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Stygian Crown's Rhett Davis: "I wanted Ronnie James Dio. We got Lady Dio instead!"

Interview with Rhett Davis from Stygian Crown
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 18 June 2020, 5:36 AM

This is not one of those cases of out of the dark and into the light. It has that darker picture of doom leading it, yet inside looking in, it is quite compelling, even enlightening to a certain point. Out of the try outs to come with the best possible Doom Metal band, Rhett Davis finally made it happen with the formation of Stygian Crown. It is a name to be heard of in the coming years. With the self-titled out and about, Steinmetal had a chance to catch a glimpse of this wonderful discovery and talk to Mr. Davis about it.

Greetings Rhett, it is a mighty pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been doing sir?

Thank you for having me, been doing well thanks!

Slowly as the lockdown restrictions are lifted, with hopes that there won’t be a second wave incoming, how are things looking up in your area? Can you feel a certain change in the air regarding coming back from the pandemic?

In my area we had an uptick of cases. We didn't see it as predominately as LA County (I live in Orange County – south of LA). The uptick were primarily anti-lockdown protests, and people not social distancing or wearing masks. Now with the civil unrest? Since there is more concern over Economy vs. Health, I personally am not feeling good about our options. I am fortunate that I am working but that could change at any time.

Talking about this pandemic, do you think that it is just a major flu and not something that is beyond, perhaps even a government conspiracy?

No… no tin foil hat here!

I have been tracking Gravehill for some time, but I never thought that you would come up with a brand new Doom Metal band. What was the inspiration to form Stygian Crown? Have you been missing something all these years that you wished to fulfil?

When Morgion failed to play MDF, I decided I'd find people to make another Doom Band. I started in 2013’ and it took on different incarnations but eventually this band came forth from it all. I always wanted to do a band like this for many years, anyone who knows me well knows that this kind of band is my wheelhouse so to speak.

The first thing that hit me while listening to your debut self-titled album, was the sound. Now that is an aspect to fall for right from the get go. Immediately I thought of Candlemass and early Paradise Lost. You guys actually call it “Candlethrower”, which also means a mix with Bolt Thrower. How did the idea for this type of sound generated? Who is the mastermind behind it?

No mastermind. We just wrote the material and started noticing certain riffs and overall tone of the band had this Bolt Thrower persona. Nelson and Andy introduced new amplifiers early on and it just clicked, it had a natural influence. We channelled it and didn’t immediately recognize it. Going forward we plan to enhance it on all writing going forward.

With this type of sound, I thought that I would be listening to an early 90s Death / Doom Metal album in the areas of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, perhaps even early Tiamat. But suddenly I heard a clean, semi operatic, voice. I guess that it was your intention to break the obvious with a clean vocals fronting or it wasn’t actually the original plan?

I wanted Ronnie James Dio. We got Lady Dio instead!

The introduction of your vocalist on this record, Melissa Pinion, is bound to raise some noise within the Metal scene soon enough. Where did you actually find her? How did you know that she is Stygian Crown material?

She is a close friend of a close friend. I met her at a Heaven & Hell record signing years ago. I never knew she was a singer. My wife knew we were looking for someone and she showed me her singing Iron Maiden. I called her immediately. We had recorded all the drums, bass and guitars already so she came in and started adding her vocal ideas. We've been a band ever since.

Signing with Cruz Del Sur Music appeared to be pretty logical, as their appreciation for Epic driven Metal has always been positive. How did this connection form in the first place? What is your opinion of the current promotional procedures done to promote the new album?

We were introduced to them by Bart/Skol Records. He was interested in working with us but handed us to Cruz Del Sur Music instead. It all happened pretty quickly. I think they've done a fantastic job with everything. It’s been great to get so much feedback and hearing from them so often. Reminds me of my time working with Relapse.

What is the unifying lyrical theme that guides the album forward? On which issues, perhaps even through metaphors, does the album put its finger on? How do you feel about those issues?

Our lyrics centre around folklore from different cultures. Egyptian, Greek, Norse… the primary topic is that monster within us. We seem to be the catalyst for all our own issues. I feel like Melissa shines a light on our greatest misgivings and it’s interesting to see that it’s been hundreds of years and we don’t seem to grasp it yet.

