First Blood... Last Cuts
Capitol Records, 1994
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/22/2002
A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Blackie Lawless in person - in which I made the mistake of asking a question about a cover song which put Lawless on the defensive. I have never been able to listen to that tape; just thinking about the moment I blew it with one question makes me uncomfortable. But I do remember asking Lawless (who was promoting The Best Of The Best 1984-2000 Volume One) how the new best-of was better than First Blood... Last Cuts, the 1994 release which signaled the end of their relationship with Capitol. Lawless said, for one thing, that this particular release was no longer available. Good enough reason, I guess.
In a way, it's a shame, since this disc (which supposedly marked the end of W.A.S.P.) is one of two places I'd send someone who's never heard of Lawless and company to begin their journey into one of heavy metal's most despised (and misunderstood) groups. (The other disc I'd tell them to get is The Last Command, still arguably their finest moment.) Mixing the all-out rockers with the introspective moments at just the right junctures, W.A.S.P. are presented on these 16 songs as a band who never reached the superstardom they deserved - or at least got stardom for the right reason, namely their music.
Up until the reissues of W.A.S.P.'s catalog a few years ago, First Blood... Last Cuts was the only place one could find the infamous track "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" on an American-released album. The funny thing about this track is this: had the infamous curse word not been included in the title, the controversy might not have been as bad. After all, "fuck" is used a whole two times in the song itself. But putting it as the leadoff track on this collection (the way it was supposed to be - and, on the reissue, was - on W.A.S.P.) shows a band who wasn't afraid to carve their own musical path.
Yet W.A.S.P. was not the shock-rock band they have been portrayed as, never mind the stage antics of Lawless. Tracks like "Wild Child," "Forever Free," "Blind In Texas" and their cover of The Who's "The Real Me" show a band which featured some solid songwriting and musicianship. The collection of tracks pulled from The Crimson Idol, Lawless's introspective masterpiece, is proof that W.A.S.P. was a band who demanded to be taken seriously - something the fans could easily do, but certain Washington wives couldn't. Admission: before I bought this album, I wasn't the biggest fan of The Crimson Idol. Listening to this tape, and getting the re-issue to review a few years later, changed my mind about this disc.
Lawless's power as a songwriter and as a vocalist are heard, ironically, on three of the softer tracks from W.A.S.P.'s discography. "Forever Free" is a powerful anthem which is just waiting to be re-discovered. Likewise, "Hold On To My Heart" and "The Idol" are songs which might even bring a lump to your throat if they catch you at the right moment. (One complaint, though... where is "Cries In The Night," another one of Lawless's golden moments as a vocalist and songwriter?)
"Rock And Roll To Death" was meant to be a final cry from W.A.S.P., but in retrospect, this track (which, if memory serves me right, is on Still Not Black Enough) ends up serving as the benchmark for the second generation of W.A.S.P.'s music. I can hear hints of what would become K.F.D. and Helldorado in this song.
It's a shame that First Blood... Last Cuts is presently out of print, because it's the ideal collection of W.A.S.P.'s music. I told Lawless on that fateful Chicago afternoon that what I liked about this album over The Best Of The Best was that the older best-of gave listeners a chance to experience the ebb and flow of W.A.S.P.'s power - that Lawless knew at which point to step back with a quieter song to allow the listener room to breathe. Of all the dumb things I said during the course of that interview, this is one statement I proudly made, and would say again to Lawless. Find this disc wherever you can, grab onto it with both hands, and don't let go.