Friday, March 25, 2011

FDF Volume 3 Issue 220 - Stabbing Westward : Ungod

By: March

Album - Ungod
Artist - Stabbing Westward
Key Players - David Suycott - drums and percussion. Jim Sellers - bass. Walter Flakus - keyboards. Christopher Hall - vocals, keyboards. Stuart Zechman - guitars, bass
Produced By - John Fryer

Release Date - February 1994

What caused me to blow off the dust? - From time to time I get in a "heavy" mood and find that the more alternative stuff does the trick more often than a straight up "metal" record. I recall at one time thinking this band was going to be big for some reason. I am sure they were not unhappy with their success.

Overview - A very early configuration of the Chicago based band Stabbing Westward was formed in 1985. In 1994 the band released this major label debut. According to the bands site in September of 1993 the band played the CMJ Music Marathon in front of 4,300 people opening for Rage Against the Machine. The bands blend of alternative meets industrial metal was a hit with fans and the band would release two more albums for Columbia records. Nothing from this album would chart, but subsequent albums and singles would crack various US play lists.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - There is a long slow fade up to start off the track "Lost". Suycott is the first you hear, with some deep tom tom strikes and ti sounds like the keyboards and guitars buzz. Sellers is the second dominate instrument (bass) you hear. The bass line is clean, and has a real deep tone to it. The track continues to grow in intensity. Flashes of percussive chimes echo off the tom tom. By the time Hall sings his first line its very subdued. Pushed to the bottom in a dark chanting delivery until the he and the band explode, albeit only briefly as the song is nearing completion. The track sets a dark and moody tone for the record, so lets see, and listen again, to see if this sticks. I can't remember really. The track "Control" rumbles seamless from the lead off track. The guitars, bass and drums are more in sync. Hall comes in and has a more "soaring" delivery. Flakus throws in some keyboard fills at the close of the verse as they tease a chorus. Hall has a strong voice and he can hit the upper ranges with angst and not crack. Sellers gets love from the mix as the bass has a great punchy and clean sound to it, while the rest of the band wrestles with the industrial feel of the track. The guitars from Zechman are not dominant until the chorus strikes and then he hits you will a wall of compressed power chords as Hall howls over it all. The song that I always dug from this record comes in "Nothing". The Zechman lead guitar intro as the keyboard, bass and drums collide are such a heavy hit to the senses. Hall offers a more laid back delivery for the feel of the music Even the chorus, barring his higher vocal range reaches he keeps the vibe similar. The guitar riff is just a juicy nugget. Simple, but right in your ears and face. The song ends and there are some odd keyboard loops that fade up in to the track "ACF". This track starts out far more quiet and laid back. Flakus and Hall strike keyboards, but once again Sellers bass gets punchy high in the mix. As the verse begins it remains largely ambient sounds with the bass chugging out a few notes as Hall sings. After the verse concludes the second verse kicks off and the band kicks in but it quick to ease back in to the earlier feel of the record. The band seems to have found their real repetitive track, at least to these ears. Verse, chorus, verse keep the same urgency. "Lies" is another stand out track. It reminds me of a hyped up track from the film "Blade Runner". The band really fires off on this track. Suycott seems to have found the roto-toms on his drum kit, but he pummels the bass and floor tom-toms. This here is the soundtrack for a speeding ticket. Just a driving, rocking, kick ass moment. See in the download area if you don't believe me. No, I won't pay your ticket either. Just past the halfway point of the record we hit the title track and second longest track (7:43) on the record. "Ungod" is another track slow to build. A single "beep" tone shifts between the speakers as it sounds like a guitar slowly works to find its place. The single notes are more chops than notes. After a little of this Suycott and Sellers put everyone on task. The vocals start and the song works to find a real place. Nearing the three minute mark the track gets a little more urgent and seemingly more focused and then it really gets good and heavy. If you take away the beginning its really pretty great, but the beginning is what sets you up for it all. "Throw" continues the buzz saw guitars with the bass and drums being a very strong presence. Hall adds a lot to the band, he could just shout but he hits these strong operatic like vocals ranges that adds such a unique sound. Flakus and Hall add various keyboard fills and Zechman, whom always seems to have a big sound, never gets too flashy. Flakus starts a keyboard loop and Zechman blasts a few short guitar notes as "Violent Mood Swings" kicks off. The full band comes and once again the sound is nice and full. All instruments are up in the mix, no one player is any more important which is a nice way to listen. There is a wild drum effect on Suycotts kit for the final few bars of the track. Sellers lone bass notes start of "Red on White" and this is the first real "quiet" feeling song. The keyboards sounds like pianos but it wants to grow with big keyboard drones. The song seems to stop and then the vocals come in. Very hushed once more and the band teetering on exploding. Suycott is the only one that really seems to head the direction of getting loud, but it never really happens, which is actually okay. The album closes with the longest track "Can't Happen Here" (8:09) that starts with tabla (Indian Percussion) and and chimes. Its has a similar feeling to the track "Lies" in its bassy keyboard and heavy drum roll. Hall sings a few short lines but the track continues with its percussive build up. Hall gets to soar over an overdub of his own vocal track which is very strong. Just as the song seems to want to start a long fade it gets aggressive once more and then it fades to completion.

Where are they now? - The band broke up on 2002.Christopher Hall has formed the L.A. based band The Dreaming. They released their first studio album "Etched in Blood" in 2007. Walter Flakus has been working with The Clay People and Chokt. He also worked/works in Chicago rock station. David left suddenly during the Ungod tour while Stuart left after the Ungod tour in 1995. Jim Sellers and his wife have opened a natural foods market.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw the band live.

FDF Overall Take - If you like your stuff heavy with that industrial feel you should check them out. If you are unsure of what I am getting at..think of early Nine Inch Nails...the harder stuff (not Animal) and its a pretty close comparison. Big guitars, pounding drums etc. This is/was a lot better than I recall and I almost feel bad it has sat idle for so long. Again, if you are looking for some heat...this is a strong record.

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Tracks are from "Ungod" which you can buy here.

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


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