Well, 2024 is now fully ensconced, and what better way to welcome in the new year with a new round of our popular Metal Origins series? To kick off, we have not one, not two, but three sets of recollections as Stygian Crown‘s bassist Eric Ryan, guitarist Andy Hicks and drummer Rhett A. Davis take us through their formative years in the wonderful and frightening world of heavy metal!
Welcome to Sentinel Daily, and the first in our latest round of Metal Origins chats! Without further ado, let’s get amongst the questions… Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slipknot are often referenced these days as ‘gateway’ metal bands, but who would you say yours was, and what album or songs really got your knees trembling initially?
ER: “I always wish I had a more interesting band to say but for me it was for sure Metallica. I was in sixth grade and a kid brought S&M to class. I specifically remember No Leaf Clover, still think that’s a good one all things considered. But soon after that it was thrash. Thrash always seems like the logical gateway to me, there’s a flavour for everyone”.
AH: “When I was young my dad introduced me to Black Sabbath. The first time I heard Tony Iommi play those opening chords of Iron Man I was changed. It made me buy a black SG and start learning how to play heavy metal”.
RD: “Thank you for the welcome, glad to participate! My gateway band was Mötley Crüe. Too Fast for Love. I’m a child of the eighties, my most impressionable era was eighties heavy metal. I have an older sister by seven years, her and her boyfriend introduced me to Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Dio, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, et cetera. My childhood friend had all his brother’s Iron Maiden records, so he and I began our journey around 1982-83. Too Fast for Love and especially Tommy Lee were my gateway into both metal and drums.
Was it love at first hear for you and heavy metal/ Or did it take a while to insinuate itself into your very being?
ER: “I took to it pretty immediately. I’d never been huge on any particular music prior, but once metal came into the picture it became one of the most important things in my life”.
AH: I was immediately in love with traditional heavy metal and doom. The more extreme stuff took some time to grow on me but now I listen to everything”.
RD: “Oh yes, very much! I remember seeing MTV the day it aired, I’m very much raised on MTV. Back when it played music. (I know, I’m that old!) In that era of time, I remember synth-pop, pop-rock, and heavy metal were the “in music”. Duran Duran to The Police to Ozzy. I still am fond of all those genres, but metal had far more impact!”
Were you considered odd amongst your peer group for liking metal or were you part of a group all starting your musical journey at the same time?
ER: “My friends were mostly skaters and punks, and a few older metalheads. I don’t think I’d say I felt like an outcast for any particular reason, but I had a hard time relating to people so metal was good for that. A common interest in creative yelling makes for strong friendships”.
AH: “None of my friends that I grew up with listened to heavy metal but I found like-minded metal fans at every stage of life. We seem to end up gravitating to one another”.
RD: “No, not at all. In fact, all the kids wore metal shirts. It was the fad at the time. But after a few years, it started its decline. By the time I was in high school it was definitely a division”.
How easy was it for you to find out about metal where you lived? I’m old, and English, so for me there was Kerrang! Magazine and one national radio show a week – Was it similar for you?
ER: “Metalcore was around if you looked for it. I was a teen during that melo-death/metalcore era where everyone wore eyeliner and was probably a sex offender. So that was around. But mostly I just spent lifetimes on Metal-Archives, creating a red yarn board of which thrash band related to which. I was lucky to have the internet, it was a great resource for finding good bands. Bad ones too!”
AH: “My dad introduced me to some traditional stuff, and from there I discovered new bands through word of mouth. Eventually the internet was a big help finding out about bands but it was never very easy”.
RD: “I’m old and American, so MTV was the start. The older sibling, my friends’ older siblings. The older we got we discovered mags like Thrash Metal Magazine, Kerrang!, Metal Forces, et cetera… by the time 89’ rolled around, fanzines were a huge source”.
And how long after first falling in love did it take you to get to a live show? Local bands count, especially if you can remember a bit about the show!
ER: The first show I went to was Ozzfest 2003 I think. I almost don’t count it, I feel like your first club show is your first real show, but that was first. First one I count though was Blind Guardian/Symphony X/Onward at the Key Club in Los Angeles. I was entirely in love with Blind Guardian and they were incredible. Symphony X was their best of the strangely many times I’ve seen them. The Odyssey had just come out and they were getting a hard push. I like that record, all that power metal excess of the early 2000’s makes me wistful. Onward were great too. I think their second album had come out, or was about to, and I remember the first rep of the chorus to The Kindness of Strangers being very cool. Blind Guardian stomped ‘em both but of course they did”.
AH: “My dad took me to see Metallica, which when I was a kid which was my first show. It was part of an outdoor festival in Southern California. I just remember the juxtaposition between them and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which is the band that played after them, and thinking how much more I connected with the metal show”.
RD: “My older sister took me to see Bon Jovi and Cinderella at Irvine Meadows in Irvine, CA, while my friends’ siblings took us to Iron Maiden, Dio, Twisted Sister, et cetera… My first time seeing local bands was seeing Nuclear Assault on my fifteenth birthday, DeAnza Theater Riverside, California. Nuclear Assault were supporting Survive. One of my favourite demos, which the band gave me at that same show, was from Hellrazor. Killer band. Opened so many doors for me also. I didn’t quite fathom Demos, let alone local bands. By the time I made my first demo in 1991, the tape trading world became the norm”.
