no-brainer to work with them for an ale. They struck this deal moreso with Brooks than they did with myself. I am by no means any sort of beer snob – you give me a Miller High Life or a Miller Light, I will be happy guy – but I think these guys and Brooks are genuine beer enthusiasts, and I see the care and craft they put into their product.

I love that more businesses like breweries are finding cool ways to partner up with bands too. Just the other day I was with my friend and we were just sitting at a bar. At one point we realized the jukebox was playing Maiden, Sabbath, Mastadon, High on Fire, etc. The bar had just run out of their stock with some collaborative beer – maybe it was Adroit Theory? In any case, it was weird, we had this moment where we had come to the realization that metal felt the most popular it’s really been in our lifetime. It’s being accepted in normal culture now, not laughed at or talked in hushed tones. You see bands as extreme as Mayhem getting covered on Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. It’s crazy.

Breweries, one likes Hammerheart Brewing Co. or say, TRVE Brewing – these people care about the music too, and it’s cool to see these intersections between them. Metal is here in the now, and it’s relevant again.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe metal will ever get back to a height it achieved in the 1980’s, or will this genre be relegated to an underground status?

Sagarnaga: There’s a lot to consider. Do we want metal to be big, dumb, loud, and brawny? Do we want it to tackle socio-political factors? A cursory look at Facebook will reveal that no one can agree here. When metal was at its apex in the 80’s, even throughout the 90’s and going into nu-metal too, it spoke to a very different makeup of people.

I don’t know how the next big movement will present itself. You have to consider things like “what are relatable issues everyone is struggling with now?” and look beyond metal, to see what form of art can articulate that. I’m not saying that metal isn’t the right tool for it, but time will prove or disprove it. Maybe a new form of expression will come about.

No matter what happens, if it blows up or something else comes out that people fawn over – whether it rap, synthwave, or whatever – I think metal is still here to stay. It will always be necessary because it speaks to that part of you that clenches your fists or gnashes your teeth when you are upset, when you need to find a catharsis. Metal is built to amplify those tendencies, and that is why it will really never go away.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Crypt Sermon over the next year or so to support this release? Are there going to be other projects or albums on the horizon from the band members as well in the offing?

Sagarnaga: I don’t want to give certain things away, because that’s part of the fun, right? Right now, there are three big things on paper. We are playing another record release show in New York, and this one will not get shut down by the cops. It will be at St. Vitus, and we are playing with Visigoth, Magic Circle, and the guys from Sanhedrin. It will be a big party – the renowned Heavy Metal photographer Peter Beste will be present to celebrate his release of the “Defenders of Faith” photobook, which focuses on the Heavy Metal identity through “battle jackets”.

Next year, we are playing the Greek metal festival Up the Hammers, and then the Keep It True Warm Up show in Germany. Maybe there will be more – we’ll see!

It’s also well known that we are in other bands, and those bands will be writing records as well. You will be hearing from us again soon enough. We are restless and we always want to be creative. I know that when I’m not at least thinking about creating, I get anxious and I feel stagnant. We will take steps to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

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