When STYGIAN CROWN released their self-titled debut, four years ago, I instantly became one the greatest enthusiasts of their music. I knew better than to believe that “Stygian Crown” was the doom/death album that it was supposed to be; I’m not one of those who really fall for catchy genre labels – although the “candlethrower” promotional term used by the band, referring obviously to CANDLEMASS and BOLT THROWER, has been a very inspired one. Not that much untruthful as a matter of fact -we do witness the pompous epic grandeur and some seriously dense low end after all- but from my point of view, it was not the heaviness that should be highlighted. The intention of the band has clearly been the twist of having Melissa Pinion’s voice taking charge over the massive riff bravado. So, the case was about a classical training singer and a bunch of death metal bandmates working together to bring doom to the world. Did it work? Oh yeah, it certainly did! They absolutely NAILED IT, it came out BRILLIANT and solid as a rock!
And VERY promising, too.
Which brings us to “Funeral for a King”. After having been truly impressed by such a fascinating and memorable debut, one that outstood mainly because of the band’s determination to make their own sound, interpretating and paying homage to their biggest influences, I just needed to see how all that would evolve.
Well, I have to say that STYGIAN CROWN made every moment of the long awaiting worthy. Their second album is a BLAST, and if you liked their debut, this one will blow your mind off! If it was “sophomore syndrome” that made the band delay their release trying to bring out the very best of them for this follow-up, then praise it! For their attention to detail and unwillingness to compromise offered us an epic/doom MASTERPIECE in the end.
First of all, I must emphasize the improvement of their sound, as the so-called “wall of sound” reached perfection. Founding trio, Nelson Miranda and Andy Hicks on guitars and Rhett Davis on drums unleash a thunderstorm of pounding heaviness while Eric Bryan, the band’s only new member, does some tremendously good job; you can hear the bass lines like the earthquake tremors coming to wreak havoc. On top of all, as expected, is Melissa Pinion’s astonishing vocal performance. She absolutely shone on the self-titled debut, but on this one, she seizes total control of the songs, offering volume and tone beyond any expectation.
Secondly, there are plenty of surprises in “Funeral for a King” and all of them left me more than satisfied! STYGIAN CROWN didn’t hesitate to express themselves in any way they felt right to do, so we deal with some very interesting ideas as far as songwriting is concerned. There’s NOTHING to miss from the good, old EPIC DOOM sound but there’s A LOT MORE TO EXPECT here!
The album opens with the eponymous song, an instrumental, anthemic intro that leads gloriously to “Bushido”, a true bombardment of power and might – the band’s choice for the first single/lyric video. “Scourge of the Seven Hills” that follows is quite different; a threatening gloom grasps your soul with its slow, crushing riffs, never letting it go, not before it leaves it withered and empty. Then, comes “Let Thy Snares Be Planted” and honestly, NOTHING could be scarier and weirder than this masterfully displayed “cacophony” of high violin notes together with a dark orchestral arrangement; it only lasts a minute but it stands as a notable prelude to “The Bargain”, a track finally recorded by the band after its third revision, to aptly remind us THE DEFINITION of EPIC DOOM metal sound. Unbearably heavy, sentimental and complex, “The Bargain” follows the great US tradition of the genre paying homage to SOLITUDE AETURNUS, CONCILIUM and the like – a GREAT song indeed! “Where the Candle Always Burns” that comes next, can be considered a tribute to the Swedish doom style, as it has all the powerfulness of SORCERER, the majesty of CANDLEMASS and the elegance of AVATARIUM. Another album’s highlight, the ballad “Blood Red Eyes”, was originally a full band composition but ultimately scaled back to include vocals, piano and violin – it strangely brought to my mind ODE AND ELEGY, the chamber folk/doom metal band from New York. “Beauty and Terror” pretty much describes the song by its title – a destructively captivating track; that IS doom at its best! With “Strait of Messina”, STYGIAN CROWN close the album in the mostly fitting way, delivering another opus of massive, devastating sound – EPIC as it can be!
So, let me stop right here. No more words are needed. This is a MUST-HAVE. Period.
“Funeral for a King” will be released on February 23rd by Cruz del Sur on all formats – CD, LP and digital.
Check the discussion about the album in our forum pages.
You can pre order both CD and LP here.