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Stabbing Westward

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Stabbing Westward have always had a mix of industrial overtones and crashing power chords at their disposal, but their self-titled fourth album focuses on their melodic side. Opting for less electronic coloring this time out, they lean in a modern-rock direction that’s balanced against their signature dark, haunting style; here, songs that start off heavy and gloomy swell into catchy choruses. The hypnotic ”So Far Away” has a psychedelic edge while ”Perfect” serves up acoustic guitars and layered harmonies. ”I Remember” and ”Happy,” while lyrically reflective, ultimately come across as airy, upbeat rockers. The compelling, downright disturbing closer, ”Television,” takes an ambient route. But elements of their earlier sound remain in the likes of ”Wasted,” ”High,” and ”The Only Thing.” Ultimately, Stabbing Westward is the kind of album that strikes a neat balance between keeping old fans happy while drawing in new partisans. –Gail Flug

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  • 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.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • First off, it is not my opinion that Stabbing Westward “sold out” with their release of this CD. Yes, it is not nearly as dark, heavy, or somber. However, I have yet to hear any of their songs on the radio (I think they released “So Far Away”), so I wouldn’t call this a desperate run for them to gain mass appeal. I would prefer to justify the change in music style to a gradual change in Christopher Hall’s personna.”Ungod” and “Wither Blister Burn & Peel” were outlets for the rage and hatred that Chris Hall felt for his ex. By “Darkest Days”, my favorite SW album, the rage was still evident in some songs, but for the most part had dissipated. It was replaced by sorrow and desperation. By their self-titled album, it has been replaced with a feeling of acceptance. Acceptance that the relationship is over and that he can move on with his life.As far as music goes, this is excellent stuff. Softer than previous works, yes, but actually a progression as far as the use of melody and rhythm. It is of my opinion that the band has progressed, and is currently exploring all of the limitless possibilities that exist for this talented band.Will you agree with my synopsis? Maybe not, but I do urge you to give this CD a number of listens before you discard the band. It is still very emotional, just not as depressing as past works. Favorite songs include “I Remember”, “So Far Away”, and “The Air You Breathe”.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • For most bands, the self-titled album is a debut. Although Stabbing Westward is the group’s fourth, it is also the debut of their new sound. With the departure of guitarist Marcus Eliopulos, a whole new dynamic has set in with the quartet that remains. The former industrial sound is almost gone; save for three of the ten tracks, all that remains of it is a faint flavoring in the background of what could be some of Live’s heavier work. The new Stabbing Westward is dominated not by the fast, crunching guitars and pounding beats of old, but by clean acoustic or light electric guitars, light beats, and synthesizer sounds which no longer veer toward the electronic buzz of anger which has since dissipated. The rage of betrayal and unrequited love has worn itself down to melancholy loneliness. But this is certainly not the end of a good thing. The band may play differently now, but the lyrics are the same classic depression that all Stabbing fans know and love. Well, okay, maybe not completely. The song “Angel” is actually a drastic move – it’s a happy love song. It has the aforementioned dark guitar jangling characteristic of Live or the Cure, but a chorus of “I’ve never been loved by an angel/ Until tonight, when your heaven filled my world.” And the best part is, it works. Stabbing Westward have made a full turn on this song, and done a better job at it than some bands who do this sort of thing as their main shtick (see Lifehouse or any boy band for further clarification). Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work here. “I Remember,” for example, starts with a nice acoustic guitar rhythm and somber background sounds, but loses some credibility with the almost whining bridge of “your kiss-ES, sweet kiss-ES.” “The Only Thing,” another alternative-sounding tune with that shadowy industrial tint, starts reaching into cliche territory with the chorus “You are everything I need/ You are the air I breathe.” For a band not normally known to dip into such banality, this comes as a bit of a surprise; by the same token, though, this first mistake can still be deemed excusable. The overall diagnosis: Stabbing Westward’s new album is a move in a completely different direction, but it’s still a good direction. Running the musical spectrum from fast acoustic melodies (“Perfect”) to time-honored industrial guitar angst (“High”), and the lyrical spectrum from self-loathing and regret (“Wasted”) to renewed and eager faith in the institution of romance (“Angel,” “High” again), this disc could do to Stabbing what Sgt. Pepper’s… did to the Beatles. A decade spent developing the raw sound of disappointment, beating it to perfection, and then a sudden change of course as soon as the end is in sight. Life is full of interesting surprises.