Ziad: First of all I want to congratulate you on being Sri Lanka’s baddest and meanest sounding band! 

Suresh: Our heartfelt gratitude and magnanimous thanks. We are humbled and much obliged.

Years after you first started, how do you see the growth of the Sri Lankan metal scene? 

There was no infrastructure for Metal, Hard Rock or originality back in the day. There was a lack of media support, zero sponsors and no clubs/pubs willing to take a chance with a Sri Lankan Metal Band. The genre was disrespected, frowned upon and not taken seriously. There was a time when media would offer us exposure if we were willing to dub ourselves an ‘Alternative Rock’ band to avoid any backlash from the public. You can imagine that our response was not compiled with pleasantries. 

15 years on; after 3 albums, One 10 Year Anniversary Limited Edition Double Album, 1 DVD and 7 EPs it’s sufficient to say that things have changed profusely. The Sri Lankan scene now is flourishing and growing every day, every month, every year. There is acceptance and credibility for Metal as a lucrative and respected art form. Our Sonic Alma Mater is revered and respected for its substance, depth and musical dexterity. It’s an accepted lifestyle and community that’s part of Sri Lankan society now. A scene where well over 70 Rock/Metal Bands perform gigs regularly, there is ample support from electronic and print media and the bar has been raised in terms of the high standards indoctrinated by us and others that are professional and serious about their music. We organize bigger and better concerts now; the scene has attracted many international icons to tour the country as well (Nervecell, Cyanide Serenity, As I Lay Dying, Civilization One, Serenity Dies, and Rudra to name a few) there is some form of sponsor affiliation in contrast to their past involvement and the misconceptions and misconstrued ideals regarding Metal has subsided. The Sri Lankan Metal scene is evolving and hopefully it will become a renowned hub for artists to perform in but more importantly a place that shows the world that we Lankans can kick butt in things other than Cricket.

Lyrically and musically, what do you consider to be your primary influences? 

We are essentially inspired by each other. That’s the truth. We all share such an eclectic taste in music be it Metal or other genres that if our music is a canvas, drawing inspiration from five different sources has helped us retain our aesthetic credibility, originality and helped us push the creative envelope to unprecedented terrain. Musically we love everything from Death, Rush, Nevermore, Tool, Pantera and Spiral Architect to Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Animals as Leaders, Revocation, Arch-Enemy, Johnny Cash, Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Iron Maiden to music by Hans Zimmer and even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. If it’s powerful, evocative, has depth and stems from an honest place, we will listen to it.

Lyrically everything from literature, poetry, theater, film, music and of course the general human condition and psychosis to devour each other in systematic and profound ways, the reality of existence… anything that’s invigorating or intriguing enough to capture our attention puts the age old adage that the pen is far mightier than the sword to good practice. There are plenty of things in the world to be inspired by; all it takes is for us to look but see, to hear but listen. 

Suresh, you write most of the lyrics in poetic formats. What are some of your favorite poets/lyricists and have you considered using any particular favorites for a future project? 

I never set out to embrace any set techniques or devices of literature when writing lyrics. Again the inspiration dictates the direction of the lyrical approach. One thing is that right from the inception we knew we wanted to drive the proverbial nails hard into peoples’ consciousness and sublime with our music, the multi-layered themes and connotations in our sonic spell craft… but we always wanted to have lyrics that would stand on par with the music. That was very important to us to be a well-rounded musical enigma.

I love Neil Pert’s lyrics; Rush are too amazing to discuss or decipher!!! Warrel Dane (Nevermore) is possibly my all-time favorite lyricist and poet of all time if truth be told. I am greatly inspired by Steve Harris’s lyrics in Iron Maiden and even James Maynard Keenan’s lyrical work with Tool. I like Anathema’s lyrics too and even Chuck Shuldiner’s stuff with Control Denied and Death. Tim Rice wrote amazing lyrics for Jesus Christ Superstar.

But of course one cannot cite lyrical inspiration without bringing into consideration the work of Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Shakespeare, W.B Yeats, Oscar Wilde, H.P Lovecraft, Jean Arasanayagam, Bob Dylan etc., J.R.R Tolkien, Geroge R.R Martin, Stephen King, Mo Hayder, Mario Puzo, Neil Gaiman; they all inspire me in no small measure.

I had the distinction of playing Judas in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Rock operatic masterpiece ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ a short while back, that opened up a lot of creative doors because it was a long run, performing to a full house at the Lionel Wendt theater in Sri Lanka – it was incredible working with such a talented cast and crew but paying tribute to some of the greatest singers that have ever graced this earth; Carl Anderson, Ian Gillan, Ted Neily, Steve Balsamo, Drew Saritch… now that was something.

