REVIEW: STIGMATA – “The Ascetic Paradox”
Stigmata wasn’t a name I had heard in the past, as a result of which dig into their past before listening to and reviewing their new album. I believe in the practice of dabbling in the past discography of an assigned band first, which tells a lot about their sound and how they have changed over time. Of course, all bands have ups and downs in their lifetime, and Stigmata wasn’t any different. Listening to them is a different experience altogether; a good experience.
Stigmata has been around since 1999; hailing from Colombo, Sri Lanka, they have released three studio albums and an EP so far, with ‘The Ascetic Paradox’ being their fourth and latest. The first thing that attracted me to the album was its cover. It depicts six different animals in action, each one representing a song in the album; I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag at this point. I’ll go so far as to say that ‘The Ascetic Paradox’ is an extremely good album, but there’s something missing in it. I won’t be vague about it by saying that, “it doesn’t have that X-Factor” though. The riffs flow profusely throughout the album like a bloody wound without the platelets to coagulate. It’s smooth, and it sounds so good.
But what irks me about the album is the fact that the music and vocals do not gel well together. Maybe it’s just me, but if the music and vocals don’t sound good together, I fail to fully appreciate the album. Separately, they are impeccable, but don’t go together for some reason; it’s probably the same reason why I’m not a big fan of Megadeth, on a side-note. The vocals are reflective of the typical heavy metal style, but the music sounds a lot like raw thrash metal, probably one of the reasons why they don’t get along with each other on the album. The production on ‘The Ascetic Paradox’ is amazing though, but the mastering didn’t blow me away and left a lot of room for improvement. Without getting into each song and explaining every little detail about them, I’ll just say that whatever flaws were present throughout album were crushed to pieces by the last the track “And Now We Shall Bring Them War!”. The song is brutal to the core and hammers every bone in your body to pieces. The 13 minute long piece is nothing short of a masterpiece. Vocalist Suresh De Silva switches from high-pitched screams to growls, and the combination these two form is pure destruction. With the raw riffs flowing through every nerve of your body, the album could leave you lifeless.
Now if the whole album had the same enthusiasm as the last track, it would have been in my top 10 albums of the year already, but seven out of the eight tracks here were slightly lackadaisical while the last one shattered every bone in my body with its brutality and effect. And watch out for the guitar solos by Andrew Obeyesekere fused with rhythm guitar by Tennyson Napoleon; sinister stuff. Additionally, the bass by Lakmal Wijayagunarathna and drums by Taraka Senewirathne together make sure that not a single of bone is left uncrushed.
To conclude, ‘The Ascetic Paradox’overall is quite good, creating a good ol’ sinister environment that one needs from his/her metal. One thing to look out for in the album is the hard-as-stone riffage and energy of the last track, as it can’t be described in mere words (although ironically, I just described it in paragraph above). Go about it and give it a listen if you have a taste in classic heavy metal – which I believe all of us have – and you won’t be disappointed.