In this entry of The Weekend Album, we cover “Ungod”, from Stabbing Westward.
Marking Stabbing Westward’s major record label debut, Ungod hit the scene in 1993, just as the Industrial boom of the 90′s was getting up to full speed. Much of the album has a clean yet “up front” bass, a lightly distorted electric guitar, tightly EQ’d drums (which are sometimes heavily processed with various effects, although they are generally left clean), and layered vocals that are almost universally modified using an echo effect, typically utilizing a “reverse echo” type of patch. There is also some minor synth work that fills out the overall sound, rather than being a major player. All of the synth work has that unmistakably “thick” analog sound to it though…none of it is impressive technically, but it sounds very grounded and “real”. Whoever they got as their programmer did a bang-up job of making the synths sound like another instrument, rather than a suppliment to the more traditional stuff.
I wouldn’t classify Ungod as a heavy album, insofar as its musical and technical qualities are concerned, but there are some fantastically simple guitar riffs that show up in almost every track. Nothing here is all that technically demanding, and a lot of the progressions feel very natural and logical. If nothing else, the guitar use on this album proves how much can be done with simplicity. The bass tracks aren’t to be outdone however, as they have some equally creative yet simple riffs. The track “ACF” has a a GREAT little bass riff that plays throughout, and is identifiable to the point that it could be picked out by an Ungod fan at any time.
The title track, “Ungod”, uses more synth patches than most of the other tracks: the first 45 seconds are almost entirely synth-based. The bass guitar kicks in as a backup to the very “industrial” sound that makes up most of the beat. The vocals here are (purposely) off key a little bit, adding a sense of drunkeness to the song that makes it feel like it’s swaying, with random outbursts of increased volume. The slightly off-key vocals slowly build until a guitar riff kicks in…a guitar riff that anyone who has listened to Filter should recognize, since it appeared in “Hey Man, Nice Shot” (although this is, to my knowledge, the only riff that directly appears in both a Stabbing Westward and Filter song, it’s one of many sonic similarities between the two bands.)
“Throw” is another one of those tracks that is quintessential early-90′s industrial, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It’s a bit “lighter” than the other tracks, although the lyrics are still presented with the same enthusiasm and emotion. The main guitar riff is simple, but you’ll have a hard time getting it out of your head once the track is over.
The lyrics in Ungod aren’t necessarily dark, but they sure aren’t happy. Nothing here will make you /emowrists, but some of those “tormented souls” that run around now with long hair on one side of their face could learn a thing or two about being properly pissed off from Stabbing Westward. Some of the lines are said with such venom they can make you recoil…quite a feat, considering the “clean” attributes associated with the vocal stylings of founding singer Christopher Hall. There are times when he roughs up his voice, but for the most part he has a crisp, easily understandable style.
Even though it was their first major label debut, I still consider Ungod to be Stabbing Westward’s best album. If you’re looking to take a walk down memory lane, are trying to get into the industrial genre, or just want to listen to some damn fine tunes, I highly recommend you pick this album up.