Review Summary: Stabbing Westward's definitive album, full of everything that anyone ever liked about any of their other albums... modern rock put through an industrialized mixer.
If there were a definitive Stabbing Westward
album most would agree that it is this one. This is the album where they brought back the industrial elements that were lacking on the last album. In fact, they’re used even better than on their first album, Ungod
. In addition to the return of the industrial influence, the songs on this album are just as catchy as anything from Whither, Blister, Burn, and Peel
. When you combine the best features of their previous two albums you end up with the album that most fans would refer to as Stabbing Westward’s peak.
Even though this is their best album, things don’t get off to a very good start. The first three tracks are basically throw-away tracks. The first two, "Darkest Days" and "Everything I Touch,” both seem like album intros that drag on for too long. The third track, "How Could I Hold On,” is obviously a song and not just an intro, but it still suffers from the same problems in that it’s highly repetitive and doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. It is not until track four, "Drugstore,” that the album really kicks into high gear. It begins with a high-pitched, pulsating synth line, then a lower pitched synth comes in and finally a wall of guitars. When the vocals come in, it becomes obvious that Stabbing Westward is back with renewed vigor.
Most every song thereafter is near perfect, containing a sense of anger and use of electronics not even seen on Ungod
. The guitars are in your face and have a crisp sound, and the electronics are darker and used much more often. Also, Chris Hall’s vocals have brought back the pissed-off and anguished edge they hadn’t had since their debut. If I remember correctly, in an interview they stated that this album was in response to some of their fans lamenting the loss of their edge on their second album - if so, they more then made up for it.
It’s worth repeating that even though this album showed a renewed aggression and industrial influence, they definitely didn’t lose their ability to write a catchy melody or chorus. Songs such as their first single, "Save Yourself", manages to be more industrial than rock and, yet, is still one of the catchiest on the album. It uses an almost danceable beat, the screeching guitar featured extensively in Ungod
, and Chris Hall’s vocals bouncing above it all. Other songs in this vein would include "Haunting Me,” and "Waking Up Beside You.” This album also revisits Stabbing Westward’s tendency on the last two albums to write a few very slow songs that almost seem more like bridges between the song before it and after it. The ones on this album are similar to the past ones; mostly synth, depressing, without a defined hook but still good.
Anger, aggression, a renewed use of electronics, a very sharp and overbearing wall of guitars, Chris Hall’s anguished lyrics and vocals, and a great ear for hooks is what ends up making this Stabbing Westward’s best album of all time. Despite the fact that this album stumbles through its first three tracks, the final 13 more than make up for it. This album is highly recommended for all Stabbing Westward fans as well as those who might be disappointed by the last few outputs from Nine Inch Nails