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I bought my first Stabbing Westward album after hearing a song I liked very much on the radio. I loved the album and proceeded to buy their other albums and genuinely enjoyed them as well. It’s rare that I find a band where I actually listen to the entire album as opposed to just a select few tracks. Stabbing Westward was one of those few.This latest album is such a departure from their previous albums that you likely would not be able to pick the music as being Stabbing Westward. For some that might be a good thing; for me it was very disappointing. After hearing the first few songs, I honestly checked the cd case to make sure I bought the right album.As the reviewer above states, the music is very light. That can mean different things to different people, but, to me it sounded like “pop” music. To the extent that their previous music can be described as dark, heavy, loud- none of that is present on this album. I normally don’t write reviews here, but I find that the majority of the music reviews are positive- to the point that it’s really not helpful to judge whether I would like a particular album or not. I just wanted to let people know that if they buy this latest album expecting something along the lines of the previous Stabbing Westward albums they will likely be disappointed. I will say that my rating is only intended to reflect that this is not what I wanted to hear when I put in a Stabbing Westward cd. If I could separate myself from that fact, I probably would have rated the album 3 stars as opposed to two.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Stabbing Westward has always held a soft spot in my heart because of some of the things they’ve done in the past, but I actually let this release slip by me for a while because I was afraid it would be much of the same and that’s not what I wanted. Perhaps it was overexposure to the same products that made me think this, with too much industrial hitting the market and not soothing the soul, or perhaps I simply wasn’t in the mood for that type of darkness in the moment. Sometimes that happens and sometimes you get tired of screaming into the emptiness, wanting something a little more touching because the anger eventually subsides. Whatever the reason initially, I recently acquired the need to look and see what I passed up, and what I let get by me was yet another evolution in a band that already audio taste anyhow. One of the reasons quite a few people objected to this album was because it mellowed between releases and because the band went for slower ballads instead of anger. Perhaps the phrasing has been more akin to the words “selling out” and the criticism of that move said that this wasn’t widely accepted, but that is a bit unfair and doesn’t speak on the work itself. Instead, that speaks of set expectations by an audience that don’t want a band to change, hoping to capsulate a little spark of feeling that most would tire of if they really thought on it. Good bands actually evolve as they move forward, putting out different types of music, because staying the same and trying to reproduce hits from the past isn’t actually a form of expressional validity. Instead, that is what one would truly call selling out, terming it better with the words “buying in,” and that’s not what Stabbing Westward did at all. There was a song or two on the album that I might go as far as to call electronic, with “television” using some odd background sounds as a beat, but most of these weren’t actually motivated by a harsh beats. Instead, the music is more melodic than I expected, allowing Christopher Hall to use his voice and to use it well. This allowed for songs touching on themes like love and touching on them in ways that were sometimes beautiful and sometimes tragic, defying some of the restraints that other albums had. This isn’t to say that the other albums were limited, mind you, but to instead say that songs like “I Remember” have sad themes that haven’t been produced by Stabbing Westward like this before. Even though the themes of disappointment in songs like “Perfect” and “high” have occurred before, they take on new life herein. I personally thought that this album had a little more regret in it than some of the other albums I’ve heard, with alot of the anger that the previous releases had falling by the wayside. Just check out the song “Wasted” to see what I mean. This piece, as a whole, sounded more like tracks motivated by regret and reflection, love and its hardships taking the driver’s seat and asking questions many of us have oftentimes asked, and that seems to add another spectrum to Stabbing Westward’s body of work. For that reason, I’d highly recommend it to Stabbing Westward fans that can stand the idea that some things can change and still remain the same, and I’d also tout it to others to at least sample. I’m actually happy I bought it.

    Posted on November 23, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now