Stabbing Westward was trying to reinvent themselves in 2001. Long known as an industrial hard rock group, this hardworking (lots of hours logged on the road) band has been at it since the early '90s, with several discs out and some career high points, such as their rotation on MTV's Buzz Bin in 1996. 2001 saw Stabbing Westward with a new label, Koch, a new producer, Ed Buller (Suede), and a self-titled release that maintains the band's heavy guitar sound but is buffered with a poppier sensibility. Their shift in style is a wise move, as the band is removed from the isolation of a niche genre and can join ranks with such commercially successful acts as Fuel, 3 Doors Down, and so forth. Stabbing Westward is a solid rock album that should fit comfortably on mainstream rock radio stations. Lead singer Christopher Hall's voice is full of empathy and pleading and the guitars are heavy, melodic, and thick. Hats off to band keyboard player/programmer Walter Flakus who provides tasty industrial sounds that color and nicely support the songs on this disc. A fine example of Flakus at work is on "Happy," a moody rock song peppered with a resonant vibraphone part. Several standout moments occur on this well-crafted piece of work. A raw energy marks the explosive "So Far Away," while the earnest "Perfect" moves with determination and passion. The best song of the set, however, is "The Only Thing," a creeping, trippy rock track that packs smart and engaging lyrics and vocals delivered with searing emotion. Stabbing Westward's hypnotic love song is made more potent by its dramatic and haunting music. The disc's one faltering moment occurs on "I Remember," which sounds like a Vertical Horizon ballad. All the elements are here for a searing rock ballad -- yearning voice, emotional electric guitar chords that hit you in the gut, and so forth -- but the weak link here is the lyrics, which, had they been more mature, would have made this good song great. Stabbing Westward is a solid modern rock album, flavored with catchy hooks, moodiness, edginess, and passionate music and performances. The band's decision to take a stab at a new sound paid off.
Stabbing Westward Review
by Liana Jonas