"Stygian Oath" EP Review
Style: Traditional Heavy Metal
Label: Stormspell Records / Release: Spring 2018
6 Tracks, run time: 27:02
Stygian Oath is a cool new traditional metal band who hails from Thessaloniki, Greece. Their self-titled six-song debut EP (originally released digitally by the band in 2017 under the title Firebreed) has just been released on CD by the old-school metal specialists at Stormspell Records. Stygian Oath formed in 2016 and has opened shows in their homeland for such classic metal legends as Riot (aka "Riot V") and Omen. That alone should give you an idea of the style of music Stygian Oath plays. This is a set of pure, melodic, '80s style heavy metal anthems, chock full of air-guitar-worthy playing and soaring, high pitched vocals. Stygian Oath was a new name to me when I received this EP from Stormspell, but I was very impressed with it from the very first listen, and the disc has been receiving regular spins from me over the past several weeks. Fans of legendary heavyweights like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, as well as cult metal bands like Helstar, Jag Panzer, Lizzy Borden, and Crimson Glory should find something to like about Stygian Oath's potent musical brew.
"Stygian Oath" EP Review
Stygian Oath grabs the listener's attention immediately with the opening number, "Destiny Calls," a galloping call-to-arms anthem in the finest Iron Maiden tradition. Vocalist Akis Daflis' performance brings a young Bruce Dickinson to mind and guitarist Haris Vavalidis shows off his shredding prowess with the high-speed rhythms and solos.
The second track, "Roadkill," is a speedy number with a cool, dirty "rock n roll" feel in its main guitar riff. Daflis toughens up his vocal delivery on this track and you can hear the influence of vintage Judas Priest throughout.
"Malediction" is the heaviest track on the EP thus far. Bassist Panos Tsartsalis and drummer Apostolos Tzotzis lock into a nice sinister rhythm while Daflis hits some of the highest notes thus far on the disc, recalling the meaner moments of the mighty Rob Halford, or perhaps James Rivera (Helstar).
Every good band needs their own theme song. Black Sabbath had "Black Sabbath," Iron Maiden had "Iron Maiden," so of course Stygian Oath has created their own eponymous track. "Stygian Oath" is the longest song on the EP, clocking in at nearly six minutes, and it takes the listener on a journey of rhythmic hills and valleys, starting out at a slow n' doomy tempo before picking up the pace towards the end.
The awkwardly-titled "Mask Becomes Face" (?) features some nice string bending from Vavalidis before settling into a satisfying, head-bangable chunky riff. Once again Daflis pulls off some killer high pitched screams on this one. This guy has got pipes to spare!
The disc comes to a close with the the speedy "Firebreed," which was apparently the EP's title track when the band released it digitally prior to signing with Stormspell. It's a classic, crunchy NWOBHM style burner with a catchy chorus, which ends the EP on a satisfyingly heavy note.
Summing It Up
When I first pressed "play" on Stygian Oath I wasn't sure what to expect from the disc, but it turned out to be quite an impressive "rookie card" release from this young band. Their instrumental and vocal skills are very well developed and their respect and love for the glory days of old-school heavy metal is obvious in every note that they play.
According to the band's Facebook page, Stygian Oath is currently playing more live shows in their home country and they've recently added a second guitarist (Alexandros Papadopoulos) to their lineup. That is good news because everyone knows that classic heavy metal like this truly needs a twin-axe attack to pull it off properly in a live setting!
I'm sure that this EP will continue to receive plenty of play around my house, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on this group's future endeavors. Stygian Oath is a band worth watching and I look forward to hearing what they'll come up with in the future. Nice work, guys.
© 2018 Keith Abt