From Los Angeles, California come the shock rocking, lipstick wearing, leather bound and gagged W.A.S.P. Formed in 1982, following a slew of interchangeable band members, this band soon set to ripping the glam metal scene a new one, when vocalist Blackie Lawless, raging alcoholic/guitarist Chris Holmes and drummer Steve Riley destroyed the sunset strip with their raunchy, shocking live shows which often featured Lawless tying naked models to a medieval torture rack while hurling raw meat and blood into the audience.
The band signed to Capitol Records in 1984 and swiftly released their self-titled debut album which featured future classics “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “L.O.V.E. Machine“. The band have released 16 studio albums to date including the recently release Re-Idolized, a reworking of the Crimson Idol album featuring extra tracks and narrative.
To be totally honest with you W.A.S.P. dropped off my radar after they released the awesome Crimson Idol album. Not because I thought their output was rubbish it was more to do with the changing of the guard. As grunge crept in and the band dropped out of the press, I assumed they had broken up. It wasn’t until the live album The Sting that I realized they were an ongoing thing but I’m genuinely glad they have continued chipping away and was delighted with the fact they had 10 albums that I had never heard. This was definitely a voyage of discovery and I loved every minute of it.
I was fortunate enough to see the band only once when they were one of the opening bands at the Monsters of Rock in Castle Donington way back in 1992. The band were playing in support of Crimson Idol, which is still my favorite album from the band to this day. The band sounded wild and frenetic that day, Blackie Lawless was on top form and I went away from that gig loving the band more than before. I have a 12-inch vinyl which has a few of the live tracks from that day and when I close my eyes I can still smell the warm beer and hot dogs, reliving the moments of the day.
So here we are, I have drummed my ear holes with a total of 16 W.A.S.P. albums in the last week. This is what I think are the ten tracks that really showcase the band and doesn’t include the obvious hits. So hit the player at the bottom and settle in for the essential tracks.
“The Last Runaway” from the album Golgotha is a fast-paced rocking ballad full of Blackie Lawless emotional and passionate style vocals. This track is full of great melody and everything that makes a track anthemic. The production on this is fantastic, the double kick sounds immense and if you’re a big fan of the bass then this is one for you. The bass is out front in the mix but it suits the track and I love the change around the 3-minute mark, how the track builds into a blazing guitar solo.
From the same album, “Miss You” starts off an acoustic style ballad but again the guitar sounds so warm and sweet. The vocals on this one make Blackie Lawless sound a little like Meat Loaf but then again they both project the same type of emotion when they sing. Around the 2 minute mark, the chorus hits and you can just see thousands of lighters in the air when they play this one live. The solo again is melodic and the tone of the guitar just makes you feel warm all over. How this album got by me I don’t know.
The albums title track “Golgotha” is a rarity for a title track on an album. It’s a powerful slab of rock with some anthemic vocals which punch along with thick rhythm guitar and stabs of lead punctuated all over it. Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes this is an epic in itself.
From the album, Babylon, “Into the Fire” is, in my opinion, the best track on an o.k. album. The production on this isn’t as warm and thick as Golgotha, the drums are more upfront on this one and the whole thing sounds a little less full. The guitar solos throughout are as melodic and ingenious as always. A nice repeating clean picked part rings out over the opening as Blackie Lawless mournfully leaves his heart on his sleeve.
“Take Me Up” from the album Dominator is again, in my opinion, one of the better tracks on the album. Once it starts properly it hits its stride with that Iron Maiden type chug a long riff reminiscent of that bands “Flight of Icarus”. There’s a thick layer of instruments that really fill up the usual spaces and make this track sound thick and full, with the keyboards making it sound very atmospheric.
From The Neon God Part One comes the track “Asylum #9” a fast-paced and rocking track reminiscent of earlier days. The only thing that detracts from this track is Blackie Lawless‘ voice is sounding a bit ragged and crackly. The track itself is full of double kick which gives it the galloping pace and even though the guitars sound a little too far back in the mix they can still be quite powerful at times. The chorus is classic W.A.S.P. and could have easily fit on any of their earlier albums.
“Come Back to Black” from the Neon God Part Two, has one of those pounding drumbeats that gets you moving. The guitars sound better than anything on here everything else sounds a bit muffled. This is another track that reminds me of early W.A.S.P. The guitar solo is a classic 80’s rip your face off style that really thickens the song and as the song comes to its conclusion it really gathers pace and builds with each beat.
From my favorite W.A.S.P. album of all time, The Crimson Idol comes the track “Hold onto My Heart”. I love the sound of this track the guitars sound so warm and the vocals are the best they’ve ever been. It starts off soft and sweet and slowly builds towards the chorus with the multi-tracked vocals making it sound so thick and sweet. The only thing missing that the song really needed was a cranking solo.
“I Am One” reminds me of classic W.A.S.P. Everything about it has 80’s stamped all over it. The big opening with the drum rolls, the cutting of the guitars through the mix and the bass plugging away in the rear, the strained vocals of Blackie Lawless spitting out his lyrics with total passion. The gang chants give the chorus a different dimension and the breakdown at the 3-minute mark takes it all down before it explodes all over again.
Finally “The Great Misconception of Me” again from The Crimson Idol starts off slow with an acoustic ringing out and a layer of ethereal keyboards sitting in the background adding to the atmosphere. Around the 2-minute mark it starts to build with the drum rolls and the guitars cutting through the air. It all speeds up from here gaining pace as it races towards the finish. The chorus is strong and again full of multi-layered vocals adding to the big sound. The solo comes in around the 5-minute mark and destroys before the vocals come crashing in and it all goes deep purple for a minute. That’s why I love W.A.S.P. they are so much more than the sunset strip of the ’80s.
So there you go, folks, there’s the ten tracks out of hundreds that I pulled from the albums that really caught my ear without using the obvious.