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A Power/Thrash Classic - 100%

THRASHATTAXE, May 10th, 2012

Stygian’s sole full length album is perhaps one of the greatest of all thrash metal albums. Despite this album being one of my personal favorites, the musicianship mixed with aggression prove that Stygian was interested in making an album that was not afraid to have variety of melodies, harmonies, and heavy riffs. It is a shame that this album did not receive more attention, or rather as much attention as Gary Golwitzer’s other band Wrath, but for a release in 1992, when thrash metal bands began to experiment with groove, death, and altering the traditional styles of the 80s, we should be lucky that this album received the attention that it did. What is seen here is a technical thrash metal band, sometimes even labeled as Power Metal, that not only retained the late '80s thrash metal sound, but pushed the envelope in directions that I do not believe their European thrash counterparts, save Angel Dust, Paradox, and Xentrix, would have gone.

Examining the album from the beginning, we see the first two songs, Planetary Destruction and Behind Death’s Door, providing your run of the mill, basically Bay Area style, thrash metal complete with the aggressive intro, vocal high note, thrash riffs mixed in the verse, and complex guitar solos on behalf of Bob Allen and Mike Delmore. I must say, these guys are talented and seem to work off each other very well, but the real treat arrives in the song, Cremation. In Cremation we hear what begins like another typical thrash metal song, but breaks in the middle to an acoustic guitar part with an electric guitar solo that provides a full range of melody which then erupts into a dual solo that rivals the solos from Victims of Deception, Rust in Peace, and Heresy.

Other examples are seen in the instrumental, Environment Suicide, but most importantly in the song, Preacher and the Politician. This song is easily the best song on the album and Stygian shows how they don’t limit themselves to a consistent key signature or a static degree of aggression. What we have here is a song that will stay strong with the intro and verse riffs and then break into a melodic and harmonized chorus. Combine that with Gary’s vocals and edgy lyrics, as the song deals with religion and politics, and you have a song that proves that metal is one of the only styles of music that can really put forth such a variety of feelings into one song.

I must commend all of the musicians on this album, including drummer Dennis Lesh and bassist James Harris, as without them this album would not have been possible. This album proves that American thrash metal was capable of many things and had many horizons if time and trends did not cause its abrupt dissipation.

What Stygian left us with, however, is something that proves that thrash metal was capable of having more than just dark lyrical content and blandly heavy riffs that could not progress in any direction other than what Metallica and Slayer had already covered 6 years prior. This album was indeed experimental and the remnants of lost bands like Stygian are now seen in Iced Earth, Nocturnal Rites, and Grave Digger.

The thrash genre was indeed a genre of variety and while the popular bands like Testament, Death Angel, Heathen, Exodus, and Onslaught will continue making albums, we only have the one album that Stygian put out, an album that we know will always provide a quality listening experience and coming from a band that will never feel the pressures of a changing time and attitude. While it may be on the shelf, case, or wall of the heavy metal collector, it's albums like these that will always have a special place in our memories, knowing that every time we happen to browse through our collection, we can understand that Planetary Destruction will deliver a performance that is nothing short of energetic, technical, melodic, and unique as a result of its efficiency to do all three while simultaneously retaining their thrash identity.