Was there anything you listened to back then that you now look back on say ‘what was I thinking?’
ER: “I spent a ton of time with the late nineties groove albums from Overkill. There’s some great stuff in there but that’s rough road in bad weather. Still one of my favorite bands though, incredible live”.
AH: “Not really. It’s a journey with a lot of stops. I listened to some stuff that I don’t like anymore but I can appreciate what it did for me back then. And I will never be a gatekeeper and say that a band can’t work for someone. You like what you like”.
RD: (laughing) “Not really. I think maybe my preference has changed to where I listen to far less extreme metal daily. Lately I’ve been listening to Grave Pleasures quite a bit. I’m a big fan of post-punk, especially bands like Christian Death, The Sisters of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim. Not very metal, I know”.
Would the young headbanger version of you be surprised to find out that you ended up in a rather splendid band of your own? Did you immediately want to make the transition from listener to practitioner or did that take a little while?
ER: “I think I knew I’d play metal. About as soon as I got into listening I wanted to make it. My buddy Brett and I started a band as soon as the receipts were printed for our guitars and then figured out how to play. Metal taught me everything. We didn’t have money for lessons or whatever, but learning Metallica and Sabbath riffs will make a good bass player of you. Or the worst one I guess. Depends on which album”.
AH: “I immediately was obsessed with guitar. It’s my whole life now. If I am not playing in Stygian Crown I am building guitars as a Master Builder in the Fender Custom Shop. Last year I built a guitar for Dave Murray and that fact would absolutely blow the mind of a thirteen-year-old me”.
RD: “I definitely wanted to be the one on stage. Once I started playing live around 1991, it is/was an addiction. I don’t think my younger self would be surprised other than meeting musicians I looked up to, them knowing my name. That’s still a bit surreal at times!”
Part of the attraction of rock n’roll, particularly in pre-internet days, was the mystique that surrounded bands and their ‘lifestyles’ Do you think that mystique is gone in 2024? And if so, is that a good thing?
ER: “I think mystique has largely disappeared and been replaced by stagecraft. The bands that once would have been unknowable demons or cryptic geniuses now post about soup and whatnot, so I think there’s an increased appreciation of what a band does on stage. It’s like Kayfabe with pro wrestling. Everybody poops, everybody likes soup. But if you’re good at it you can make people think you’re from hell or something anyway”.
AH: “I never cared about that. I cared about songs and gear and technique but I couldn’t tell you about the lifestyle of any of my favourite artists. It’s probably gone and I think fetishizing celebrity is dying and that’s for the best”.
RD: “Long gone. There is no mystery, it all feels so fabricated and contrived. Don’t get me wrong, I see no reason why anyone far younger than I sees this differently. Time and perspective are a funny thing. I’m sure there are bands that young listeners are enamoured by now. Just as Kiss was to me as a kid. Side note: I remember the day MTV was premiering Lick It Up and waiting all day to see this video so we can finally see what they look like minus the make-up. Afterwards, my friend and I thought “we waited all day to see these four ugly assholes?”(laughs) No offense to anyone, I’m still a Kiss fan, it’s just a funny recollection to tell!”
Can you name five albums that have stayed with you ever since those formative years?
ER: “Candlemass – Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, Fates Warning – The Spectre Within, Kreator – Pleasure to Kill, Overkill – Horrorscope, Voivod – Voivod. I don’t see that Voivod self-titled getting naked about much, and I definitely used to lie and say that I got into them through Killing Technology or Nothingface, but it was that one. It’s not their most Voivod-y by any stretch but it plays like music from the bar band in a cyberpunk movie and young me apparently had lots of time for that. I think of the bridge part to Facing Up pretty often”.
AH: “It might be easier to mention albums that have been on constant rotation since the first time I heard them. Live After Death, Painkiller, An Overdose of Death, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, … For Victory“.
RD: “W.A.S.P. – W.A.S.P., Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind, Mötley Crüe – Too Fast For Love, Black Sabbath – Heaven & Hell and AC/DC – Powerage.
And now here’s your chance to tell us a bit about your upcoming new album – what will readers of Sentinel Daily love about it?
ER: “Funeral for a King will be out on February 23rd on Cruz Del Sur Records! I’m very proud of what my bandmates and I were able to put together, we’ll see you on the road! Thanks for the interview, the support, and being patient with my roiling metal illness”.
AH: “The songwriting is even stronger on this record than our debut. Melissa (Pinion)’s vocals are absolutely stunning, the guitar tones and riffs were best described by Brent Hinds as “some thick shit”, which is a quote I love. And the drums are crushing and powerful. Thanks for chatting with me”.
RD: “Funeral for a King is our second record. It’s very epic, very heavy. It’s our love affair with traditional doom metal and traditional heavy metal, but with some death metal aesthetic, especially Bolt Thrower. We are very fond of it, and hope that the listener enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it!” Thanks for taking part! “Many thanks on allowing us to be nostalgic, was very fun to answer!”
Like the man said, Stygian Crown’s Funeral For A KIng is out on February 23rd!