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Stygian Crown : Stygian Crown

The debut from US band Stygian Crown showcases their talent, but disappoints as far as demonstrating their individuality and variety.

Label Cruz Del Sur Music described this album as a 'Candlethrower' - i.e. a combination of Candlemass and Bolt Thrower. No pressure huh, Stygian Crown? On the debut of their full-length, too - very bold.

They certainly do pack a punch though, the Americans! After a quite haunting intro track, the listener's eardrums are assaulted by thunderous riffs and the soaring clean vocals of Melissa Pinion. What struck me after that is that the songs never really seemed to go anywhere though. To be fair, Epic/Traditional Doom is not my favourite to listen to but I like to think I can appreciate it when it's good. Stygian Crown have some real quality in their line-up but it's almost like they've not managed to get the best out of them on their debut.

To me, it sounds more like Stygian Crown are standing on the shoulders of giants with this album, and I don't think comparisons to past greats of both Doom and Death Metal are particularly helpful as I don't think they did a sterling job of representing either genre on 'Stygian Crown'. Their over-reliance on Melissa's vocals is a tad problematic too. I appreciate that Epic/Traditional Doom releases need a powerful vocalist, and Stygian Crown have found one. However, the sounds on this album sound driven by the vocals rather than the traditional push-and-pull approach, and I don't think it works too well. The dependency on Melissa here reminds me a bit of Cellar Darling with Anna, or possibly even Nightwish when Tarja was there. Can there even be a Nightwish of Doom Metal? If so, perhaps Stygian Crown can be classified as such.

I got to 'Through Divine Rite' and for the lack of variety/creativity on this album, I may as well have been listening to just one track throughout. It's all just a bit samey for me, if I can even get away with using that word in a review. The sad part is that you can clearly hear how talented this group is as musicians/vocalists but without the right direction in their songs, it comes across poorly to me. I always go back to Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow as a handy example here - when Dio was on vocal duty. A different style of music, perhaps, but Dio's soaring vocals with the different variety of tracks made the music fantastic to listen to; Stygian Crown could do with learning a lesson or two from them, based upon this release.

The same trends continued throughout the composition, too. It's a shame. I was particularly frustrated when I listened to 'When Old Gods Die' because there was a touch of Black Sabbath's 'underwater' vocals on 'Planet Caravan' on it, which really added something to the track that made me think that it stood out from the rest, bringing a much darker feel to the composition. I enjoyed that brief foray into variety! It was short-lived though. The potential is clearly there, but I didn't find much on this album that made me want to revisit it in the future. I can only hope that Stygian Crown try to push the boat out a bit more with their songwriting on their next album because if they do, it'll be a fantastic listen, I'm sure.

In terms of production, musicianship, and vocals, this album is really very impressive. It's just been played a bit too safe for my liking, and I have to admit that I'm wholly confused by the label's description of what listeners can expect here. There's very little that can be classed as Bolt Thrower-esque on this album, for example, and I doubt Candlemass would release an album like this. It's just the song structures that let the album down, and unfortunately for Stygian Crown, that's a pretty big area to disappoint in. Therefore, it's a low rating from me, and I do so with chagrin because there's obviously talent in this American band. That talent is redundant until it's proven to work as a collective, however.

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Reviewer's rating: 5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Hall Of Two Truths
2. Devour The Dead
3. Up From The Depths
4. Through Divine Rite
5. Flametongue
6. When Old Gods Die
7. Trampled Into The Earth
8. Two Coins For The Ferryman

Duration : Approx. 52 minutes

Visit the Stygian Crown bandpage.

Reviewed on 2022-10-24 by Ian Morrissey
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