October 21, 2010

Double Review: "Silent Chaos Serpentine" and "Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom" by Stigmata

Metal is not exclusive to any one country or location, as any fan of the genre knows. Where the spirit and drive to play heavy and loud exists, metal will find a way. So it is with Sri Lankan group Stigmata, a powerful and unique group with the heart of metal deeply embedded in all five members. Stigmata is one of only thirteen groups identified by the Encyclopedia Metallum as being located in Sri Lanka, a country better known for its civil war and tea production than any sort of music scene. Nonetheless, Stigmata has a lot of skill and potential appeal. Their two most recent albums, Silent Chaos Serpentine and Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom, are the stuff that makes most bands into humongous successes.

Silent Chaos Serpentine boasts a surprising number of influences, most of which appear in the first two songs. The most prevalent style is a Nevermore-influenced style of progressive thrash with power metal vocals. Vocalist Suresh de Silva is a monster with a microphone, effortlessly switching from a harsh, barking scream to soaring clean singing, and then moving to a mid-range clean vocal with a very martial, commanding presence. "Jazz Theory" is where this album really starts to get engaging, with a mariachi-like section suddenly breaking into the middle of the song and providing a delightful and informal interlude. "Lucid" opens with a gorgeous clean-sung intro that sees de Silva reaching Bruce Dickinson levels of emotion and expression, and he keeps that level of excellence for the entire song. "Wingless" has the feel of an Opeth song for its intro and refrain, transitioning into and out of an Unearth-style riff on the verses, making for an amazing contrast.

While the production on Silent Chaos Serpentine is not the greatest, it is still better than what you'll hear from a lot of black metal bands, and the stylistic diversity adds more than enough to the record to make up for the low production value. In its basic interpretation, Silent Chaos Serpentine is a largely successful attempt at achieving a fast, heavy, thrash-inspired power metal album with harsh vocals and epic compositions. In other words, this album is a much better version of 3 Inches of Blood's first album, Battlecry Under a Winter Sun. The inclusion of multiple different styles and outside influences is what pushes this album from being solid to exceptional.

However, the music gets even better on Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom, an album that pushes boundaries and dares to be more than what conventional metal fans would consider acceptable. De Silva shows just how far Stigmata has come in the first half of "SpiralComa", managing to sound like Rob Halford one moment and Dani Filth the next. It truly takes a rare and talented vocalist to pull that contrast off, and de Silva does it with remarkable ease. It's one of many amazing bits of musicality included throughout the entire album, giving Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom the feel of a treasure hunt, building anticipation for the next piece of musical delight to be uncovered.

From the astounding bass solo by Javeen Soysa on "Purer (Libera Nos a Malo)" to the brilliant layered vocals on "The Summoning Cry of Aries"; from the grandiose composition of "A Dead Rose Wails for Light" to the diverse and complex influences on "Od(d)yssey", there is not a moment on this album that is boring or stale. Every section of every song is dynamic, always moving towards something or creating a transition into a new part. The rising and falling atmosphere gives Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom a truly interconnected feel, leaving the audience feeling linked with the album's entire structure from start to finish.

Stigmata has thrown down the gauntlet with these two albums, making the statement that they are here to expand the horizons of metal as much as they are able. Silent Chaos Serpentine lays a solid foundation of expressive progression, and Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom adds endless options for growth and expansion onto the foundation. If this is what metal from Sri Lanka sounds like, then Stigmata needs to start cultivating a scene there quickly, because both of these albums can be seen as stepping stones to creating something even more intelligent, grand, and brutal in the future. This is a band definitely worthy of being followed by all metal fans.

Silent Chaos Serpentine Score: 7.5 out of 10

Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom Score: 8.5 out of 10

Track Listings

Silent Chaos Serpentine
1. Swinemaker
2. Forgiven, Forgotten
3. Jazz Theory
4. Lucid
5. My Malice
6. Wingless
7. Solitude
8. Book of Skin

Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom
1. SpiralComa
2. Purer (Libera Nos a Malo)
3. The Summoning Cry of Aries
4. Nothing
5. A Dead Rose Wails for Light
6. If Alpha Meets Omega
7. Od(d)yssey
8. March of the Saints

Album Personnel

Silent Chaos Serpentine
Suresh de Silva - Vocals
Andrew Obeyesekere - Lead guitar
Tennyson Napolean - Rhythm guitar
Vije Dhas - Bass guitar
Ranil Senarath - Drums

Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom
Suresh de Silva - Vocals
Andrew Obeyesekere - Lead guitar
Tennyson Napolean - Rhythm guitar
Javeen Soysa - Bass guitar
Taraka Senewirathne - Drums

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome review for an awesome band. Stigs's brand of shockingly precise metal has overwhelmed the Sri Lankan audiences for a decade now. SL is a country where only 2-3% of the people listen to English music. Progressive metal? You must be kidding. Hope the Aussie tour opens up the floodgates for these amazing young musicians. You need to be playing download and Ozzfest. Not tiny clubs in Colombo!