With eerie keyboards and bells tolling for the listener, Astorian’s Stigmata’s latest full-length record, “Ashes of Angels,” begins with “Innocence Lost,” setting a mournful tone offset by the energetic, upbeat guitar work, and the second track, “Are We Dead?” is tied together with unexpectedly twangy riffs, establishing for the unititated that this Wilkes-Barre group is more than just goth rock.
Sure, The Cure and HIM influences are noticeable right away, but so is the indie experimentation of bands like Modest Mouse. Singer/guitarist Dennis Condusta’s distinctive vocals seem to blend both genres with ease – Conor Oberst by way of Ville Valo, if you will. His words drip with drama, yet they’re crystal clear and never lose their power.
“I’m Not Dead I’m Sleeping” picks up the pace with hand claps and syth beats that immediately bring rock fans back to the ‘80s, while “Strange Shadows” reiterates one of the band’s central messages – don’t worry about exploring those dark corners because there’s always light at the end of the tunnel: “The only good thing about a shattered heart / you put the pieces back together however you want / but just be careful and don’t be afraid / to give it away again someday.”
Astorian Stigmata acts as your guide through this darkness – for every bit of somber longing (“Dead Until Night,” “A Summers Dream”) there’s positivity and the desire to push forward. The powerful drums and acoustic guitar highlighted by strings on “Black Roses” really drives the second half of the record, which retains an acoustic feel throughout until the tenth and final track, “Twilight Lullaby,” which is a slow buildup that lulls the listener in before Condusta declares, “I’m alive inside!’ as his bandmates bring it all crashing down.
Having recently relocated to Los Angeles, this band is ready for the mass exposure they’re sure to receive on the West Coast. “Ashes of Angels” may just be their most polished work yet, and with their staunchly independent attitude and innovative songwriting, Astorian Stigmata is ready to be Northeastern Pennsylvania’s next big musical export.
Astorian Stigmata ‘Ashes of Angels’ Rating: W W W W W