I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Stygian Oath, "Midnight Flames"
(Stormspell Records, 2022)
Genre: Traditional/Power Metal
9 Tracks, Run Time: 47:04
Stygian Oath, a traditonal/power metal band from Thessaloniki, Greece, has just released its first full-length album, Midnight Flames, through the tried-and-true retro metal specialists at Stormspell Records. I reviewed (and enjoyed) this young band's self-titled debut EP back in 2018, so I was very pleased when the Midnight Flames digital promo landed in my inbox.
In between the release of the EP (recorded as a four-piece) and Midnight Flames, Stygian Oath added a second guitarist to fill out their lineup, now a quintet. Alexandros Kyriatzis joins returning six-stringer Haris Vavalidis, drummer Apostolos Tzatzis, bassist Panos Tsartsalis, and vocalist Akis Daflis. Together, the rejuvenated band has whipped up an impressive set of classy, soaring, melodic metal tunes in the vein of Thundersteel-era Riot, Painkiller-era Judas Priest, and early Helstar. Stormspell's promo materials also namedrop such stalwarts as Malice, Omen, Lizzy Borden, and the mighty Crimson Glory, so if any of the bands being mentioned are up your alley, then Midnight Flames is a no-brainer purchase that will fit right into your daily metal rotation!
This is definitely the kind of stuff that gets your air-guitar going, and I would bet that lots of old-school metal worshippers will gladly line up to swear their Oath of allegiance!
"Raging Skies" gets Midnight Flames off to a nice speedy start. The slick guitar work mixes with Daflis' wailing vocals (ala Halford/James Rivera) and the pummeling, tight-as-a-duck's-ass rhythm work to create a melodic-but-crunchy sound akin to the German stalwarts in Primal Fear. Next up is the anthemic "Finger On The Trigger," which is straight-up Riot worship (mind you, I mean that in the best possible way). The heavy riffing of "Beyond The Grave" (I particularly dig the twin guitar harmonies in the mid-section of this one) and the galloping, Maiden-ish "Broken Mirror" lead into the epic title song, which grinds along at a nice sinister pace and is the highlight of the album so far.
The Priestly "Under The Gun" crashes into the epic "Seven Years Of Death," one of two tracks on the album that crack the six minute mark. The other is the rousing anthem "Onward To Victory," which should have audiences banging their heads, waving their horns and raising their beers in salute if they add it to their live set.
Midnight Flames comes to a stirring close with the all-men-on-ten battle hymn "Holy Warrior," which starts out slow n' moody before finally blasting into a full-on power metal monster.
Overall, Midnight Flames takes all the things I liked about Stygian Oath's first EP and amplifies them. The songs are catchier, the vocals are more powerful, and the riffs are more memorable. 2022 has been somewhat quiet for me so far on the power metal front, but Midnight Flames is definitely a most welcome addition to my playlist.
Summing It Up
Midnight Flames is the sound of a band that's stepped up their game in a major way. Obviously the Stygian Oath boys took advantage of the down time afforded them over the past few years and put it to good use, improving their craft and honing their steel jacketed attack. Even the cover art is a vast improvement over the cartoony imagery seen on the front of their EP. The overall message is that this is a band who's ready for their close-up! I look forward to seeing where this young combo goes from here.
To sample some of Stygian Oath's melodic, metallic wares for yourself, you can keep up with their latest goings-on at their official Bandcamp and Facebook pages, and Midnight Flames CDs can be ordered from Stormspell Records' official store. I have a digital version of Midnight Flames already, but I plan on ordering a CD copy as soon as possible, where it will join the self titled EP on my shelf. Excellent work, fellows. There's not much more I can say about this one, aside from stay cool, stay heavy, and most importantly, support underground metal!
© 2022 Keith Abt