What I liked about the songs of the album, is that, as stated, is that there is a difference between them. It is a kind of inconsistency that is actually kind of refreshing, especially within Doom Metal. What can you tell about the developmental stages of the songwriting? How did this sort of madness come through?

We write unconventionally. Melissa will present us vocal ideas over her piano. We then try to translate the piano into a guitar riff. Nelson also has a repertoire of riff ideas that we work with. We rehearse our ideas and make simple demos to hear later. We work on the song till it arranges in a way I'm happy with. We sometimes have a few variations of the song. I try to keep in mind that we don’t repeat ideas or have any rough moments, it all has to flow.

Which elements of the album’s music kept you motivated while the writing and recording process?

I've always been partial to the tone of the amps and the power behind the bass cab and bass drum. The overall power behind that bottom end/low fidelity. Always been a fan of bands who possess that.

Crossing swords with some of the songs, I found “Up From The Depths” to be an eye opener, as if it was an aria out of opera, it surely became a totem, a dramatic turn of events that is not easily forgotten. What is your personal view of the track? What can you tell about its lyrical theme?

"Up From the Depths" is based on the Cerberus in Greek Mythology. The Cerberus is the Gaurdian of Hades who was captured by Hercules, a part of the 12th labor to King Eury's. Melissa’s  lyrics are based on the perspective of The Cerberus, who was humiliated and abused to later be released back to Hades. I personally love the track, has some fun drum parts for me in particular. One part is my tribute to Bill Andrew’s of Death.

“Flametongue” is certainly one of the album's complex tunes. Though it has a measure of catchiness, especially with a strong chorus, it is also somewhat of a challenge to connect the dots. Furthemore, I could feel a fine Saxonish approach. What can you tell regarding the arrangement of this song? What is your view of the vocal performance, which I deem is stellar, on this track?

The second song we wrote in the demo days. We had no singer at the time so we just put all the ideas together in rehearsals. I remember pushing to build up the speed so it’s not just this same slow tempo. I am a sucker for slow, sorrowful doom… but it’s also important to me to shake things up and bring out that Maiden-esque riff/arrangement. Vocal wise when Melissa stepped in she and I went over singers and ideas I had for what the vocals in my head were doing. She basically improved any idea I had 10-fold.

It is possible that it is one of the toughest of questions, yet I have to ask. What is your personal favorite track of them all? Please elaborate on your pick

"Two Coins For The Ferryman". Primarily because it has this hard rock feel, an almost Led Zeppelin type swagger. I never had an opportunity to play a tune quite like that. It’s my favourite for that reason.

Even though there aren’t any shows at the moment, do you consider Stygian Crown to be a live band once all this is over with? If so, have you started planning your next move on the local scene for the end of the year / starting of 2021?

We've been invited and have accepted to play Legions Of Metal, Hell Over Hammasburg, Up The Hammers and Hammer Of Doom Fests. We've played 3 shows locally also. We'd like to be an active live band, just not in the cards at the moment.

Continuing the previous question in a way, have you tried promoting the songs on your own while the lockdown on clubs is still in effect? Perhaps an online show or at least a q&a?

We have a friend with a sound stage and another friend who is a videographer, we are working on the details but our hope is to create a “Live Performance Video". Pro sound, pro video… fully edited. A show but minus the audience.

Talking about the future is a bit tough at the moment, but there is always that overall planning. Where do you see Stygian Crown going in the next few years?

We will begin writing album #2 immediately. We have a lot of ideas and have the time so we hope to record again for a release next year. It's very likely.

With the current state of the US Metal scene, which is mostly being dominated by modern Metal driven bands, do you think that it is ready for a monster like Stygian Crown that shares European styled old school feel in its music?

Selfishly, yeah it'd be great if we saw some love from our own Countryman/women… but I'm very happy to spend most of my efforts in Europe if that's my lot. I'm fine with it.

Rhett, plenty of thanks for this interview. I feel fortunate to get to know the band and I know that I can make it big. Cheers sir

It's been a pleasure to discuss the band with you and I speak for the band when I say we really appreciate the attention and kind words! My best to you, and to all your readers!!! Doom Upon Us All!!


 



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Edited 20 September 2020
 

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