Review Summary: The right release... hopefully the right time.
Stabbing Westward could never be described as a lucky band. The story of their first era could be described simply as “wrong place, wrong time”. Despite solid albums such as Whither, Blister, Burn, and Peel
and Darkest Days
, the band emerged during a time when mainstream music was saturated with industrial rock bands that were mostly terrible. After floundering on the cusp of success for three albums, they finally succumbed to label pressure (and sabotage) and jumped on the alterative rock bandwagon. The only results were an alienated fanbase, dismal album sales, and a hasty breakup. This was the entirety of Stabbing Westward’s story for nearly two decades, but then they started showing subtle signs of life as early as 2016. These faint signs eventually grew into an album announcement in 2019, and finally the release of Chasing Ghosts
in 2022. So, what does Stabbing Westward sound like twenty-one years after their last release?
In all honesty, they sound like a band partying like it’s 1999. Predictably, they’ve taken the industrial ferocity of Darkest Days
and the hooks of Wither, Blister, Burn, and Peel
and crafted an industrial rock album straight out of the nineties; virtually ignoring the last twenty years of musical trends. The pre-release singles, “I Am Nothing” and “Ghost”, could be inserted into Darkest Days
and not sound the least bit out of place. They both showcase a foundation of undulating synths, rhythmic percussion, and riffs that have just enough bite to feel visceral; all to highlight the easily recognizable vocals of Chris Hall. Just as in the past, it is Chris Hall’s vocals that really give Stabbing Westward their distinct sound and catchiness. That’s not to say the music isn’t great, – because songs such as “Control Z” with its bouncy rhythm and atmospheric keyboards is one of Stabbing Westward’s best because of the music – but it’s Chris Hall’s vocals that bring it to another level.
Maybe ‘partying’ wasn’t the right word to use earlier. This is Stabbing Westward, after all. Chasing Ghosts
is a dark, dreary album full of pulsating synths, pounding rhythmic percussion, and aggressive yet accessible riffs, all rounded out by the strong vocals of Christopher Hall. It is the seamless follow-up to Stabbing Westward’s seminal peak, Darkest Days
. When Stabbing Westward hit the scene the first time, they quickly drowned in a sea of genre saturation combined with high label expectations that quickly turned to indifference, but they don’t have to worry about those things anymore. Hopefully this second era won’t end up with the same footnote, – Wrong Place, Wrong Time – because Chasing Ghosts
is absolutely the right release... hopefully it's finally the right time.