March 19, 2008 | | 3.5

Stigma, When Midnight Strikes!

With their first true release in When Midnight Strikes, Stigma seem to have figured out a way to safely balance the metalcore/death metal fence — being careful not to get snagged on the constantina wire in the process. Mixing the driving beats and melodic guitar work of metalcore with the ferocity and violent blasts of death metal, this Italian quintet tears through horror themed tracks on this disc like ragged teeth through the gristle and soft tendons of an unsuspecting neck.

While I’m not sure the band is deserving of the deathcore label that they’ve been tagged with, they certainly know how to lay down the heaviness with their brand of metal. Perhaps once they move out of the Bram Stoker section of the lyrical library and more into, say, Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series, then perhaps we can give them that deathcore tag. In all seriousness though, When Midnight Strikes is an aggressive, yet melodic ride through horror lore and mystique.

Walpurghis Night
The opening track is a brief intro with howling wolves and wind noises. No reason to listen to it again in the future.

I Am Dracula
After the opening 50 seconds or so Stigma opens up the carotid artery with a hell of a scream and driving riffs. There’s a great groove through this song and the chorus is infectious as hell. Stefano Ghersi’s vocals are primarily in the deeper end of the guttural spectrum but he does have some nice shouts and higher end screams. So far so good, everyone in the band is hitting hard and accurately with this song. This one also features Tim Zlinsky of The Classic Struggle on backing vocals.

Silver Bullets and Burning Crosses
“Silver Bullets and Burning Crosses” starts off with melodic guitar work and chaotic sound clips before hitting stride with groove filled drum work and riffs. The 1:40 mark sees the band transition into some beefy breakdown like riffs and machine gun drumming. That certainly made for a nice tempo change.

To Be Really Dead… That Must Be Glorious!
You know these guys are true horror fans when the pull out a quote from an old Bela Lugosi Dracula role. This one is fast paced and aggressive with big riffs and another catchy chorus. It features guests from Slowmotion Apocalypse with Alberto Zannier on guest vocals and guitarist Ivan Odorico shredding some riffs. This one is pretty damned impressive.

Flesh Ritual
“Flesh Ritual” starts out with driving guitars and rapid fire drum work but then settles into an apocalyptic groove as the vocals come in. There are a good amount of subtle tempo changes throughout this track that’ll keep you on your toes.

Beneath the Crown of Eternal Light
I really like the violent feel to this one. It’s aggressive in your face approach and churning guitar work really help it stand out from the rest of the album. There are intances of melodic guitar work to counter and compliment the brutal elements well. It’s ends with huge riffs and pummeling drums.

Blood, Your Precious Blood!
A sound clip and some keyboard work get this one going as steady riffs get going. There are a few moments of softly spoken vocals that sort of work for me, but don’t really do much for the song. Overall, this one has a great groove coursing through it.

A Call for Vengeance
Wow. This one opens up violently with some crazy vocals on Ghersi’s part like a rusty buzz saw through flesh. This is easily the most evil track on the album and is definitely a welcome change up from the previous tracks. There’s a bit of a black metal influence to portions of this one, as well.

Walking the Fields of Apocalypse
Featuring Mike Lunacy of Dark Lunacy on duel vocals with Ghersi, this starts off with explosive drum work and ligament shredding riffing. The groove flowing through this track is infectious despite it’s aggressive nature. The duel vocal attack on this one is amazing.

Sons of Midnight
“Sons of Midnight” starts off with some light bass work and a brief sound clip before a huge scream and bludgeoning riffs erupt like gusher of blood from open wounds. There are plenty of tempo shifts and hardcore influences throughout this song. The chorus on this one is pretty damned catchy as well.

Epitaph of Pain
The final track on the album starts off with some sound clips and muted riffs and drum work before a deep guttural growl brings everything to the forefront with driving drums and crushing guitar work. This is probably the fastest paced track on the album. I would love to have heard some more of this throughout the disc — the death thrash feel to it shreds.

~ ~ ~

As far as debuts go, Stigma’s When Midnight Strikes! is pretty goddamned impressive. The band mixes a variety of metalcore, death metal and thrash elements into a seemless, violent attack on the senses. Not simply relying on blindly tearing through brutal riff after brutal riff, the band incorporates impressive grooves and guest appearances to complete this album with great success.

Favorite Tracks:
I Am Dracula
To Be Really Dead… That Must Be Glorious!
Flesh Ritual
A Call for Vengeance
Walking the Fields of Apocalypse

Additional Notes: