live in a world where society spins out the philosophy that equates
ugliness to the sum total of unacceptability, and beauty as the
epitome of acceptance and desirability. With the launch of ‘Silent
Chaos Serpentine’ to use the words of artistes who created
it, from their immensely popular single “Lucid” –
“what was ugly now is beautiful” (apologies for using
the words very much out of context).
Chaos Serpentine’ – the second album of Stigmata affirms
the elevated status of a genre of music, which was until a few years
back very much the ‘ugly duckling’ of the local music
industry. The album, as well at its launch, at My Kind Of Place
(MKOP) bear a stamp of professionalism and originality – now
commonly associated with Stigmata.
Stigmata that took to the stage of MKOP on February 25, 2006 was
not what it was in its infant days, performing in the basement of
the now defunct Rock Café. While at the time it was the anti-thesis
to the pop/hip-hop heavy movement of the day, it was still struggling
for an identity of its own.
here was a group who had subscribed to heavy metal, or should I
say subscribed and mastered. They had not only created an identity
but also carved a niche for themselves – a niche which others
now seek to follow. Their determination to stick to the not so popular
(to put it mildly), their courage to experiment and most importantly
their ability to learn has paid dividends. What is notable about
the journey of Stigmata, from its inception to MKOP on that night,
was that here was not a case of the artiste succumbing to popular
culture, but popular culture following the artiste.
the theme of chaos that dominated the music, there was rhythm and
reason behind every word and every chord at the launch. Stigmata
performed all eight singles that were included on the CD. These
were interspaced with singles from their first album, ‘Hollow
Dreams’ (albeit slightly varied in harmony from the version
that was released in 2003), as well as covers of bands from whom
Stigmata drew inspiration. It was slightly ‘nostalgic’
to hear “Fear Of The Dark” by Iron Maiden, as well as
“Voices” off ‘Hollow Dreams’. They were
aptly introduced by Suresh, as that which goes to the very roots
of Stigmata, in the case of the former, and the latter, the anthem
of the band. It was a well-conceptualised event, which mixed the
band’s past glory with their present hits, while acknowledging
their influences from the world of heavy metal. A taste of the future
could be evidenced in the interaction between the band and the mass
of head-bangers surrounding the stage.
large following Stigmata has attracted prove the commercial viability
of the band, as well as the brand of music they create. While the
arts and economics don’t make the best of bedfellows, the
continuance and proliferation of any form of the arts depends on
continued financial backing. Financial backing was perhaps the greatest
drawback for Stigmata, whose public performances in their early
years were limited by this factor. The publicity material for the
launch, as well as the jacket of the CD clearly indicates that it
received the patronage of corporate Sri Lanka, and the print and
electronic media. A heartening sign that the band has been able
to sell something that was commercially unviable a few years back
to sponsors, and that the sponsors are willing to back home-grown
originality that spring from the alternative school of music.
must be made of two institutions who are at the heart of promoting
alternative music – especially original work: TNL Radio Networks
and The Rock Company. Stigmata is possibly the biggest success story
of the TNL’s Onstage competition, which showcases local bands
that are yet to hit the big time. Although they were unfortunate
not to win the competition on the second occasion they participated,
this proved to be the watershed for the band (in my opinion anyway).
The Rock Company has been instrumental in bringing together bands
and providing them with avenues for exposure. The institutions have
done something, which is as hard as being different – supporting
those who are different.
the proverbial ‘saving the best for last’ – ‘Silent
Chaos Serpentine’. The album showcases Stigmata’s ability
to transform the gravest of social issues into melody. “Swine-maker”
which deals with religious extremism takes the highest honours in
this regard. ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ in general continues
the themes of ‘Hollow Dreams,’ and deals with affliction,
misery and the darker side of human existence. The songs seek to
capture the element of chaos – the chaos that is present in
our everyday lives from chaos in the order of things to the fickle
nature of humans to the futility and despair of the human condition.
music reinforces the message found in the lyrics, and has definite
progressive/thrash metal elements. “Jazz Theory”, the
third track on the CD is something else. In inimitable Stigmata
style, the harmony is complex, and highlights the range and diversity
of Stigmata as musicians/composers. It also has that unique Sri
Lankan touch the band tries to incorporate into their music.
same meticulous planning that went into the launch has certainly
gone into the album as well. Every song is powerful and emotive.
The brilliance of ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ is the fact
that there is something for everyone, no matter what sub-genre of
metal they worship. In short, I would not be surprised if the album
opens windows of opportunity for the band, outside the shores of
was a time when the only way you could hear Stigmata on your radio
was by hoping their single “Fear” would have enough
requests to make it on the ‘Top 9 At 9’ – a show
broadcast over the local radio waves, playing the songs that received
the most amount of requests. A few years later, you have an album,
an EP, ample airplay and plenty of gigs to choose from. And now
you can add ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ to that list.
The band has certainly evolved from the days of “Fear”,
but they still seem deeply rooted in their origins in one aspect
– a passion for doing what they do.