Just two years ago Stygian Crown released their impressive demo and now they’ve released their debut album and they’re already being enlisted for international festivals! This relative success isn’t for nothing. Although it’s still early to tell, it’s pretty clear that Stygian Crown’s self-titled debut is something special and likely to be one of the best traditional heavy metal records of 2020 with its specific brand of crushing epic doom reminiscent of Solitude Aeturnus and Capilla Ardiente. We caught up with Rhett A. Davis for an interview that you can read below!
Hello Rhett, thanks for doing this interview with us! To start, how have you felt about the reception to the album so far as promos go out to journalists and singles go up for fans to hear?
Rhett – I feel very rewarded. I really like what we have done and I really enjoy what this band has to offer. I also get to play a John Bonham size/type Ludwig kit for this and that makes me happy!
You guys refer to your music as “Candlethrower” and talk about mixing in extreme metal influences with more traditional doom. Is this an intentional styling that you have to keep in mind as you songwrite, or was it a more natural development that came from writing decades of extreme metal and then switching gears?
Rhett – It definitely came naturally. I’ve played Doom for just as many years as I have Death Metal, it all marries into itself, it’s 2nd nature to me. We started to notice how certain riffs had that BOLT THROWER feel and we then just dialed in our tone. Both Andy and Nelson changed up their rigs in the early months and that tone just clicked.
You started the band, and you’re credited with co-writing the lyrics alongside your instrumental duties, but obviously the band has a full lineup. How is the songwriting divided within the band instrumentally? How about vocally- does Melissa write her vocal lines, do you, or is it a mix?
Rhett – Songwriting is primarily under Nelson and Melissa, technically. Either Nelson will have a riff idea or Melissa wrote a vocal demo on her piano. She has the words/concepts in mind and plays the piano underneath so we can figure out the chord progressions. Its unconventional how we do it. In the end I help with arrangement and after jamming we decide if we keep it or drop parts, re-write riffs, alter it if the vocals need more range. So on and so forth. Basically it is a group effort so there isn’t one specific “songwriter”. I do prefer Melissa doing the lyrics and I completely follow her lead.
Stygian Crown has doubled down on the unconventional blending of death metal and classic doom by having Equitant do your logo and Chris Kiesling your art. Does any thought go into balancing fanbases when aesthetics are decided, or is it as simple as just picking who you want to work with?
Rhett – I go with who I feel conveys the image best. I never stopped to consider if I needed to pick people from within a specific community? Equitant has done 2 of my favorite logos: DIVINE EVE & MORGION. So when he said he’s doing band logos again I jumped at the chance. My only point of reference was the Celtic Frost Logo from TO MEGA THERION. As far as Misanthropic, I really admire his art. I really have not seen anything from him that I didn’t admire. His end product could not have been more appropriate. It conveys exactly what you hear.
How did you guys get in touch with Enrico and Cruz del Sur, and what made you decide to go with him rather than Dark Descent Records, who handles all of the Gravehill stuff and has released doom from bands like Crypt Sermon and Solstice before?
Rhett – Tom of WHILE HEAVEN WEPT contacted me through another label interested in us. It was weird turn of events. SKOL records contacted us and in the middle of negotiating, he handed us over to Tom & Enrico and felt we would get more from them. Easily the most stand up moment I’ve ever experienced in 30 years of making music! Matt/DD and I discussed it but he didn’t want to take on another band. I really prefer having my music represented by different entities anyway. That separation is good in my opinion.
Where do the band’s lyrics come from? Is there ever conflict in making sure everyone is happy with the lyrics and lyrical themes?
Rhett – Melissa did the lion share of the lyrics. She has an interest in legends/myths, creatures, etc… Folklore from different cultures. Being that I love all of that I just sat back and she just ran with it. I really prefer her words over any I wrote. The Two Coins for the Ferryman Lyrics are some of the best lyrics I’ve ever read.
Are you guys into any other heavy or doom metal bands that blend their influences in the unconventional way that you do?
