Sep 2017 07

Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore, MD – 08/17/2017

 

With two Gold albums and several hit singles that dominated radio and MTV in the late ’90s, Stabbing Westward holds a special place in the memories of many an industrial and alternative rock fan from that era. Vulnerability and aggression in equal doses, the band’s songs played as soundtrack to all the heartache and turmoil of anyone who felt the weight of emotional collapse. Since disbanding in 2002, the band members had gone on to other creative pursuits, with keyboardist Walter Flakus joining vocalist Christopher Hall’s band The Dreaming in 2015. In 2016, with the return of guitarist Marcus Eliopulos and touring drummer Johnny Haro, Stabbing Westward’s spark had been reignited as the group performed the kick-off event to ColdWaves V in Chicago and Dracula’s Ball on Halloween in Philadelphia. With headlining spots set for this year’s ColdWaves VI in Chicago and ColdWaves Los Angeles, Stabbing Westward took to the road in the summer of 2017 to test the waters and deliver the band’s music to audiences yearning to revisit the sound that for many defined an era, with one of the stops taking place at Baltimore’s Soundstage.

 

After a local opening band, which this writer was unable to see, industrial/goth rock sensation Ego Likeness took to the stage. For nearly two decades, the duo of Donna Lynch and Steven Archer has become more than local darlings for the Charm City underground music scene, creating a darkly atmospheric brand of danceable electronics and rock & roll power that this writer is always thrilled to rediscover with every live performance. Always especially striking is the liveliness and vitality of Archer’s stage presence, swinging his guitar like a weapon to ensnare the hearts of every audience member, his dreads swinging magnificently as he moves like an unhinged musical animal; always a stark contrast to Lynch’s more restrained but no less intense vocal delivery, making for a captivating presentation. Backed by live drummer Mike Johnson delivering his power and precision to match the tightly knit programming and ambient electronics to keep the boots stomping, Archer and fellow guitarist Rick “Mindcage” Furr trading off riffs and noises to keep the heads banging, and fronted by Lynch’s alluring and evocative vocals that are as forceful as they are ethereal, Ego Likeness delivered a set of assorted favorites from throughout the band’s oeuvre. Tracks like “Burn Witch Burn” and “Aviary” from 2006’s The Order of the Reptile and “Wolves” from 2004’s Water to the Dead alongside “Oracle” and “New Legion” from the band’s latest full-length When the Wolves Return made for a truly enjoyable set, performed with all the passion and energy that Ego Likeness is beloved for.

 

With the exception of The Dreaming’s Carlton Bost now serving as the live bassist in place of original member Jim Sellers, the reunited Stabbing Westward consists of the touring lineup from 1998’s Darkest Days tour, giving the Baltimore crowd a trip down memory lane to the band’s most successful period. Within the first few moments of the show, it’s clear that the passage of time has had little to no effect on the band, as everyone not only appeared as vigorous as in their more youthful prime, but was as on point with the performance of these beloved staples of ’90s industrial/alt. rock, pumping each progressive track of a veritable greatest hits collection through the speakers with the same force and fury as if for the first time. Songs like “What Do I Have to Do?,” “Save Yourself,” “Sometimes It Hurts,” “Nothing,” “ACF,” Lies,” “Drowning,” “So Far Away,” and the closing moshpit monster “Shame” were fired off with guns blazing, clean and crisp and as a testament to the strength of Stabbing Westward’s songwriting, sounding as fresh and as vibrant now as those songs did during the band’s original run 15-23 years ago.

 

Most notable was, of course, front man Christopher Hall – decked out in a torn Bauhaus T-shirt and still with that inimitable voice, soaring with fiery intensity and melodic zest as he hits every note and scream almost effortlessly; sure, he missed a cue at one point, but given the woman in the front’s wardrobe related antics, one could hardly blame him for having his attention diverted, which made for one of the night’s funnier moments. Ever the showman, Mark Eliopulos unleashed every guitar riff, noise, and solo with the strident swagger of a seasoned rock star, using everything from beer bottles to the mic stands to add to the noisy accompaniment, while Bost’s proficiency on the bass in tandem with Johnny Haro’s on the drums made for a rhythmic barrage that is simply irresistible to stomp to. No longer confined to a stack of keyboards thanks to the advances in technology, Flakus now had the space to partake in the festivity, still expertly managing the keys while taking every opportunity to dance and rock out with his bandmates, at one point taking on a harmony guitar part during the bridge to “Save Yourself.”

 

If the show at Baltimore Soundstage on this warm Thursday evening is any indication of how the others on Stabbing Westward’s itinerary have fared, the band can be assured that the demand for the music is more than palpable. With the upcoming ColdWaves events and a run of west coast dates mapped out for later in 2017, there is ample opportunity for fans of alternative and industrial/rock to witness one of the gems of the ’90s music scene… and witness it you must!

 

Article by Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby)

 

Stabbing Westward
Website, Facebook, YouTube
Ego Likeness
Website, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube

 

Stabbing Westward


 

Ego Likeness


 

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