Indulge me, if you would, a bit of anecdote to set the stage for my review of a record that represents everything I hate about what passes for competent heavy music in the realm of the commercially viable. Stygian’s Fury Rising reminds me of the time my wife and I were invited to friends’ home for lasagna. When we got there, we were surprised (and, admittedly, disappointed) to see the lasagna cooking in a skillet on the stovetop, because it wasn’t lasagna at all, but Hamburger Helper’s cheaper, less complicated, less wholesome version of the real thing. Except that my wife noticed that it wasn’t even Hamburger Helper, but Panburger Partner, a pathetically cut-rate imitation of the cheap-ass knock-off. Now, lasagna varies in quality and by most accounts isn’t exactly an exemplar of gourmet fare but, for fucksake, Panburger Partner!?
So, then, Stygian. This Philly quartet sell themselves as a hybrid of Metallica, Godsmack and Black Label Society. Which, of course, equates to pre-packaged, vacuum-sealed, microwave-ready, heavy radio rock. And while the name-dropping rings true enough, there is no denying that Fury Rising is Metallica re-reloaded more than anything else. Shouldn’t be too surprising, as Stygian began their middling assault on mainstream metal as a Metallica tribute band. Vocalist, Frank Leary, sounds almost exactly like mid-period, post-neutering Hetfield, complete with dubious lyrics and agonizingly clumsy cadence, and the structure of the record matches mid-breakdown, post-awesomeness Metallica almost to a tee. These guys even stoop to scrape the cutting room floor for the remains of Metallica’s worst ballads, with two tracks here flailing miserably in the viscous, cloying afterbirth of “The Unforgiven II.” Honestly, if Metallica is the tired-ass, half-hard pornstar living on half-baked sequels, Stygian is the pig-faced fluffer crawling frantically around the crust-caked set of Load, barely breathing between mouthfuls of Nickelback and Sevendust and begging for the chance to lick the spew-splashed boots of their heroes.
Mired in the tried and truisms of accessible heaviness, nary a song on this album reaches beyond what plays to the ham-handed masses between bouts at a regional pro-wrasslin’ match. “Glass Legacy” tries and succeeds to a moderate degree, but even Patrick Hayden’s fairly fiery fretwork on this one is barely enough to bootstrap it out of the surrounding muck. What’s worse, nearly every time the band manage to stumble into a shred of creative riffery among the used bin toss aways, they abuse it mercilessly, denying it any hope of developing into something truly interesting. It’s pretty telling that the closest the band come to a shining moment is when they sound least like Metallica, but this is rare and mostly notable only because during these moments they’re aping Alice in Chains instead.
Mild props are due in the production department as the mix is clear, the drums are punchy and the guitars are thick with groove-sauce, but even this can’t wash away the sense that something here is likely to be lifted for the soundtrack to a pre-previews movie theater National Guard recruitment ad.
The bottom line is, if you’ve got a hankerin’ for watered down, redundant heavy rock, just go on and tune to whichever Clearchannel tentacle has wrapped itself around commercial heavy radio in your area and roll your mollified eyes into the back of your head as you drown yourself in mediocrity. But don’t waste your money on this.