Original Masters Records, 1984
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/26/1998
If it wasn't enough that I'm in the middle of a year-long retrospective of Frank Zappa's You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, I'm kicking off a new project today to commemorate the re-released, remastered albums from shock-rock group W.A.S.P. that were originally on Capitol.
In 1984, the world was kneed in the groin with a well-placed sawblade, courtesy of one Mr. Blackie Lawless and his bandmates, collectively known as W.A.S.P. Their music sent shivers down the spines of parents and certain Washington wives, and gave teenage America something to cheer about. Here was the ultimate band to listen to as a sign of rebellion against your parents!
Of course, there was more to W.A.S.P. than a gimmick - there had to be, 'cause teenagers aren't stupid. While the band's self-titled debut album features some great music, it also showed a band growing into the legacy it seemed to carve out of stone, and it just wasn't a perfect fit yet.
The re-mastered disc opens with undoubtedly the most controversial song of the '80s, "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)". Originally, it was supposed to be the opening song for the album until the powers that be put the kabosh on plans. (The song eventually made its way to smaller, indie labels, and became a sensation.) For all the hoopla surrounding the song, it's not that big of a deal. It's merely an okay song, and the word "fuck" is only used twice, albeit clear as a bell both times.
Of the original ten songs on W.A.S.P., several stand out as early classics for Lawless and crew (Chris Holmes on guitar, Randy Piper on guitar, Tony Richards on drums). "L.O.V.E. Machine" is still an incredible track, and "Sleeping (In The Fire)" showed an entirely different side to W.A.S.P. - that of the metal balladeer - that is so shocking that it works unquestionably. "The Flame" and "On Your Knees" both are solid rockers as well.
Another aspect of W.A.S.P. that many people don't bother to address is their seamless vocal harmonies. This work, especially on "The Flame" and "Sleeping (In The Fire)" is hauntingly beautiful, even if the rhythm is bashing your head into the wall. Who said that a metal band couldn't have a solid grasp on harmony - and, for that matter, the art of songwriting?
Well, the songwriting needed a bit of work, but not much. "School Daze" is a throwaway track (even though it made the cut as a single), while "The Torture Never Stops" conjures up too many Frank Zappa images in my mind. Another "classic" W.A.S.P. track, "I Wanna Be Somebody," also falls under this category.
Of the bonus tracks, "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" is worth adding on if only for the novelty of it, while "Show No Mercy" (its original b-side) is a decent enough rocker. The final bonus track is a cover of The Rolling Stones's "Paint It Black," which purposely seems to stay away from being a note-for-note copy in order to inject Lawless's personality into it. This is one that's for the die-hard fans.
W.A.S.P. still remains a good metal album, even if it shows the signs of being a young band who needed to log some serious road time. It also does show some scars of age. There has been a lot of talk about how Snapper Music (the European label that issued this and the other five discs) handled (or mis-handled) the remixing. There is a noticeable drop-out right at the beginning of the guitar solo for "Animal", but this could have been a weakness in the source tape. Still, one wonders if something couldn't have been done to cover up this one flaw.
W.A.S.P. is still worth adding to any serious metalhead's collection. It serves as a birth cry for the Alice Coopers of the '80s, while it shows a band still in the process of growing. By their next album, The Last Command, they would have matured quite nicely... but we'll talk about that in a few weeks.