In terms of aesthetic, Italy’s Stigma certainly don’t mess about: their sophomore effort positively revolves around old-school horror themes, and the cartoon-zombie cover art gives a pretty good idea of the tongue-in-cheek gothic imagery they’re aiming for – the entirety of their lyrics are based on stories from cult horror comic Tales from the Crypt. Not that their sound is in any way gimmicky: this is proper guitar-centric metal and these guys clearly worship The Black Dahlia Murder. As for their overall style, to their credit, it doesn’t conform to the generic deathcore formula, there’s too much focus on riffing, and I’d personally call it hardcore-influenced, angular (but not quite technical) death metal. The bass- and guitar-work itself is pretty good; nothing incredible but smartly shying away from relentless chugga-chugga breakdowns and instead periodically switching into meandering tremolo picking.
Stefano Ghigliano’s drumming stands out for its speed, I mean, if you’re an extreme metal fan it’s far from anything you’ve never heard before but he definitely has had plenty of practice, as have the whole band: I was genuinely surprised to learn they formed in 2000. Vlad’s vocals I’d give a 6/10, they can get quite flat at times and his enunciation could be better but his scream certainly is manic and his lows guttural. Opener Chop His Head Off! will tell you exactly what to expect, the screams kicking very abruptly and changing straight to an instrumental bridge right after the first verse. From there the album blasts straight through, not particularly inventive but focused and with flair. Tracks that stood out for me were …And They Died Happily Ever After! For its really pummelling pace and The Undertaker for the way the guitar seems somehow absolutely perfect in its technicality. That’s one thing I definitely liked about this album in that while so many modern metal bands seem to make the vocals the centerpoint, often mixing the instrumentation almost into the background, BMTH guitarist Jonah Weinhofen’s excellent production has got the balance just right.
All this said, if you’re used to extreme metal, especially deathcore, you’ll likely find much of this repetitive if you listen to it constantly, but not so much that it’s actually boring. On the whole, this is a good record that achieves what it sets out to do. As long as they try to be more creative on their next work, they have a bright future ahead of them. 7/10.