When I heard the first Stabbing Westward album, “Ungod,” I was blown away by its sheer intensity. SW’s techno-industrial-goth-metal fusion was actually quite unique. Right off the bat, “Lost” grabs your attention with its dark, gothic lyrics, and the album just keeps going like a juggernaut from there.
“Wither, Blister, Burn & Peel” picks up the torch, but now there is some depth to the album. The radio hit “What Do I Have To Do” is a beautiful post-industrial piece with the first true example of the beautiful harmonies that this otherwise angry-sounding band was capable of.
Then came “Darkest Days.” Although it did spawn a radio hit with “Save Yourself,” the album felt disjointed, like they were trying too hard to hold on to the angst that fueled their first album. The balladry of “Waking Up Beside You” and “You Complete Me” so clashed with the dark, dank “Drugstore” and the mercifully short but pathetic noise of “Darkest Days” as to make the whole endeavor almost laughable. Although I myself did purchase this album, it soured me on SW so much that I waited a year to buy the last album.
And then rumors of a breakup started flying. In truth, Columbia Records declined to sign them on for future recordings, so the band was left without a label. After a bit of shopping around, they were approached by Koch Records and decided to sign with the smaller company. Realizing that they were tired of the angry industrial-metal that had marked their career, they brought in Suede producer Ed Buller to help them with their newer, lighter sound. The addition of studio guitarist Derrek Hawkins opened the doors to some very beautiful guitar work, and thus was born “Stabbing Westward,” self-titled because the band considered it their “rebirth.” This album showcases the soft side of SW that struggled so hard to show itself in the lighter moments of “Darkest Days” and “Wither.” From guitar-driven ballads to synth-heavy laments, this album showcases the best of a grown-up metal band. The angst is still there, but the anger is replaced by a more wistful wisdom, a sense of “if I only knew then what I know now.” A truly mature effort by a mature band.
And then they broke up. For real, this time. But fortunately, they didn’t quit. Check out Chris Hall’s new, L.A.-based band, The Dreaming. They have a track on the soundtrack for the movie “Elektra,” called “Beautiful.” Walt Flakus is now playing guitar with The Clay People, while Andy produces music for television.