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Posts Tagged ‘Hollow Dreams’

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I have been on the fringes of Sri Lankan metal politics for nearly a decade. If I were to say it’ll be a sad day when a musician gives into petty power-politics and forgets his reason for being, then everyday would be a sad day for ‘pure Sri Lankan metal’.

I’m going to tell you my Stigmata story & my view of them over the last decade. I won’t go into the obvious & give you the history of the band that you all know, so I hope I’m able to bring a fresh perspective to the party.

My association with the Sri Lankan metal scene began way back in 2000 when Stigmata were just coming into the scene, I think. I started going for gigs at 80 Club where in the midst of the Kreb’s Cycle types, a group of youngsters called Stigmata were just beginning to come into their own.

A couple of years later while helping direct a school play, I heard a couple of the boys jamming to what sounded like this amazing melody during practices one day. I was instantly drawn to it. Nevermore to feel the pain, the heart collector sang. Nevermore indeed. Apparently Stigmata were covering it and it was all the rage. I downloaded the lyrics and within a week I had listened to the entire Dead Heart in a Dead World album. The first modern day metal album that I connected with. I was always more a classic Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Doors kinda girl until then. Maybe with the likes of Sabbath and Judas Priest thrown in for good measure, on occasion. I would go for gigs once in a way but never until that point had I listened to a metal album in its entirety and fallen in complete lust.

Needless to say I got the group of boys to take me to a Rock Saturday. I had heard Stigs a few times after that first time at 80 Club including at On-Stage. I heard their rendition of Andura that night and I was mind blown. They were still so young and yet so confident, bringing something original to the table every time I heard them. There were other bands at the time too. Taunt. Soul Skinner. Whirlwind. Tapas. And others whose names escape me. Some pretty darn good in their own way. Some not so much. Each had a following. Some were even venomously referred to as Stigmata Pataw. But when Stigmata took the stage, everyone would listen. They always sounded better. Tighter. Influenced by the right sound, lyrically topical & relevant, but most of all, talented. Not to say the others weren’t. Stigmata were just more so.

The people I made friends with were from other bands. Some are still my friends to date. We sit down occasionally over a drink or spliff and talk about the Rock Saturday days. Problem is, that’s all we do. I’ve done my share of what I can for them. Design lighting for gigs, stage sets, promote them, compeer, type out their proposals, sober them up when they were too high to go home and helped them nurse their hangovers the next day with steaming hot cups of Milo. They would come over with guitars and jam at my place. I would sit in the studio while they would record their originals and give them my 2 cents worth. But what has happened to those bands that were on a mission to give Stigmata a run for their money? I’m truly disappointed. If they were on a mission, why not take the Avis route and try harder instead of caving in to play for 3,000 bucks a piece at some hotel lounge? Like I said, the people in these bands are my friends and through the years and because of their opinions, I must admit with some sense of shame that I was swayed by them, not bothering to ask Stigmata if what they were saying was true. So I started to dislike them on site. At least on the outside. Within, there was this undeniable sense of acceptance that they were good. Really good.

There was something essentially beautiful about the core melodies of tracks like Love Lies Bleeding, Sylvia and so many more others. But somehow they don’t seem to have pushed their limits and seen where they could go with their music. I can’t say that about Stigmata. I love my friends but not the bullshit they’ve fed me through the years. And I will say this to their faces as well. They sold out. Stigmata didn’t. Obviously they didn’t have the conviction, nor the staying power to have lasted a decade. Correction. Not just lasted. Stigmata have got better. With every gig they’ve played and every album they released.

For reasons best known to my twisted little head, I turned my back on metal for many years. The music and the memories were connected to a bad time in my life and I think I let the music take the fall for my dark days. I should have known better. The last gig I attended was a Stigmata one. The album launch of Silent Chaos Serpentine. That was years ago. On the darkest of days a little Nevermore would creep into my playlist but that would be it. And then this year, something amazing happened. I went for a gig. A relatively new friend’s band was playing and so I thought I’d go. It felt so damn good to hear the drums thundering in my gut and the guitars playing pucks with my ears. I head-banged after years and the morning after sore neck felt like I was coming home. I remembered smoky days in the pit, sometimes on my knees, on the verge of snapping my neck. I can’t describe how good it was to feel that way again. One thing note worthy; there were very few women around back then. It’s nice to see so many more of them around. Metal is no more a sausage fest & I for one am glad. J

Since then I’ve been to 2 other gigs, including The Killing Joke. Someone asked me at the gig; just before Stigs began to play Do you really like Stigmata? I mean aren’t they slightly overrated? I smiled back and unashamedly said I love them. They are the main reason I’m here.

It has by far been one of the best gigs I’ve attended in years. The sad thing was the audience. I expected more. It was a Stigmata gig for fucks sake! Where the hell were you when they brought the house down? Where were you when they played music not only from their own past, but music that was a part of shaping who you are today? Where were you when they played their new numbers, displaying how much they’ve evolved and grown in the last decade? Where the fuck were you?

Strangely enough, I realized that so many Stigs tracks are imbedded in some forgotten corner of my head. Voices, for instance. I woke up the morning after the Killing Joke and I heard Suresh singing Daddy, Daddy… in my head. When they started playing My Malice from the Silent Chaos Serpentine album at the gig, I started singing peel the flesh off my bone, slowly condone, so I may crumble away alone and I didn’t even realize that I was mouthing the words until I was half way into the song.

You don’t have to like Suresh to know the man and his music are intrinsically interconnected elements in equal parts. The same goes for the rest of the band. Besides Tenny, I’ve never really taken the time to get to know the rest of them. It’s a darn shame, come to think of it. The little time I’ve spent with them reminds me of how like-minded we are in some ways. I was on my way to a Rock Saturday gig when I got a call informing me that someone as close as a twin had just died in a bike accident thousands of miles away. My family was a mess trying to figure out how to bring the body down for the funeral in the midst of letting the tragedy of it sink in. Instead of turning around & going home, I opted to go for the gig anyway. I cried all the way in the car and it took me a while to get myself together and walk in, but when I got there and when Stigmata started to play, I was fine. During their entire set, I was fine. To date I will be eternally grateful to them for that. I’ve mourned to their music, made love to it and healed with it. And I never realized it until I sat down to write this piece. It’s strange how the music playing in the background during some of the darkest or most intense milestones in your life will stay with you in your sub conscience until they’re ready to be played again.

The Killing Joke was evidence that Stigmata are still the tightest fucking band around. The most original. The only ones who knew where they wanted to go and opted stayed true to that vision. Too many of us have dreams and let them be just that; dreams. It’s the chasers who deserve the applause, not the dreamers.

So, to Suresh, Tenny, Andrew, Javeen & Tharaka, I just want to say that you can go ahead and have the last laugh, because the joke certainly wasn’t on you.

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