Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Before I even get started I'm going to acknowledge the fact that I don't have the debut 7" "Strength In Hate" or the Victory Records 7" up (I think it was called Stick Tight). I know Mike Ski did the artwork for the Victory release and that they are both rare as shit. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
That being said, Stigmata is simultaneously world-renowned and well-respected yet mostly unheard of. Rising from the ashes of their former thrash punk bands in the 1980s, Stigmata officially came together in 1989. Their debut 7" was recorded in the same session as their first full length offering, The Calling Of The Just. They both came out in 199o and featured a primarily crossover-influenced sound. Despite the overall metal feel of the album, the hardcore influences which would eventually dominate their sound are easily recognized throughout the album.
The follow-up album, The Heart Grows Harder, saw the band moving in a steady direction towards what would become their pinnacle sound. The vocals saw heavy progression into the infamous sound that would one day personify Stigmata. Despite these steps into the progression that the band was taking, overall the album had a sound extremely similar to the ...And Justice For All album. It also seemed as though guitarist Mike Maney could have been taking lessons from Kirk Hammet at the time.
I'm going to interrupt myself here for a minute and include the writing from the inside of the booklet of the Troy Blood Unbeaten retrospective CD that the band released in 1997 on local label, Step Up Productions. Some of this is repeated from my earlier writing, but it also explains a lot of the background information as to what was going on with the band and perhaps sheds a bit of insight as to why the band still to this day has yet to reach their full recognition. Excuse the grammar, I'm merely transcribing.
"This is for all the people everywhere who constantly ask how Stigmata started. At the suggestions of Dave Stein, Mike Maney, Matt Grisald and I, we started our first band, D.A., in 1986. As you can hear from the recording we could barely play, but at least it kept us off the street and out of trouble. We did our very first show to a packed club opening for Blast, Corrosion Of Conformity and DRI. This was our introduction to the scene! Then in 1987 with the addition of Dan Walsh & Dan Matusie, we became Cranial Abuse. We made a Demo and appeared on Combined Efforts' Albany Style Hardcore compilation 7". We also managed to get banned from every club in our area as they said our following was too violent. So in 1989, in an effort to be taken more seriously with our music, we changed our name to Stigmata. We recorded our first demo with Jack Daily (who now plays bass for Lenny Kravitz) and only released 7 of these songs. The rest are being heard for the first time in almost 10 years on this CD. In 1990 with the addition of drummer Pat O'Reilly (Wolfpack, Final Terror), CFY Records flew us out to California and we recorded the "Strength In Hate" 7" and "The Calling Of The Just" CD simultaneously. For financial reasons the CD didn't come out until 3 years later.
So with the addition of Jay Sunkes on guitar in 1992, we then recorded the now infamous "The Heart Grows Harder" CD for some scumbag German label. This CD had no distribution at all. Only 200 copies made it to the US because we had to buy them from the fucking asshole! So for this reason and many others that still haunt us to this day, all ties with this label were severed. Die a slow hard death, dickhead! The band really didn't so much studio-wise until 1994. With the addition of drummer Jason Bittner we recorded the "Hymns For An Unknown God" CD for Trainwreck Records. This was a collaboration with best friend and long-time influence Harley Flanagan (Cro-Mags, White Devil) who produced and appeared on the CD. However, the Stigmata curse was in full effect. Trainwreck Records crashed and the CD was shelved. So while searching for a suitable deal of this release this, Sunkes and I went and help our brothers Merauder sing back up on the now-classic "Master Killer" CD. So then, in 1995, a Merauder-Stigmata split 7" called "Brotherhood" came out. Finally in 1995, negotiations with Too Damn Hype Records were made and "Hymns For An Unknown God" was released in 1997. So that's it, short and to the point. To all the people who've been in the band and to all the people all over the world who've supported us ... thanks, this is for you. To the rest of you, you're nothin' but enemies. Fuck off.
This brings us to the infamous "Hymns For An Unknown God" album. As stated earlier, this was produced by Harley Flanagan from the Cro-Mags and has a much more "professional" sound than previous efforts from the band. According to most fans, this is considered to be the pinnacle album and era for the band. At the time of the writing from above, it wasn't known that drummer Jason Bittner would later go on to join Shadows Fall. The drumming is more than proficient on this album and one should not find it hard to believe his future endeavors judging from this performance.
Somewhere around here is where the band would release the notoriously rare albums on local label Step Up Productions: Troy Blood Unbeaten (noted above) and Pain Has No Boundaries. The former serving as a double disc retrospective featuring demos from Stigmata, Cranial Abuse and DA as well as select tracks from the first two full lengths (not in their entirety though). The latter was split in half between live tracks recorded in 1998 and half studio tracks recorded presumably around the same time. The studio session was comprised of eight tracks which were probably used to shop to labels considering three of the eight tracks would later be re-recorded for their follow-up full length offering.
At this point, the band could no longer be ignored and were signed to the then-monumental Victory Records. The album served as the band's crowning moment after over 10 years of hard work. While not entirely void of their former thrash influences, the album definitely found itself being moreso inspired by their NYHC counterparts. Whatever you want to consider the album to be musically, it is definitely the pinnacle of Hard Style ... the perfection of hard grooves met with even harder lyrics and vocals.
The band slowly faded out not long after the release of this album and officially ended with Jason Bittner joining Shadows Fall. The band has played three reunion shows in the past 5 years with performances in 2005, 2008 and 2009 ... hopefully there will be another one soon so I can get the Stigmata out of my system.
If anyone has Mp3s to send me of either of their 7"s or the split with Merauder (only has one track from each on it) ... it would be greatly appreciated. Hard copies for sale would be even moreso appreciated.
DOWNLOAD - The Calling Of The Just (only ripped at 192 ... do not own a physical copy of this)
DOWNLOAD - The Heart Grows Harder
DOWNLOAD - Troy Blood Unbeaten (Stigmata 1989 Demo - Tracks 1-13 ... Cranial Abuse 1987 Demo - Tracks 14-21 ... D.A. 1986 Demo - Tracks 22-25)
DOWNLOAD - Hymns For An Unknown God
DOWNLOAD - Demo 1997 (Taken from Disc 2 of the Troy Blood Unbeaten CD)
DOWNLOAD - Pain Has No Boundaries
DOWNLOAD - Do Unto Others