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Ancient Empire - Prince of Stygia

Ancient Empire
Prince of Stygia
by Leanne "Metal Maiden" Evans at 19 November 2021, 11:31 PM

Hailing from the Golden State, Californian heavy metallers ANCIENT EMPIRE present their sixth delicious and weighty release, “Priest of Stygia”. The band’s previous releases have cemented science fiction concepts in sound, whereas the latest album opts to tell tales of the sword-wielding fantasy, “Conan the Barbarian”. The beefy tones of these NWOBHM influenced beasts are hard to miss and, equally as difficult to shake off, plunging you to the forefront of conflict and barbarous battlegrounds. The visceral pounding of the pleasing mix of this mid to fast paced eight-track album is a sheer delight, offering stomping slices of heavy metal meets power tones, providing nothing short of headbanging belters, leaving you euphoric and panting for more.

Right from the get-go, the classic 80’s heavy metal feel pounds in “Immortal”, powered by thunderous guitar chugs, anvil-heavy weightiness and pounding drums that ignite the tempo to an incendiary level. ANCIENT EMPIRE have always specialised in big, burly cuts and “Priest of Stygia” is no exception, bringing vigorous, full-frontal, riff centric offerings that the metal gods themselves would gratefully receive. The likes of the galloping “Beyond the North Wind” whacks out the big guns with double-kick drumming, razor-sharp leads, and tasty solos to whet your appetite in preparation for the equally impressive dominance of the title-track. “Priest of Stygia”, which delivers Joe’s gravelly tones in spades, syncopated rhythms enhancing the dramatic thematic, rugged bass tones pumping out abyssal depth, laying next to crisp, clean guitar solos that fuel this gargantuan beast.

Listening to the album, it instrumentally harks back to flashes of NWOBHM titans PRIEST and MAIDEN, with injections of 80’s Power giants VIRGIN STEELE. The addictively melodic “Island of the King” serves up those familiar dual harmonies in a blistering intro that paves the way for a mid-tempo stomper, Joe showcasing exactly why we love his husky tones and again, some tasty solo guitar work that delights the ears and gets you salivating for ANCIENT EMPIRE’s next dish. Crossing the halfway mark, the spectacular “Burn Another Liar” stamps its feet like a petulant toddler, pelting its riffs, pounding with aggressive drum work that gets your blood pumping from this tasty hunk of meat, making way for the chugs of the aggressive intro of “Nine Worlds”: anthemic, aggressive and uncompromising.

The same unyielding dynamic continues in “Every Man My Enemy”, rupturing with raging, spewing drums, flaying with frantic guitar work, a call to arms piece that strikes the warlike tone perfectly, especially with how the bass features to create menacing depth. It’s a stark contrast to the sombre intro of “Alone Against the Savage Hordes”, although, in true ANCIENT EMPIRE style, the track gains momentum very quickly, igniting into another rousing piece to ensure that the listening experience ends on a high. Whilst ANCIENT EMPIRE don’t reinvent the wheel, “Priest of Stygia” is a wholly enjoyable listen that provides the perfect outlet for plenty of headbanging and gets your blood pumping’ it’s melodic, it’s chunky and you need to get your lugholes around it sharpish.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Immortal
2. Beyond the North Wind
3. Priest of Stygia
4. Island of the King
5. Burn Another Liar
6. Nine Worlds
7. Every Man My Enemy
8. Alone Against the Savage Hordes
Joe Liszt – Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Steve Pelletier – Drums
Record Label: Stormspell Records


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