20 years after the band’s initial breakup, Stabbing Westward has reunited and released this fifth studio album, Chasing Ghosts. Though the band had previously looked to be coveting a more mainstream audience with each successive release, for Chasing Ghosts, they have reunited with the producer of their first two albums, John Fryer, and are apparently aiming to reclaim their former industrial/rock glory.
Fans of the act’s early output will quickly feel right at home with “I Am Nothing” as it very much feels like the early work on Ungod and Wither Blister Burn + Peel in emotional tone and sound. Heavy guitars accentuated by synths and a combo of traditional drums and electronic beats all brought together by Christopher Hall’s ageless crooning voice; it’s like someone simply hit “pause” for over 20 years. The album’s subject matter almost exclusively deals with the emotional strife, lamenting personal failings, and ultimately chronicling the death of a relationship. Tracks such as “Cold” and “Push” bemoan distance and lack of affection, and “Control Z” and “Crawl” cling to the shattered remains of a relationship, while the last tracks “Dead & Gone,” “Ghost,” and “The End” eulogize the past, lamenting everything that went wrong. This may sound like something more at home in a gothic release, but catchy, danceable rock tracks keep the morose lyrical content from getting too dreary. While the narrow scope of the subject matter may get a bit overbearing at times, viewing it as more of a concept album certainly helps.
Chasing Ghosts is undoubtedly an expertly executed mid-‘90s throwback industrial/rock album, but the one thing that feels a bit off is how it channels a level of overdramatic teen anguish and lovelorn sorrow that, when coming from a group of men in their 50s, feels a bit like the Steve Buscemi “How do you do, fellow angsty teens?” meme. However, it’s hard to deny the album brilliantly conjures up that emotional reservoir like a Ouija Board that even some jaded old music reviewers may have thought were long dead in them. Reflecting on the album’s content and title, it becomes apparent that we are all haunted by our past loves and the “what ifs,” whether we admit it or not, and Stabbing Westward is there to remind us that those ghosts still have their sway over us, regardless of age.