About Me

Interview with Stygian Crown

What happens when we join Candlemass with Bolt Thrower? Candlethrower is born! A term coined by Stygian Crown to describe their sound - an explosive mix of doom and death metal, sprayed by clean female vocals. After a promising demo in 2018, the Los Angeles band releases its self-titled first album, which may well be one of the best of its kind this year. Rhett (drums), Andy (guitars) and Melissa (vocals and keyboard), answered our questions and explained what this Candlethrower sound is all about.

M.I. - Hi! How are you? Thank you for your time to answer our questions!

Melissa - I think the band overall is doing well considering the pandemic - we’re healthy, surviving and looking forward to playing live again.

M.I. - Congratulations for your debut album! It`s great! How has the feedback been so far?

Andy – The feedback has been very positive. I am so happy that people are enjoying this record.
Melissa - The response has been amazing and overwhelmingly positive. That kind of affirmation gives us the motivation to work even harder for our follow-up.

M.I. - Lyrically, what is it about?

Melissa - The lyrics focus on mythology and ancient history. For example, the opening track “Devour the Dead” is a story about Ammit, the Egyptian goddess who devoured the hearts of the impure.

M.I. – What’s the story behind the name and the creation of the band? 

Rhett – I came up with the name to pay respect to 2 old bands I did years ago. MORGION has an album called Cloaked by Ages, CROWNed in Earth and the KEEN OF THE CROW song STYGIAN Black Lotus. I also have a long time admiration to Robert E. Howard. In Cimmerian, the land of Stygia is the land of Serpents. So STYGIAN CROWN or “SERPENT CROWN". 

M.I. - What is the sound of “Candlethrower”, exactly? Was this concept thought from the beginning? When you decided to create the band, was it supposed to have this sound, specifically?

Andy – When Nelson was writing riffs for this record, after the recording of the demo, we realized that the guitar riffs had a Bolt Thrower element to them. The songs would still be epic Doom, but the riffs had some extra punch.

M.I. – Which song are you most proud of? Which one represents better the “Candlethrower”?

Melissa - “Devour the Dead” was jokingly named “Candlethrower” in its earliest incarnation, so I would say that track was the catalyst for our sound. I am most proud of “Through Divine Rite” in terms of vocal composition and performance.
Andy – Up From the Depths.
Rhett – Two Coins for the Ferryman.

M.I. - In your sound, there are many influences that are not doom - Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest ... What other influences are there even more distant but still contribute to your music? What`s the most far-off music from doom you ear?

Melissa - Many traditional metal artists played some role in influencing the doom genre, Dio included. Black Sabbath is a pioneer of that sound. I’d like to think we’re a band who respects our roots, while putting a fresh perspective on doom.
Rhett – Bolt Thrower. But I think everything you mentioned and Melissa mentioned can have “doom" elements without being “doom". 

M.I. - Despite being "cataloged" as a doom metal band, Stygian Crown sounds all very unconventional ... The structure of the songs, their tone, the inclusion of such clean and natural vocals by Melissa ... This is really a doom band / album? Or are you moving away on purpose to explore new things?

Melissa - What’s great about doom is that it is highly versatile. Numerous doom artists on our label, Cruz Del Sur, feature clean vocals - both male and female - and explore a wide range of styles.  In terms of sound, our album strikes a nice balance between seminal groups like Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, while throwing in an aggressive guitar sound that comes from the members’ death metal influences. So yes, this is a doom album - but with a twist.
Rhett – I think we are still figuring out our “sound". All of our songs thus far have been trial and error. I think we'll have a better grasp of ourselves come the 2nd album. 

M.I. - Most of you have been playing for 20 years... What were the biggest differences you felt in metal (especially doom in the US) in these 2 decades?

Rhett – When I was doing MORGION in the 90s we were one in probably 10-15 Doom Bands in the US? In Los Angeles? The only one of our style besides MINDROT. We'd play shows to less than enthusiastic crowds. It just wasn’t a genre people gave a shit about at the time. We spent a lot of years being ignored or casually dismissed. I honestly don’t look back at that time in much fondness. Now there are hundreds of Doom bands just in California alone. 

