Stabbing Westward Chasing Ghosts Review

Many of you have probably not read the book Feed by Matthew Tobin Anderson. It's okay; it's not the best. I mean, it's fine, but like, do you really NEED to read it? "No," is the answer.

Anyway, the book is about a future where people basically have the internet installed in their brains and mainly centers around a small group of teenagers living in this world. It has various comments on economic class, societies obsession with social media, and of course, since it was written in 2002, there's a whole "young adult" love subplot.
But the most interest concept presented in the book, and the part that still sticks with me is the following:

"Then later there was this thing that hit hipsters. People were just stopping in their tracks frozen. At first, people thought it was another virus, and they were looking for groups like the Coalition of Pity, but it turned out that it was something called Nostalgia Feedback. People had been getting nostalgia for fashions that were closer and closer to their own time, until finally people became nostalgic for the moment they were actually living in, and the feedback completely froze them."

An interesting concept, right? The idea that eventually nostalgia will become so close to our lives that we'll experience it for a time that we literally just had.
Well, having nothing to do with anything, here's a review of Stabbing Westward’s latest record Chasing Ghosts.

For those unfamiliar, AKA those below the age of 35, Stabbing Westward was an industrial goth rock band that released a handful of records from 1992 - 2001 and then broke up. In addition to having either the dumbest awesome name ever or the most awesome dumb name ever, Stabbing Westward was able to carve out a pretty solid niche for themselves among such other bands as Static-X and Gravity Kills as the darker industrial tinged side of mainstream rock radio. You see, back then, bands could actually make it to radio that DIDN'T sound exactly the same and occasionally a real outlier could even make it onto top 40 radio (see Nine Inch Nails with "Closer"). I know, wild right?

Anyway, for some reason, that probably relates to wanting money, they officially reformed in 2016, released two EPs in 2020 (one strictly of covers), and now, twenty-one years after their last and worst record, have released a new album.

Now to say that I've been following this band for some time is a bit of an underrepresentation of the truth. Though their past efforts, namely 1996's Wither Blister Burn & Peel didn't really speak to me, Darkest Days was probably one of my favourite albums when it came out in 1998 along with Monster Magnet's Powertrip, Local H's Pack Up the Cats, Finger Eleven's Tip, and three nu-metal genre defining albums that came out the SAME DAY (August 18th): Orgy's Candyass, Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, and Korn's Follow the Leader. And no, I will not be apologizing for liking these albums or putting some "Please don't judge me" sentence because obviously the music you like when you're young encapsulates a specific moment in time and fuck you I liked something and I won't be shamed for it.
So, I was very sad when Stabbing Westward broke up, especially since they went out on such a musically low note. I was excited to listen to lead singer Christopher Hall's new project The Dreaming, even though it was basically just a more straight-forward version of Stabbing Westward. I even listened to the two EPs, so now that I've laid all this out, I guess I should talk about the new album.

In basically every aspect, this is exactly what someone who listened to Stabbing Westward would expect this album to be. Musically it's like if a cover band (or The Dreaming) came in and reworked various songs from Stabbing Westward's previous records. Tracks like "Crawl," "Push," and "The End" sound like B-sides from the self-titled record, while other tracks like "Dead & Gone" and "I Am Nothing" don't feel like they'd be too out of place from Darkest Days.  Even "Wasteland" seems like a current day recording of something that existed since Wither Blister Burn & Peel. So, no, this record does nothing really to add to the music scene it is a part of or advance Stabbing Westward into a new position, which would make me say that this album is therefore bad. After all, what is the point of music if it doesn't somehow advance the band or music in general?

And if you assumed this point, you would be incredibly wrong.

In many respects this record is a product of a bygone era; a period that lasted from the late 90s to the mid 00s and does not continue to today. With this fact in place, it could be argued that doing anything that even approximates a record from that time is in itself pushing music forward, just by trying to remind us of what a specific moment in time was like. It's like reading through something you wrote when you were younger and probably filled with a more youthful optimism and, for a brief, shining moment, vaguely remembering what that was like, but then realizing that moment is gone and will never truly be able to be recaptured and even if you tried it will never be the same. And the band must be aware of this - hell, they literally called the album "Chasing Ghosts." 

But context is important, and the fact that this album is them reasserting themselves after a twenty-one year album hiatus I would argue is probably the best move. In addition to having to re-solidify themselves with the audience they had, they have to introduce themselves to a new audience. The easiest way to do that is basically to take what you believe to be the best parts of what you've done in your past and increment them just that liiiiitle bit to modernize them.

Overall, the record is pretty okay with a couple of more mundane tracks. If you have never heard this band before, this isn't the worst record you could start off with as an introduction, mainly because the rest of the discography is more raw versions of this. If, instead, you are like me and you too have been waiting for new Stabbing Westward, this album may actually catch some of those ghosts mentioned in the album title.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get my best black clothes ready for the new goth revival which is DEFINITELY GOING TO HAPPEN!