STYGIAN CROWN - Funeral For A King LP (Black Vinyl)
Stygian Crown

STYGIAN CROWN - Funeral For A King LP (Black Vinyl)

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Check if you like Solitude Aeternus and Candlemass!

I was looking forward to Stygian Crown's sophomore album for a number of reasons, but then was forced to sit on a review for several months. One excuse that I hadn't prepared for relates to the rather knottier style exhibited here than on the debut, which did bulky doom metal with epic and deathly touches. The 4 years between albums seems to have encouraged the Californians to expand their musical repertoire, most distinctly adding atmosphere that comes from supporting instruments such as violin and piano. Those instruments combine with a more varied approach and culminate in 'Blood Red Eyes', a 5 minute ballad of sorrowful violin, eerie ambience, and Melissa Pinion's commanding vocals. Given that they were touted as Candlemass versus Bolt Thrower on the debut, that seems like a big step away from such notions, not that I ever particularly believed in the death metal rumours.

None of this seems enormously risky from my point of view, yet the alterations to the formula have succeeded in doing what I thought the band should do after their debut, namely to make themselves a more valuable niche. The low-down rumble of some the riffing draws a line between Stygian Crown and Crypt Sermon or Smoulder, even while the cult heavy metal references take them further into the true metal underground, plus Pinion's vocals actually have more of a Rob Lowe ring to them than anyone else I can currently think of on the scene. Besides, I massively enjoy the hard-to-explain notion that this music is influenced by death metal yet is very much not doom death. Listen to 'Where the Candle Always Burns' for proper banging riffing that still sticks to doom. Moreover, Funeral for a King just feels a lot more necessary than the debut, with better pacing due to the balance between faster and steadier sections, plus a little added drama from more confident singing and extra textures in the instrumentation. To make a broad example, 'Bushido' is a busy track with plenty of changes and up-tempo parts that the guitarists dominate, then 'Scourge of the Seven Hills' really takes an epic doom route with super moody slow riffing and tolling bells, plus licence for Pinion to add all the vibrato and moans she wants. The album as a whole grows more complicated than simply fast track/slow track, but the elements switching round forms a large part of why it's so palatable, plus being only 44 minutes helps.