Having undergone so many changes in personnel during their 33 year career, it’s difficult to think of W.A.S.P. as anything but The Blackie Lawless Band these days. Texan frontman Lawless is (and has been for years) the only remaining member of the band which scared the pants off the PMRC and middle class parents everywhere back in the eighties.
For a while, his partnership with former guitarist and vodka receptacle Chris Holmes delivered some of the best US Heavy Metal of the 1980s, but constant upheaval helped stop the band ever making that final huge step into the big time. The one thing W.A.S.P. lacked was a consistent and definitive line-up.
Even before the release of their self-titled 1984 debut, musicians were already beginning to form a conga line outside the revolving door of W.A.S.P. HQ. Along with Lawless, change (although not as frequent as the likes of Megadeth or Anthrax) has always been the band’s only other constant.
Over the years though, that same problem which held them back actually became, for a time anyway, an advantage. As many of their contemporaries split up due to “personal and/or musical differences”, W.A.S.P. were able to carry on. In fact, after Holmes left, Lawless went onto write W.A.S.P.’s finest hour, The Crimson Idol (Capitol).
Success faded during the ’90s; raw meat shock value theatrics replaced by “Unplugged” albums, Marilyn Manson and Korn. Lawless plugged away regardless though, even experimenting with a darker, more industrial sound for a while (although that was thankfully short-lived), able to continue with a relatively successful career on his own terms.
However, a problem with being a band’s primary songwriter for such a lengthy period is a tendency towards repetition. Rewriting old songs is something Lawless has been guilty of before, and it happens again on the first track of new album, Golgotha (Napalm).
With more than a passing resemblance to ‘Crazy’ from previous album Babylon (Demolition), which in turn sounded like fan favourite ‘Wild Child’, opener ‘Scream’ possesses an unnaturally strong sense of familiarity, but it’s actually a surprisingly enjoyable one. Carbon copy or not, ‘Scream’ is a belter. ‘The Last Runaway’ is up next, a bouncy, uptempo track with an infectious chorus, and then the familiarity returns with ‘Shotgun’ and its’ ’95 NASTY’ meets The Who vibe. Things slow down a little with ‘I Miss You’, arguably one of the best slow songs Lawless has ever penned. Originally written for The Crimson Idol, it features a beautifully tortured vocal performance, and a great solo from guitarist Doug Blair. As the record continues, so does the quality. Easily the most consistent album they’ve put out for years, It’s virtually impossible to pinpoint a weak moment. And if there is one, then it certainly isn’t the title track, a seven minute epic with a chorus which sounds like Blackie sang it on his knees.
Golgotha is a W.A.S.P. album made for W.A.S.P. fans and makes you feel like you’ve slipped into an old pair of comfortable shoes. But shoes with a lot more life left in them than you originally believed.