Stygian Crown – Stygian Crown Review

I love me some traditional doom and have since I was a wee metal laddie. I’m also a major fan of Bolt Thrower. Naturally then, when an unknown act described their style as “Candlethrower” and promised a union of Candlemass and Bolt Thrower, the brass knuckles and illegal electro-whip came out and the Steel One made damn sure that promo ended up in his hairy clutches. Stygian Crown is that hurler of wax-based products, and on their self-titled debut they blend a classic doom sound with thick, battle-tank riffage. Add in members of MorgionGravehill, and a classically trained vocalist and this would seem as close to a can’t miss as things get in the promo Hell pit. Still, there are no guarantees in life.

After a short, moody intro, the meat of the Stygian Crown sound crashes down with “Devour the Dead” and it’s effectively heavy and powerful. The core of the construct is that of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus and Melissa Pinion has the pipes for the job, sounding ominous and forlorn in equal parts. At times the riffing shifts from a slow, heavy doom chug into more urgent riffage that harkens back to Realm of Chaos and War Master. This makes for a pleasingly burly, beefy experience, though Melissa’s vocal delivery becomes a bit tedious by song’s end, and that end should come a minute or so earlier than it does. The same pros and cons greet the listener on “Up From the Depths,” though the song itself is superior. The Bolt Thrower-inspired riffage makes a bigger impact when it arrives, and the doom is well executed, epic and powerful. The song reminds me of Solitude Aeturnus’ debut, which is high praise, and this is the best overall example of what Stygian Crown are capable of when everything clicks.

Unfortunately, the album wobbles between effective and less effective examples of their intrinsically appealing style. “Through Divine Rite” is a good epic doom song with a lot of cool moments. Melissa shows more of her range, there’s some emotive and enthralling guitar-work, and a gloomy atmosphere hangs over everything as the song climbs toward epic horizons. However, over the course of its 8 and a half minutes things do get tiresome and by the end, you’re looking for a way out. The same issues are present on “Flametongue” which has good ideas and hooks, but ultimately feels stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,1 and later cut “When Old Gods Die” is just okay despite a hint of Celtic Frost in the mix and some bruising riffage.

At 51:22 the album feels quite long and at times it’s easy to lose track of what song is on, as they tend to bleed together. Melissa Pinion has a good voice but her delivery seems overly limited on much of the material. She suffers from what my friends and I refer to as Katon de Pena Syndrome, named after the infamous Hirax singer who had a tendency to sing one line high and the next low with few shifts in pattern. Melissa isn’t the chronic offender Katon was,2 but her style does become monotonous, especially given the song lengths. The guitar tandem of Nelson Miranda and Andy Hicks bring the doom thunder, throwing bolts, barbells, bears, and branding irons at your head. They come up with a succession of fat doom leads and when they opt for more deathy riffs, the impact is felt and appreciated. That said, the band’s formula still feels like it’s in beta and needs greater refinement. The style offers so much that I love but it just isn’t firing on all cylinders yet. They need more dynamic and tighter writing and better editing to really punch their songs through the human skull, but all the tools are there.

Stygian Crown is a good doom album with flaws. The band’s potential is great and with some tweaks, they could seize a large piece of the doom hinterlands for themselves. I’ll be watching and hoping their enormous potential is fully realized next time. And who knows? With the proper push, candlethrowing could become the next big thing.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 26th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Thank you, J. R.R.
  2. To be clear, I love those early Hirax albums even with the wonky vocals.
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