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Stabbing Westward

The Essential

first of all, a short summary of the band’s history:
Stabbing Westward
were a ’90s industrial/alternative rock band. their only constant band members were their founders Mark Hall and Walter Flakus, who played under the SW pseudonym since 1985. officially the band was formed in 1992, with their first album following in 1993. their breakthrough was after their second album in 1996, but their success wouldn’t last for too long. the following album was going to sell poorly, thus their label dropped the band. after finding another label they produced their last album, and broke up in 2002.

“Haunting Me”

so, why am i thinking they’re worth promoting after all these years?
i personally love the music SW made a lot. within all those industrial rock bands the mid-90s spawned, SW really was one of the outstanding ones, although they never really got the attention they deserved! sure, they got some short-lived celebrity status with their second album landing gold, and having two singles played on heavy rotation on MTV and radio. yet all other releases strangely enough flopped. why? i seriously don’t understand why! i think they just ‘perished’ under the industrial band boom of the mid 90s… how sad.

what made them unique should have been some good reasons for staying famous.
their songs are both powerful, and yet very touchy. somehow they always managed to keep a well balanced mood scheme in their production. typical topics of their songs are broken hearts and melancholy wallowing of ones own inadequateness. hence the lyrics turned always out to become kinda depressive and even nihilistic. this put into a powerful hate resulted in great rock tunes. while hearing you could easily fall into a state of deep melancholy, but the songs are still vital enough to make you wanna dance!
their overall sound was so ’rounded’ and well-thoughtout, they were easy to recognize. if your heard a few songs you would easily recognize other songs of the band. and they remained true to their own style – other bands who lasted for more than 15 years usually go through a lot of changes with their musical styles. not Stabbing Westward. you could hear all their songs in random order and not tell which are older and which are newer ones.
what kinda was a downfall for me in the first place was a slightly pop-esque repetition in the scheme of most songs. some songs have a refrain which recurs up to four times, and/or text lines which repeat constantly for 5 to 10 times in a row. though this is a typical indicator for pop music, the music of SW is way to deep to deserve that mark. because despite the fact of being a little bit too ‘repetative’ for my taste, nearly all of SW’s songs are quite complex in structure and of course much deeper in context than the standard pop song is. and the positive side effect was a really great value of recognition of their songs.
also i love the voice of Mark Hall! he manages to strike the right tones, even the high pitches, but keeps a clear sound to it, which is easily recognizable and unique!

“Slipping Away” “Into the Void”

i like to compare SW with Nine Inch Nails, mainly for the fact that they sure sound alike somehow.
especially the late 90s NIN sounds pretty much like SW did throughout their whole existence. just more experimental and less ‘repetative’. but you can sense the same aggression, and the same desperate point of view over the world. i would even go so far and claim that they sure did inspire one another.
fun fact: before SW was officially formed, later-to-be drummer of NIN Chris Vrenna played for SW, creating their first few demos which let to their first contract with a major label. so don’t tell me Trent Reznor did not know about Stabbing Westward!
and now go hear to SW’s “Slipping Away” from 1996 and “Save Yourself” from 1998, and after that to NIN’s “Into the Void” – hard to deny a connection, right?
but well, they share the same basic sound (at the late 90s at least), talked about analog topics, hence they HAD to share a certain pool of catchwords, like “falling apart”, “hurt”, “lies”, and resemble each other…

“Violent Mood Swings”

i certainly drew a lot of inspiration from the bands work. their music is just so universally adaptable to a lot of things, plus the great melancholic touch of it suits me and my works well. i often work on a piece of work of mine, which is so heavy inspired by the piece of music i had in mind while creating, that i end up illustrating the song or album. i did a lot of SW-related works, but rarely attribute them as my main influence.

one of my latest works was a series and a booklet which dignified one specific song, which the images illustrated: “Falls Apart”, which you can download at http://doctrinedesigns.com/downloads#falls-apart or view at http://doctrinedesigns.deviantart.com/gallery/#falls-apart
also heavy influenced by a SW song was the theme series from my latest grunge booklet: “violent mood Swings”, download at http://doctrinedesigns.com/downloads#deconstructed or at http://doctrinedesigns.deviantart.com/art/Deconstructed-vol-3-153604747

“The Thing I Hate”

some of you gamers may already know the band, without knowing their name, because one SW song actually happened to be the opening theme for the 1998 game Duke Nukem: Time to Kill for the PS1. i remember watching a trailer for the game were this song was also played. i loved that song, tracked the name and artist down (which was a bit more difficult back then) and that is how i, and many others beside me, found out about Stabbing Westward. although it’s not the best example for their music…
it may not helped the bands popularity, but i find this mentionable.

“Falls Apart”

today many laugh about the strong emotive touch that alternative music had during the 90s. back then this melancholy was more appreciated for its romantic conjunctions. just look at the grunge music of that decade, or the darker e-industrial. just most of the best music was meant to make the listener feel desperate and sad. and somewhere between Nirvana and Static-X lies Stabbing Westward, dragging the same thing on and on…
but for me this still is great, because melancholy can be linked to so many types of atmospheres. and this is what bands like SW did very very well.
what it spawned is nothing i like to think about, because in the 2000s this development spawned what we deridingly rant as “emo”. so if you’re a kid of the 21st-century-pop-culture, you are most likely not to get the romance that lies within it. but technically most of grunge and alternative music from the 90s were the emo music from back then.
so, to my own grief, what did Mark Hall do after SW broke up? he formed a band called The Dreaming, which can pretty easily be described as the typical “emo band”. you don’t necessarily have to hear to this band when you like Stabbing Westward, because The Dreaming sure is by far more superficial – in their themes and musical structures. also far more mainstream-compatible. which is sad. (even their band photos and the whole visual style is so extreme stereo-typical “emo”, it hurts my brain)

“What Do I Have To Do?”

so, that’s basically all i wanted to say.
i hope i could interest you into at least giving the band a try. even if you’re not that much into alternative rock. trust me, it is worth it!
now the only thing left to do is advice you some exemplary songs, or a good album to start with.

you can hear a LOT of Stabbing Westward songs on their Last.fm account: http://www.last.fm/music/Stabbing+Westward
and their old homepage features some MP3s for download, how great is that http://www.stabbingwestward.com

good tracks that stand out really positively would be:

The Essential is a best-of album, which should be your first choice if you’re unsure. a good album to start with would be Darkest Days – it’s my personal favorite – or Wither Blister Burn + Peel, which is the most famous album of the band (the one with the gold status).

maybe you should go find yourself a good torrent ; )

that’s all, have fun hearing!

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last modified: 2010-Nov-29, 18:49:39
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