Stigma Rock Unit-

Treasure Path to Soul-Winning CD

"Texas Hollow Road" 7"

POK Magazine No. 9

"Stigma Rock Unit's guitars crackle with an electricity that surges from every note to form towering song structures that stand as monuments to amplification. This quartet exalts noise through complex mid-to-up tempo songs that build upon a foundation of sharp chords wrung from alt-tuned guitars, solid, propulsive drumming and curling basslines. The songs writhe with passion and extreme intensity matched by the vocalist's screaming and urgent singing. His pain is a slow burn drying him from the inside out, evaporating the moisture from his organs. As the quartet rocks valiantly, their guitars climbing and driving, the strength of the music withers the vocalist until a single blast from his amp causes him to combust. His remains turn the air a chalky white. The music carries on, wearing his tumult like a badge of courage."-Steve Brydges

The Declaration January 29, 1998

All right, so this is not the most timely of record reviews. The first full-length record from Stigma Rock Unit (SRU for the tragically hip) was released in June of last year, but considering their upcoming show in our beloved sushi basement and their relative anonymity among Charlottesvillians, I figured, what the hell. SRU (formerly plain ol' Stigma) is what happens when four wayward youths with huge record collections stew for most of their adolescence in small-town central Virginia. It's been a long road from the salad days of Ruritan Club gigs in Lynchburg, VA (the band's original hometown), with such local favorites as Tinkerbell, True Romans, and Water Monitor, to the bright lights of Blacksburg and the earthshaking deal with lords of Virginia indie rock -- Squealer Records, which signed them in 1995 and produced that fall's single, "Texas Hollow Road / The Softest Core". This alliance, further strengthened by a lucrative collaboration with Charlottesville PRE giant Jagjaguwar (preferred label of Drunk, Fuck, other one-word pejoratives, and that digit so hallowed as to be unnamable) produced the disc that has led Stigma Rock Unit to riches beyond their wildest dreams.
The album was recorded at WGNS Studios in Washington, D.C. under the watchful eye of Geoff Turner, whose production credits include Hoover, Regulator Watts, and even (gasp) the Foo Fighters. SRU produces a record that sounds like a well-blended noise-core cocktail that is two parts Slint, two parts Fugazi, and one part Archers of Loaf, with a dash of Hall and Oates and a twist. Lounge music for the post-apocalypse? Perhaps. Considering that it was recorded completely live (with a few overdubs added later), this album is exceptionally tight. The songs are extremely well written, noisy but catchy, loud but surprisingly intricate without being noodley. These kids definitely win honors for inventive titles, beginning with the first track "Les Paul vs. Leo Fender", and others like "They All Gave Us Static", "Armies of Malcontents Are Yours / Chaos Theory Revisited," and "S.I.L.O.S.W.E.E.P.E.R." The tunes that bear them are as quirky, engaging and (dare I say it) epic as the titles imply. Stigma has a peculiar gift that few bands possess; the ability to create music that manages to be powerful, emotional, and driving; without pretension, but with the crucial self-awareness without which one risks the fate of Styx and Queensryche.
All in all, this is an exceptional first effort from a relatively young band, and presents itself as just that. The songs are inventive and fun, the musicianship is solid (Jack the drummer is good as all hell), and Jeremy Koren (he of the high-pitched shriek) can turn a phrase like nobody's bidness. The highlights: "Les Paul vs. Leo Fender" (June of 44-esque), "These Are Good Scars" ('sounds like Superchunk, rocks like Slayer', the best of all ten cuts?), and "Texas Hollow Road" (the Archers would be proud --long live slacker-rock!). This all means one thing: go out this Saturday night, fork over the couch-cushion cash (you'll get change from a fiver), and see them play, they are great live, and if you're lucky, they might sweat on you."-Jarrod Hood 12/12/98

"Stigma Rock Unit combine noisy melodic guitar rock that is influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth and others who mine the washes of feedback domain. This release mixes shorter tracks with drawn out exercises and should appeal to others besides the converted. "Texas Hollow Road" is my pick and could land on any alternative radio playlist, whereas "New Splendor" clocks in at over 20 minutes of harmonic-laden riffs that build a tidal drone that rises and falls. Good stuff."-Bryan Baker

