The story’s a simple one and destined to be repeated the world over until companies stop building drums and guitars or at least stop selling them to disgruntled teenagers: a band is formed by school friends and, as a decade passes, that band shifts from extra-curricular diversion to potential meal ticket. As triumphs over adversity go, Stigma’s isn’t the most harrowing David and Goliath tale you could hope to hear. There are no deaths, no tragedies, no twisted tales of inner turmoil, just a band overcoming small town sleepiness and home-grown apathy towards the band’s grisly take on ‘deathcore’ that’s seen them secure enviable label deals, sponsorship packages and festival slots and take their place in a brutal – if somehow tuneful – musical pandemic.
“Coming from Italy and playing this type of music isn’t easy,” states talkative frontman Stefano ‘Vlad’ Ghersi. “There are some great bands but you can’t say there’s a real ‘scene’ here. The kids always go to see shows when bands from other countries come to play, but the Italian bands aren’t supported as much. ”While this might sound like a simple enough case of sour grapes from a musician feeling his band is not getting the attention it deserves, Ghersi’s candour and lack of bitterness suggests a far simpler alternative: it’s just the way things happen to be. Whether it involves driving the breadth of Italy to play one song at three in the morning before the police intervene or having a gig cancelled because the 13-year-old promoter has been grounded for getting a bad report card, the frontman is at least philosophical when it comes to the various trials and tribulations Stigma have faced as they’ve worked to up their profile. “It’s strange for sure,” he says, “but it’s good because you come up from the very bottom and you know that outside of Italy things are better at least.”
In today’s modern age, of course, any given scene isn’t necessarily thwarted by geographical boundaries and tough local crowds. A few simple mouseclicks will give you a deathcore world tour from Manchester to Melbourne, proving that this particular musical hybrid has gone well and truly global, spreading streaked mascara, wayward facial hair and gaudy neck tattoos like a zombie virus while selling bucketloads of records commercial radio wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. Indeed, Stigma’s sophomore full-length, the Tales From The Crypt-inspired ‘Concerto For The Undead’, is a microcosmic example of the genre’s worldwide appeal, having drawn in UK-based producer Jona Weinhofen to twiddle knobs and guests from as far away as Chicago and Australia while the album itself has been released by one label in Europe and another each in Australia and Japan. When put to him like this, the otherwise amiable frontman is thoughtful if perhaps less than enthused. “We’re kind’ve unlucky, because we tried to mix these genres way before ‘deathcore’ became a trend,” he states with just the barest twinge of regret. “Because we weren’t already touring outside of Italy we look like a brand new band, and to most people it might be ‘look at those shady Italians, trying to emulate Unearth and the Black Dahlia Murder.’” While this last comment at least raises a chuckle, Ghersi is fully aware of the inherent perils in playing such a popular style. “There are a few bands that are really good and trying to evolve from release to release, and then there are 5000 others who are just copying and pasting whatever everyone else is doing. I actually think it’s a trend that is going to finish soon, but this is the kind of music we love and we’ll keep on playing it.” Tough words but honest ones at least, and the moral of the story? Long live the death of deathcore!
New album, Concerto For The Undead, released by Pivotal Rockordings is out now and available for digital download and on CD. Check out their MySpace .