Rhett – This is what I listened to today thus far. Corrosion of Conformity – Wiseblood, Infernal Majesty – None Shall Defy, Motley Crue – Self Titled (Yes, the John Corabi record), Cathedral – Soul Sacrifice EP and Oingo Boingo – Dead Mans Party. I’m definitely open to the unconventional, just haven’t been introduced to any from the “doom” community.
A lot of the band is involved in various other groups, both locally and as live members of bands that aren’t based out of California. How does everyone balance their commitment to Stygian Crown with other bands, particularly shared ones? Does sharing a lineup ever mean taking away time that used to be Gravehill’s?
Rhett – Yes absolutely. Tours and Recordings tend to get in the way. We have to put one band on hold while rehearsing with another. After GRAVEHILL completed a Tour with IMPIETY our last record was out for a year at that point. I just decided. GRAVEHILL is on holiday till we finish the STYGIAN CROWN demo. Once that was completed we started playing locally then eventually a record deal. We finished writing and then back into the studio to record an album. I just decided recently that I’m going to keep GRAVEHILL on hold indefinitely. I like the momentum that SC is having. I’m really in no rush, maybe after SC does our 2nd album? Considering I have gigs with both DIVINE EVE and SC that have been postponed. My 2021’ is full. Keeping in mind that we all have full time jobs, spouses, families. Music has it’s due time. But I do like that I have many outlets.
Doom has been a part of your life for a very long time now, but it’s been nearly fifteen years since your last death/doom release. What made now the right time to come back to playing slow?
Rhett – The failed MDF appearance for MORGION in 2013’ influenced it. I had always wanted to do a band like SC forever and a day. It just took me a long time to get the right line up. Turns out 2 of them I had standing in front of me in GRAVEHILL. Andy was a very welcome addition (his other band MORBID ECLIPSE are awesome), Melissa was the curveball. I never expected to find a singer let alone one of her talent. I think this band just has the right people at the right time.
When did you first discover doom metal?
Rhett – I didn’t know it at the time but when I heard WE SOLD OUR SOULS FOR ROCK’N’ROLL. My older sister’s boyfriend David at the time. He introduced me to BLACK SABBATH, RUSH, LED ZEPPELIN, DIO, etc… he had a big influence on me as a kid. He also admired drummers, which rubbed off on me too. I think that album and EPICUS DOOMICUS METALICUS had the biggest impact on me from a kid to a teenager to a young adult. I grew up in the 80s Thrash Era, but loved BLACK SABBATH as much as I did SLAYER or VENOM.
The only guest slot on the album was by Mark from The Eternal. How did you end up in touch with him, and how did he come to play on the album? What does that contribution mean to you?
Rhett – I made a demand that he has to play something on the record if he mixed & mastered it. Mark and I have been friends since my MORGION days. We are “tight bro’s from way back…”. After we did the demo he basically demanded to mix our album (which we didn’t even have at the time, so his confidence was contagious…). Which was funny to me also because I would of begged him to do it! It’s safe to say we both are good friends but we also admire each other’s music quite a bit. Mark is a genius imo.
How do you feel about Los Angeles’ heavy metal and doom scene? Does it even matter in the grand scheme of things when you can easily just play mixed bills?
Rhett – I swear I never would of thought that a mixed bill was a good thing? In my salad days in MORGION if we were on a bill with a Death Metal band. It’d be such a shitty gig for us. Trust me, lived it. Imagine MORGION playing Hollywood with SUFFOCATION? Packed house, everybody couldn’t wait for us to end. At this point in time SC has only played 3 shows locally. All of which were “doom” touring bands. We haven’t had much opportunity to play with more local bands unfortunately. I know a few I’d very much like to play with. Trapped in Burning Machinery, Destroy Judas, Behold! The Monolith. I’d also like to play with non-dom bands like Destroyed in Seconds, Draconian Oracle, Divine Eve.
Do you have anything else you’d like to talk about or promote?
Rhett – Thank you for the interview, I enjoyed it very much. Cheers!