Review Summary: The album that briefly broke them into the mainstream, featuring the singles Shame and What Do I Have To Do?Stabbing Westward
were a band that deserved a lot more attention than they ever received. While lesser groups were still jumping on the industrial rock bandwagon and trying to learn how to use a sampler, Stabbing Westward was playing concerts all around the Chicago area and making a name for their selves with their phenomenal live shows. They were a band that used both the sound of mainstream rock and industrial to make music that was generally confrontational, and always emotional. On this, their second album, they finally received some of the recognition they deserved before fading back away during their third and fourth releases.
People that started listening to Stabbing Westward during their first release, Ungod
, will immediately notice a difference on this album. For one, the guitarist responsible for most of Ungod
's songs had left before the writing of this album. Due to that fact, this album lost the groove the other one so prominently displayed. Apparently, losing their guitar player was stressful enough the rest of the band chose not to replace him. Instead their vocalist, Chris Hall, rose to the challenge and picked up a lot of the guitar duties. Chris turned out to be a pretty good guitar player, even if he did just copy the style of their previous guitarist. Even better for the band and their fans, was he turned out to be a better song writer then their old guitar player, too. That means what this album lost in groove was more than made up for with improved song writing. The songs on this album just stick in your head and stay there, and the choruses are more than just a sentence or two repeated to redundancy. Also, they branched out lyrically, taking on other themes besides failed relationships, most notably sexual abuse in the song "Crushing Me".
opens with the song "I Don't Believe," which could have come off Ungod
if not for the lack of groove and a slight lack of electronics. It begins with a muddy guitar riff and Chris Hall saying “I’m such an asshole, god I’m such a stain, I just keep fucking up again and again,” before raging right into the chorus of the song. The next two tracks are the two singles most responsible for all Stabbing Westward’s mainstream exposure. The second track (and second single), "Shame," is the more rocking of the two, featuring a riff that almost feels stolen from the archives of their original guitar player. It has that screeching sound that was prevalent on the first single from their debut album. Meanwhile, the third track (and first single), "What Do I Have to Do", is more subdued and ballad-like, but also features a lot more electronics than the rest of the album. It is also the song that broke them into the mainstream and onto Mtv rotation.
It should be mentioned that despite the fact the fourth song is almost entirely electronics, it’s definitely obvious they had taken more of a backseat to the guitar playing and the choruses. Due to the caliber of the first three songs, it might not seem like that big of a deal, but after those initial tracks the quality drops a notch. The only two songs out of the last five that aren’t just kind of slow and boring are “So Wrong” and “Falls Apart”. These two songs display a punk influence not found on the first album, but also sacrifices even more of the electronic elements to achieve it.
Overall, Wither, Blister…
is a much more safe and mainstream offering than their debut, featuring much improved songwriting and song structures, but also a lack of energy and aggression, especially in the latter part of the album. Despite the fact this album has two of Stabbing Westward’s most popular songs, it is really hard to recommend this to someone who has never heard them before due the decline in quality after the first four tracks. For those people, I’d recommend their third release, “Darkest Days.” For those that have heard them before, it’s probably a safe bet this is the album that introduced you to them, and you’ll already know what you’re getting into.