After an impressive demo, Los Angeles’s epic doom juggernaut Stygian Crown is bringing the thunder on a new full-length album. And some high-class retro thunder is what they do indeed bring on their debut for a well-chosen label Cruz Del Sur. This seems to be the year and the season for top shelf female fronted doom. Veteran genre standard bearers Solstice now have a woman at the mic and Scottish Trad Metal Doom juggernaut King Witch just unleashed a serious step forward (from what was already really good) with their Body of Light album. With this release, Stygian Crown will have no problems at all standing shoulder to shoulder on the top shelf and a significant step above the promising pack (including GBVRH, Smoulder & Wasteland Coven) trying to carve some territory.
To call this album strong would be an underestimate. I still can’t wait to clasp ears round the full.wav versions, but the 320mp3 files still carry a serious depth, weight, and wallop sound wise and that stellar sound is put to good use as a vehicle for a set of very well written and cleanly executed songs. “The Hall of Two Truths” provides a suitably ominous and mini-epic wondrous intro and then we’re into the album proper. “Through Divine Right”, “Flametongue” and “Trampled into the Earth” make re-appearances form the previous demo, this time in both more refined and sturdier versions. The song craft here is really ace and you cannot help but be taken back (and one can indeed lose oneself in these songs) to the glory days of Dio-era Sabbath, Candlemass, and Solitude Aeturnus. New songs “Devour the Dead”, “Up From the Depths”, “When Old Gods Die” and “Two Coins for the Ferryman” are also all stamped with what is already becoming an indelible Stygian Crown mark. Quality wise they are right up there with the previously demo’d three songs with just the right amount of expanded breadth and territory on the latter two to avoid too consistent a sound and presentation.
Melissa Pinion’s vocals are a thing to behold on this album …deep, soaring, and impassioned, but performed with iron clad control. The band interestingly comes from mostly a Death/Black/Thrash metal background with guitarist Andy Hicks from Morbid Eclipse and guitarist Nelson Miranda, bassist Jason Thomas and drummer Rhett A. Davis all from Gravehill. The latter has a bit of doom history from the time he spent in Morgion, but despite the more extreme background, the entire band sound like they were born to this style. The riffs are thick, metallic and gloomily melodic, the leads are piercing, wailing and perfectly placed and restrained while underneath it all the rhythm section rumbles like a precision built 50-ton tank. There could conceivably be an argument made that the material here is too spot on and that style wise it is not breaking new epic doom territory in comparison to its predecessors. I’m here to tell you Stygian Crown not only advances and honors the epic doom pioneers before them, but you can feel the worship and love for the genre pervading this material.
If you are an epic doom fan and impatiently awaiting developments from Candlemass, Solsitce, and Sorcerer…lend this an ear you will not regret it – really, really good stuff here. Its is a damn shame that the whole current Covid-19 thing will probably seriously disrupt and chance to see them live for the near future as their last LA area show was great and I’m only expecting things to go onwards and upwards for them from here out!
Album rating: 89/100
Favorite track: Flametongue
Expect release date: June 26th, 2020