Written by Eric Sperrazza
I have some pretty vivid memories of discovering the American industrial-rock band, Stabbing Westward. I first stumbled upon them in 1996 when I was knee-deep in industrial rock artists that I was discovering, after falling in love with the epic Depeche Mode album, Songs of Faith and Devotion.
Everyone from White Zombie, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, and even Filter was on my radar and in my headphones. During that time, I distinctly remember hearing Stabbing Westward’s single, “What Do I Have to Do?” and I felt teenage pubescent, emotional sadness, anger, and confusion, which I personally was traversing through as a high schooler, but through my speakers and with an electronic fusion to add to the allure.
The single that followed, “Shame,” in my opinion, was a powerful song that found you teetered between pining and stalking thoughts of love lost. But, for your average teenager, those first breakups in life are devastating world-killers, and the deep emotion behind sung words like “What is left for me without you? I don’t know what’s real without you. How can I obsess without you?!” hit hard, right in the feels. I followed the band right up until the turn of the century, until I didn’t…because I couldn’t.
The band roughly formed in 1985 at Western Illinois University and consisted of Christopher Hall (bass/lead vocals), Walter Flakus (keyboards), Stuart Zechman (guitar), and David Suycott (Drums). In 1991, they began recording songs for an EP that would eventually land them a recording contract with Columbia Records.
Their first album release, Ungod, saw daylight in 1993, which earned them features in films like Clerks, Johnny Mnemonic, and Mortal Kombat. However, it was the seminal 1995 release of Wither, Blister & Peel, that saw three singles and a wealth of notoriety. Their 1998 follow-up, Darkest Days, however, would not experience the same success. Regardless, the band was featured in games like Duke Nukem and movies like Spawn and Urban Legend. By 2002, Stabbing Westward had gone their separate ways.
Recently, Stabbing Westward announced the release of their first new album in over two decades, Chasing Ghosts. The record will feature Hall (lead vocals, guitar & electronic music production) and Flakus (keys), and also a new bassist named Carlton Bost and Bobby Amaro on the drums. Together, they bring together ten brand new songs to fill this album, and I was excited to take a listen and see where this band has landed since the last time we crossed paths.
The album wastes no time in firmly placing you smack in the middle of a breakup-fueled emotionally fragile about-face. The first track and the album’s first single, “I Am Nothing,” reintroduces you to a certain darkness that only the loss of something beautiful creates; a darkness that was the staple point in the band’s first go around.
As the album moves on, there is a feeling of continuity in the band’s original sound with hints of a new take on industrial rock, as seen in Tool’s last album. There is a grimy slithering synth creeping through each track behind the pulse-pounding chords and the primal cries from the abyss in every word sung; a balanced blend of old and new styles from this four-piece. This fresh and sultry sinister vibe can be felt in songs like “Push” and “Ghost.”
With the various comparisons of old and new flavors, there is something that wasn’t lost on me at the end of the record that is probably the most mature note of the whole album and a true sign of growth – closure. The album ends with a song called “The End.” In a truly artistic way, much like a seasoned mixologist crafting a drink with specific hints and experiences, Stabbing Westward created a song that both ends the story and allows you to feel closure, all the while leaving you with the slightest whisper of holding on and maybe a few more sad moments to come.
To that I ask, isn’t that just life?
How many times have we said goodbye to someone that just wasn’t meant to be in our story, forever, and yet still had flashes of nostalgia for that time or even simply that feeling? I would venture to say that is all of us. Without hesitation, I can valiantly confirm that my favorite feeling with this new Stabbing Westward experience, now that I am a grown man, is the delivery of honesty in the end. The time is over, it is best to move on, and move on you will, but it is still going to hurt a little.
As the adage goes, “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” Stabbing Westward always validated my emotions when I fell down. Today, they resonate with the will that every employee, parent, or community leader, must display and that is the will to make space for hurtful emotions, but to pave a way for a better day.
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