The Grip #6

"I've always been a little frightened of Blacksburg's Stigma - the times I've seen them play at the Tokyo Rose they've sounded incredibly ferocious, like a low-budget horror movie, with stop-start dynamics, jagged blasts of crunch and a hulking Jeremy Koren on lead guitar and vocals looking like he was on the perpetual ready to rock the kill. The band's upcoming CD, a joint venture from two of Virginia's finest indie labels, doesn't sound quite as scary as that. But it's good: a metallic doodle, zigzagging and crossfading in and out of the speaker with definitive titles like "Les Paul Vs. Leo Fender" & "These Are Good Scars".

The Throttle, Late Winter 1998

"Stigma crosses paths with punk, indie, and rock genres on their latest effort. These gentlemen turn up the heat and keep it on full burn throughout the entire album. Guitars are on full, to be specific, everything is on full. Stigma is described as a blend of DC punk and Chapel Hill indie rock. The description is not too far off the mark. The bass and guitar work reminded me of the spacious, full and never anticipated sounds of Primus or Superchunk. But the band surprises because Stigma does not allow its style to be defined at all. The organ playing is great, and highlights the song's creativity instead of drowning it. Stigma is part of the developing Blacksburg music scene, graced by such favorites as Grey Heather [sic]. It will be interesting to watch this Blacksburg quartet expand and move into new styles. Whatever the move, Stigma is a band to watch".-S.J.

SF Bay Guardian On-line 05/01/96

"This collegiate foursome sums it all up on the A-side: "Sounds like Superchunk, looks like Slayer /Just a heavy metal record spinning backward on the player." If you were worried that Superchunk's "Cool" might not have an appropriate college-radio follow-up, stress no more: this single is as catchy as they come, with some mostly instrumental B-side noise for the fellas."-Rene Crist

The Declaration February 15, 1996

"Stigma are in love with these times, and why shouldn't they be? They make the scene. They work at their college radio station, wishing that they could get new releases from smaller, noisier labels, and they collect records, occasionally shelling out the bucks for that super-rare 7" that they they've just got to have. In their spare time, Stigma have also knocked out one of the truly outstanding singles of 1996.
These four gents hail from Blacksburg, which, much like their brand of guitar roar, lies right between DC and Chapel Hill. Texas Hollow Road is one for the record books, fusing powerful indie-Rush drumming, enough clamoring hooks to last lesser bands for whole LPs, and a chorus that advertises their obsessive hobbies without shame: 'sounds like Superchunk/looks like Slayer/just a heavy metal record playing backwards on the player.' The result is pure bliss and one of the finest geek-rock anthems ever. The B-side ups the drama, proving Stigma to be true students of a dynamics-driven rock blast which other bands merely front. Stigma are much too smart to fake the noise. They've put too much free time into knowing the difference. In spite of their ability, Stigma remain a bit insecure: 'Nobody hears a word you're saying/nobody hears a note you're playing.' Not to worry, fellas, we're all ears."-Joe Gross

The DIY Report #32

"Blacksburg, Virginia band Stigma unleashes their debut 7" which was produced by W.C. Barbot of Jawbox. The Aside is a slow anthem to the underdog with squelched guitar rhythms providing foundation to the singer's insistent testimony while the B-side pounds through a raw pulse of driving drums and guitars that seems to falter then explode. RATING: 6"-Bryan Baker

Raro February 1999

"Ancora in 'casa Squealer'-stavolta in collaborazione con la Jagjaguwar- per segnalare l'esordio degli Stigma Rock Unit, quattro americani cresciuti ascoltando Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth e Jawbox. E la sorte ha voluto che proprio il chitarrista di questi ultimi, Bill Barbot, producesse Treasure Path to Soul-Winning, dieci canzoni in cui la rabia e la frustrazione dei musicisti si concretizzano in una potenza di suoni che impressionerebbe anche il piu smaliziato degli appassionati di rock duro. Diamogli tempo: possono crescere ancora".-Gabriele Pescatore