Stabbing Westward Not “Dead and Gone”
With original members Chris Hall, Walter Flakus, and bass player (and Charlotte, NC native) Carlton Bost reunited, it appeared that the inevitable was going to happen, and finally did, for long-suffering Stabbing Westward fans.
I remember sweating through my heavy black leather jacket while standing smack in the middle of a crowded Tremont Music Hall concert floor on Tuesday, October 29th,1996-the first time I saw Stabbing Westward live. It’s funny the things you remember from your younger concert experiences, especially the ones you remained sober through. Back in the mid-90s that was a hit and miss affair for me that sorely depended upon the band I was seeing. Stabbing Westward was my brother’s favorite band at the moment, and he had recently introduced me to their first long-player, Ungod. I was mildly interested, mostly because of “Nothing,” a song I first heard in the movie Bad Boys. Stabbing Westward really didn’t win me over though until their breakthrough follow up album, Wither, Blister, Burn and Peel. That album’s mix of metalish riff-rock wedded to a heavy industrial grind that was accented with electronic flourishes, fit much better alongside the CDs populating my flipbook at the time. A flipbook that was weighted down by NIN, Gravity Kills, Filter, and, for good measure, some Ministry-definitely black leather jacket music-and a list of potential concert experiences I’d stay sober for. Heavy black leather jackets might look cool on campus, or so I thought, but it wasn’t very cool, in a very physical sense, at a rock concert. It’s amazing I didn’t pass out from heat exhaustion. The things you did during your younger concert-going days, like suffer near dehydration in an effort to look cool, are also funny. 24 years later though, it looks like I might get another opportunity to see Stabbing Westward live again as the reunited band is recording and releasing new music. This time around though, to hell with the leather jacket. I just wanna enjoy the show, and based on their new EP Dead and Gone, Stabbing Westward hasn’t lost a step. I doubt they will have lost anything live either.
Stabbing Westward was always a bit of a gloomy band lyrically and “Dead and Gone,” the EP’s eponymous lead picks up right where singer Chris Hall and his main Stabbing Westward writing partner Walter Flakus left off. Stabbing Westward’s lyrics border on outright melodrama most of the time, but Hall’s angsty delivery is so honest and full-throated that pretty much only Trent Reznor could get away with worse. While Reznor’s lyrics are more oblique and open to interpretation, there’s nothing left to the imagination where Hall’s lyrics are concerned. It’s all part of the artistic concept that is Stabbing Westward though. Fortunately, as far as Hall’s writing is concerned, everything isn’t a hopeless emotional despondency. After Stabbing Westward’s early 00’s breakup, Hall went on to form The Dreaming with Johnny Haro (short term former Stabbing Westward drummer). A few albums of more positive themed, but paradoxically more emo sounding, hard rock later and Walter Flakus, Hall’s old writing partner in Stabbing Westward, joined The Dreaming. With Hall, Flakus, and original Stabbing Westward bass player (and Charlotte, NC native) Carlton Bost reunited, it appeared that the inevitable was going to happen, and finally did, for long-suffering Stabbing Westward fans.
Dead and Gone promises to be the first of a series of EPs and singles that the band is planning on releasing this year according to Hall. The EP consists of the title track, another original song titled “Cold,” two remix tracks (one of “Dead and Gone” and one of “Cold”) and an amped-up re-recording of “Crawl,” an early track by The Dreaming. While Stabbing Westward’s 90s sound might not have changed, and one listen to “Dead and Gone” assures this, the music industry’s tune has changed, dramatically so, since the 90s. Releasing a series of singles and EPs over the course of a year will undoubtedly generate more buzz and create more opportunities for Stabbing Westward to capture more of the attention of the said attention deprived contemporary music consumer. Instead of bewailing what is looking more and more like we’re living through the era of the death of the album, let’s enjoy Stabbing Westward’s reunification in whatever form the music is delivered. That notwithstanding, I’d rather have all the music now in album form, but I guess I’m an old fogey at this point…
…but back in 1996, I was a black leather jacket wearing, English Major paper writing, and most assuredly melodramatic concert-goer. Stabbing Westward took up a sizable chunk of my CD listening time, as well as concert time. I saw them at Tremont Music Hall no less than three times over the course of the next few years. While Dead and Gone primarily fuels my nostalgia for that dreamy time, it deserves more and better attention than I am giving it. Here’s to the next early twenty-something melodramatic English major discovering Stabbing Westward. If that’s you, give it a listen. I’d love to hear what you have to say about it. By the way…I still have that old leather jacket…although it’s a much tighter fit these days.