M.I. - Do you think there is more "love" for the most extreme metal in Europe than in the United States? Are European bands more recognized by their audience?

Rhett – I think people are far more open minded in Europe. There are extreme bands that can make a career from releasing records regularly, play large festivals, see support from their local scene and peers. None of these factors are available or an option in the US. Plus, local scenes are fickle and support by your peers are usually nonexistent. Plus being a band from the Los Angeles area, pay to play is commonplace. 

M.I. - Most of the members are in other bands, namely Gravehill. How do you reconcile?

Rhett – At the moment I'm not pursuing GRAVEHILL, so STYGIAN CROWN has taken priority. I’ve put a lot of years into GRAVEHILL so taking a break is needed for me. But, a few of us have other bands besides also… We just take one goal at a time. Right now, since we can’t play live, STYGIAN CROWN will write our 2nd Record.

M.I. - Having a relationship of several years with a publisher on the part of most of the members of the band, wasn't it easier to maintain it for this new project? Why did you decide to move to Cruz Del Sur Music?

Rhett – CDSR made an offer. Simple as that. I do prefer that each band I’m doing has its own label vs. being on a label with a bunch of different bands. 

M.I. - How is the creative process? Who does what? Does everyone contribute everywhere (lyrics, riffs, etc.)?

Melissa - It’s pretty unorthodox. Sometimes Nelson and Rhett craft rough ideas in the studio and I add lyrics and melodies to them. Sometimes I compose song melodies and lyrics on piano, which are then fleshed out by Nelson and the rest of the band.

M.I. - Your guitar player, Nelson Miranda… That’s a Portuguese name. What’s the connection there?

Rhett – Like Lady Gaga, he's just born this way.

M.I. – United States is constantly in the world news due, somewhat, to the schizophrenic state of how the country are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. On the one hand, we have health authorities trying to contain the pandemic, on the other hand, the government is trying to open the economy, in between there are states being close and others opening. How does that influence the music and the plans you had for this (and next) year?

Melissa - We’re making the best of a very challenging situation. Fortunately, we’ve resumed rehearsals, so I am hopeful this will be the first of several steps toward getting the band - and our lives - back to “normal.” I think we’re all a bit concerned that we are booked for festivals in Europe in fall 2020 and spring 2021 despite the fact that Americans are currently not allowed to travel there.
Andy – I have completely written this year off and am hopeful that some point in 2021 there will be some kind of show again. I really want the US to get this under control so we can travel to the EU again once it is safe for shows. 
Rhett – First time I ever released an album I couldn’t support live. I really have no expectations. I have $1000 In flight credits I can’t use due to postponed tours and fests. I’m doing my best to be positive and I wont waste my time spouting political gripes. I think everyone who has any common sense knows what needs to happen. 

M.I. - How have you been spending time with this pandemic situation? Do you get together? Are you working on new ideas and new songs?

Melissa - I have been creating some “song embryos” and working on my vocal endurance at home. We’ve also resumed rehearsals, which is great!
Andy – We have been rehearsing with masks on and I have been continuing to build guitars. Nelson has been writing riffs.
Rhett – Rehearsing with STYGIAN CROWN, working on music with a few friends for another band I'll debut eventually. Playing PS4. Working from home. Being boring.

M.I. – Do you have plans to go abroad? Any dates for Europe?

Melissa - We’re booked for Hammer of Doom and Hell Over Hammaburg in Germany, as well as Up the Hammers in Greece, but we really have no idea whether it will be safe or even possible for us to play those shows because of travel restrictions.

M.I. - Do you know any Portuguese / Southern European metal band? Is it something you hear?

Rhett – MORGION toured Europe in 2003 and we played Porto Portugal. I honestly only really know the band MOONSPELL, which a few of them came to the gig. The show was outside and it was unbelievably cold. The wind from the ocean was frigid!!! But it was a great gig! My favorite date on that tour for sure!

M.I. - Any last words for our readers in (but not only) Portugal?

Melissa - We look forward to meeting you under much better circumstances!
Andy – Please stay safe and healthy and I hope this record can give you 50 minutes of joy.
Rhett – Thank you for Interview, we appreciate your time and attention to our music! 

For Portuguese version, click here

Interview by Ivan Santos