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By Terry Martinson, Contributor
Tuesday, May 17, 2022 @ 6:08 AM

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Chasing Ghosts

COP International

WARNING. What you are about to read is a review of an album that may only be described as brilliant, quintessential and quite easily the album of the year, bar none. An album that swallowed this reviewer whole, consuming his very psyche, his being. Swaddling him a hundred pound weighted blanket, that while comforting, reassuring and downright cathartic, is also scary, claustrophobic and ultimately therapeutic. This long play has bored itself into the soul of this reviewer, consuming him and resonating with his core. This album has taken him on an epic journey of heart wrenching honesty, tragedy, transparency and truth. The artist should be familiar to many, if not take this time to become so, take the dive, let the dark, swirling abyss consume you and you will be eternally grateful.

For those not all that familiar with the industrial, synth pop, gothic, melodic hard rock offerings of STABBING WESTWARD, The band has been a staple on alternative rock radio stations since the release of Wither, Blister, Burn and Peel in 1996. A release that thrust the band into the mainstream with radio and video friendly anthems of hook laden, pulse quickening songs "What Do I Have To Do" and "Shame", both of which were on heavy rotation and helped in garnering the band a gold record. This is not to say that the bands first release, Ungod didn't rumble through the industry like a stampede of wild horses, garnering the band some tasty tour slots and singles appearing on (sometimes failing to land on the actual soundtracks) movies of the time, Bad Boys for one, the Will Smith, Martin Lawrence vehicle that included the song "Nothing". "Save Yourself" was a monster follow up hit from the band's 3rd album Darkest Days. The band would then be forced to find a new label and eventually release their 4th album, this one self titled, in 2001. The album unfortunately didn't resonate with the masses as well as previous efforts, even though there is no logical reason as to why. Yes, I said logical as the single "So Far Away" is an absolute banger and the music videos lead in dialogue certainly surmises the bands impact on their fanbase. STABBING WESTWARD would go on hiatus for the next 21 years, dabbling a bit here and their with side projects, a 30th anniversary reunion in the early aughts and an extended play single in 2020, of which "Crawl", "Cold" and "Dead & Gone" are resurrected on 2022's Chasing Ghosts.

To say Chasing Ghosts isn't a perfect album should be considered sacrilege. Yes, I know full well that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and every mouth has its own taste, but the shear unbridled power and raw energy of STABBING WESTWARD, who sound even better now than in their heyday (certainly something not in the norm for many legacy acts), can not and should not be ignored/denied. If you are of little faith, let's get down to brass tacks and talk songs shall we? The album as a whole carries a fairly consistent and uptempo theme throughout, primal, pounding, driven and very infectious. "I Am Nothing" is a perfect opener, huge industrial keys and programming with a monstrous metal guitar riff and vocalizing from Christopher Hall that pair so well with their angsty aggressive music and Christopher's heart wrenchingly powerful vocals and as "I Am Nothing" will detail, the topic is a somber look at someones realization that they are nothing to that significant (or not so) person that they have invested in. "Damaged Goods" continues these not-so-hidden themes and the inclusion of the very heavy whispered accentuating vocal in verse adds despair to the damaged goods mantra being delivered and will certainly resonate with anyone with even a glimmer of lower esteem or a need to be accepted/included all the while declaring the efforts are futile. "Cold" is a little more uptempo or poppy in its presentation, but again with the theme of loving yet not having that feeling returned, with a particularly keen play on this age-old topic by referring to the other as "Cold". As with the first 2 tracks "Cold" is an incredible earworm that will have the listener singing along within moments. "Push" is a tad sedated and surreal, but astonishingly engaging for a longer song. Yes the tale told is one of sadness, and insecurity where, as Christopher sings "All I wanted you, is to want me" and of course courtesy of said insecurities the outcome was one of pushing that partner away. A beautiful song and there isn't anyone alive that this song doesn't resonate with on some level. "Wasteland" begins showing (or continuing) Walter Flakus' proficiencies in generating a soundscape second to none and then Christopher pummels the listener with a monster of a guitar riff and his signature vocals. The outro chorus is stunning and powerful with the pinched harmonic guitars, paired with the industrial samplings and Christopher's proclamation of said "Wasteland". "Control Z" is a larger than life arena synth rock anthem that one could easily see a literal sea of audience members bopping, swaying and jumping about to the rhythms that have engulfed them. The breakdown is stunning. "Control Z", even though no better than any other track on this album, could certainly quite easily slip into album oriented radio and sneak into those Billboard charts.

"Crawl" would/could easily be the gothic "Open Arms" and back in nineteen-eighty something I could see myself saying something akin to "STABBING WESTWARD wrote this song for me"... A very great lower tempo'd song about the sheer raw emotional pleading of a broken heart, imploring the recipient for another chance and how a crawl to do so isn't out of the question. "Dead & Gone" digs right in with the staple Hall/Flakus heavy guitar riff, soaring emotionally strained vocals and pounding, anthemic programming driving the song through its verse, chorus, verse, industrial drum breakdown and conclusion. Of course, let's please recognize and give credit where credit is due as STABBING WESTWARD's Hall and Flakus have paired with 2 proficient supporting musicians in Carlton Bost (guitars and programming) and Bobby Amaro (drums). "Ghost" is ridiculous, yep, pounding, anthemic, energetic, infectious and downright soul crushing. I love it and have to wonder whether Christopher is as broken as he writes and sings about or the most well adjusted person in the room. Either way "Ghost" is a textbook example of not so subtle, yet brilliant song writing. I mean c'mon, "I'm just a ghost trapped in these memories" and that haunting xylaphone-esque rhythm with the keyboard overlay is magical as well as hammering home the entirety of the song. "The End", well, is the album closer and is another surreal soundscape with a very dialed back keyboard rhythm and the soulful nearly distraught vocalizing of Christopher telling another tale of loss. The song is brilliant in its lyrical content as well as its musical and overall song crafting presentation. I will never grow tired of listening to this album, but specifically this song, so sad, depressing, but so poignant, with such yearning, sigh.

As an adult this album and it's in your face themes resonate deeply with me, both personally and observationally. I most certainly would have felt similarly if I was 16 versus 50 something. I would love to hear the bands inner thoughts on where all their inspirations stem from and I hope their respective insides are as healthy as their outsides, they look fabulous and as their play has continued to dare I say get better with age.

In conclusion, it is quite obvious that STABBING WESTWARD and their 2022 long play Chasing Ghosts is an album for the era. This one is a must have and I can easily see this one's staying power as there is no age in the album's content and its presentation.

5.0 Out Of 5.0 (Truth be told this one should be a million out of 5!)


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