Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2023
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Throwing candles - 74%

gasmask_colostomy, June 28th, 2020

Sometimes, a band comes along with such a preposterous marketing ploy that metalheads feel compelled to check if it’s the real deal. In the case of newly-formed quintet Stygian Crown, the trick lies in the word “Candlethrower”. A portmanteau formed of the legendary names of Candlemass and Bolt Thrower, it can be used as a handy term for the Californians to throw about in order to drum up publicity. Rest assured, however, that “Candlethrower” merely represents a novel way of saying “epic doom with death metal influences” – hardly surprising when your crew contains ex-members of Morgion and Divine Eve, as well as centring round a trio of Gravehill men. Death metal fans may be reluctant to celebrate, however, since decidedly the closest comparisons to Stygian Crown are Solitude Aeturnus and Altar of Oblivion, while Melissa Pinion’s dramatic vocals tilt at Smoulder, Cauchemar, and Greeks Doomocracy.

Stygian Crown rely heavily on the same musical expression as many epic doom metal outfits from those formative years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, as well as modern attempts to further the sound. The holy glory of early Candlemass aside, all the hamstring-clutching intensity of belted choruses and hair-tearing slow riffing is in order, Nelson Miranda and Andy Hicks unafraid to move into mid-paced grooves when 'Trampled Into the Earth' hots up. The scale and velocity on which this debut operates draws distinct parallels to last year’s prime epic doom contender: Crypt Sermon possess just a little more songwriting finesse and deft touch with leads to give Stygian Crown homework for the next outing. As with all doom bands of this magnitude, Pinion takes a masterful central role, reminding strongly of female comrades in Witch Mountain and Smoulder, though acts like these make it increasingly more difficult to draw a line between male- and female-fronted doom.

The whiff of something less classic than Candlemass attends the haunting clean guitar introduction of 'Through Divine Rite', while faint pangs of the Near East chase the expressive chords and guitar solos late on Stygian Crown’s longest track. Marking the band out as casually different, these pleasing sounds accord with lyrical themes of ancient Roman and Egyptian heroes and deities, as well as a direct approach to certain Stygian details on closer 'Two Coins for the Ferryman'. Though Bolt Thrower didn’t exactly contribute tanks to the “Candlethrower” hybrid, elements of more boisterous metal styles emerge as 'When Old Gods Die' gets physical, something that an accommodating production accepts, yet does not especially highlight. Perhaps that gives Stygian Crown enough of an edge to stand out, but these features chalk up only a minor degree of novelty in a sphere dominated by a few outstanding bands.

So, do these newcomers rise the ranks to be called outstanding? In the end, it’s a matter of margins, yet Stygian Crown’s self-reported style doesn’t help matters. Listening to the sticky forward rumble of 'Devour the Dead', one can easily hear the bruising slow riffs growl menacingly at the expense of a rather limited drum range that doesn’t make best use of Rhett Davis’s talents. Couple that with an over-reliance on Pinion’s magnetic qualities during several long songs with too few captivating instrumental ideas, and Stygian Crown appears to plod at times. Certain cuts such as 'Up from the Depths' muster enough excitement to dispel notions of outright mediocrity, though the latter half of songs frequently excites more than the opening half. When attempting epic doom – with or without added deathly crunch – that’s a common pitfall, and it should encourage the quintet to hone some more gripping riffs and structures. At the first attempt, Stygian Crown offer up decent doom in the epic mould, with a few of their own additions.

Originally written for The Metal Observer -