I am always excited for the reemergence of bands that I loved in my youth, even if the new output isn’t all that great. One of my favorite bands ever, Stabbing Westward, are back with an EP called “Dead and Gone”, and this is one of those times where the returning band sounds just as good as they ever have. The EP released on January 3rd, and you can buy it from the band directly. Please do.
Stabbing Westward hail from Los Angeles, California. The current line up includes Christopher Hall on vocals; Walter Flakus on keys, samples, and guitar; Carlton Bost on lead guitar; and Bobby Amaro on drums. The band originally emerged in the late 80s, with their first full album release, “Ungod”, coming in 1994. They released three more albums in 1996, 1998, and 2000 respectively, and then basically fell off the map due to some obtuse thinking on the part of their label. I am a massive fan of all of those albums, including the self-titled 2000 release that seems to split fans into groups. I feel like Stabbing Westward has always been ahead of their time, and I even feel that with this new EP, too.
The band has always straddled the lines between industrial, electronic, and alternative rock. In fact, they fuse the three genres almost seamlessly. So, yes, if you like Nine Inch Nails and Filter, you are probably already a fan. The band is also well known for their incredibly raw, deeply emotional lyrics. Yes, they were angsty in all the best ways, and my teenage self found connection in those lyrics. Honestly, I still do. The band was angry, and I loved it.
On “Dead and Gone”, the band can be seen leaning a bit more into the electronic realm than in the past, but the dark guitars and alternative writing are still there. In fact, the EP has three new songs, but two of them also get the remix treatment, which takes the electronica through the roof (both remixes are amazing and essentially make two completely different songs). Rhythmic beats, dark spaces, hypnotic industrial movements, and searing emotions are all on plentiful display here.
One thing I need to note is just how amazing Chris sounds after all these years. Stabbing Westward has technically been back for a couple years now, as they have been touring. I haven’t gotten the chance to see them, though. Anyways, Chris’ voice is just as heart-rending, instantly recognizable, and razor-edged as ever, and he might even sound better than he did in the band’s golden years.
Another thing of note, and something that makes me happy, is the band’s writing skills have evolved. I hate it when a band doesn’t grow up with their fans, but Stabbing Westward certainly has. The writing lacks the youthful frivolities that some of the original albums rightfully had, and instead I feel like the lyrics are more mature, though still dark and very personal.
The three songs on this EP are “Dead and Gone”, “Cold”, and “Crawl”. The first track is classic Stabbing Westward with sharp edges, longing lyrics, and those hanging spaces that I love so much. “Cold” takes that and adds sampled horns into the mix to make the song feel sorrowful, stark, and ambient. I think this is my favorite of the three, and I love how the remixed version has the extra electronic whiplash to boot. The final song, “Crawl”, is a bit slow, almost like a ballad. It slowly builds, though, until it explodes into sheer passion near the end.
The return of Stabbing Westward has been on my bucket list for years, and I am practically giddy that it actually happened. Chris sounds fantastic, and the music is deeper, more complex, and more evolved than I ever expected. I love every track here, and I hope to see the band play them live this year. Hopefully, a full album will be in the cards soon.