I also recently collaborated on a single with a local classical singer named Sanjiv Niles who is a powerhouse opera singer. We worked on the lyrics and music together and the instrumentation and orchestrations were handled by Ravin David Ratnam. The piece was released a month or two ago to great global appeal. It’s called ‘Cadence of Your Tears (Freedom’s Chains)’ and it’s unlike anything I have ever worked on before. That aside I have no immediate plans to work with anyone else. Although if I could one day compose a song with Warrel Dane – I would die a tad more happier than I would otherwise. At the moment it’s about conceiving and shaping the lyrics to our new music; the 4th album will be out this year to celebrate our 15 year anniversary. That’s my main focus and priority musically and lyrically.  

“Psalms of Conscious Martyrdom” was internationally praised for its aggression and progressive elegance. What ignited the spark for its writing process? 

Honestly I doubt there is one singular thing that can be traced for igniting the spark. After our second record ‘Silent Chaos Serpentine’ we felt at that point of time than we wanted to explore a very intricate and intense sound; experimenting with new ideas stylistically and what we were composing was tripped out, it had progressive elements but we never lost focus of our song writing. It’s an aggressive record with enough moments of grandeur to render a rampant response of WTFs but with an epic texture woven throughout the album. We’ve always wanted to create powerful, evocative and memorable songs. Music that translates well live but also captures the essence of that respective sound on record. I think our mind set was such around that time that we felt a sense of proclivity to reach inside and showcase a body of work with captivating material, but to also depict the band’s musical growth and prowess as well. We didn’t evaluate or assess methods and means of achieving this – we just set out to write and record an album that would show the world that ‘Pure Sri Lankan Metal’ really means business. To a great extent – we accomplished that.

You combine a spectrum of genres in your sound, how does this hybridization process come about? 

That’s a very good question and one that we have often debated on. Sometimes the answer we seek is right before our eyes. There’s something to be said about subtlety and obeying the divine rule that the devil’s in the details. It’s the geographical placement. In Asia we are exposed to a lot more varieties of music; whether the styles are mainstream or underground respectively. It doesn’t matter as long as the music stems from an honest place and is authentic. We are inspired by Western and Eastern music, we appreciate jazz, funk, fusion, dig classical music, blues and of course we incorporate baila and Sri Lankan musical elements to our sound which lends it the unique DNA it possesses. Genre classifications and scene specifications cease to be significant. We are positioned and blessed to be able to draw inspiration from a myriad genres and styles. From our inception we fused a variety of styles into the ‘Metal’ blueprint of ours and somehow through the years (15 to be precise) we’ve grown comfortable and rather experienced in honing a sound that pushes creative peripheries while never losing track of the roots of our sound: Extreme Metal textured and multifariously layered to challenge the listener. What we do is an acquired taste, it isn’t for everyone. But once you connect and relate to what we do, you will endorse our artistry for life. 

You have performed hundreds of shows in Sri Lanka and internationally. What stage do you hope to perform one day and any particular bands you’d like to share the stage with? 

We are grateful for the opportunities we have had; we have had the distinction and privilege of performing at some remarkable festivals and concerts overseas and locally through the years from the Melbourne Arts Festival at the Forum Theater to the SAARC Band Fest in India to us representing Sri Lanka at the South Asian Rock Fest last year in Bangladesh, performing for over 30,000 people at the Army Stadium in Dhaka. Naturally there are so many more places we would love to tour, countries to see, and cultures to experience. The really big festivals: Wacken, Bloodstock, Download etc., all of those would be great. It would be great to be taken out as a support act by some of our heroes. But to be able to organize our own shows and perform very intimate gigs for our Saints in smaller venues is also integral to us. In Stigmata we share a policy that whether we play for 30,000, 3000 or 30 people that we will always deliver the same show of a fucking lifetime.  

Speaking of live performances, any particularly favorite live bands you like to watch on tour? 

Dream Theater, Morbid Angel, Strapping Young Lad, Arsis, Metallica, Megadeth, Lamb of God, Opeth, Arch-Enemy, Flesh God Apocalypse, Black Sabbath, Slipknot… bloody hell RUSH!!!! There are too many. Man, we would have done anything to see Pantera live. Or Queen. Kansas even. Fates Warning with John Arch back in the day! Or Deep Purple or Rainbow in their prime. Judas Priest!!! I’ll stop now. This is one question to which the answer has no limits. We’ve seen quite a few bands and let me tell you so far no one comes close to the mighty Iron Maiden live. Those guys are three times the age of most Metal Bands today and the sheer tightness, cohesiveness and adventure they bleed out on stage is just phenomenal.   

Any last words for the readers of Metality?

Don’t be fooled, it’s you guys who keep the flame of Metal ignited and burning in the warrens of time and space. Thank you for supporting Metality and Metal around the world. If you dig what we do and find yourselves Stigmatized welcome to our humble family. If not – wait till our 4th record is out, you may change your minds \m/ Thank You for the interview, guys. See you at the storm of the century!

Thank you guys, looking forward to a monstrous show in Dubai!

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