Castle Records, 1997


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Back in the mid-'80s, W.A.S.P. were considered the Anti-Christ of the music world. After naming a song "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)" and getting certain Washington wives' undies in a knot, Blackie Lawless and crew became more well-known for their bad-boy image rather than their catchy, rather intelligent form of heavy metal - in fact, they were about as threatening as a mini-firecracker.

But changing musical tastes, lineup changes and reported substance abuse problems took their toll on W.A.S.P., and by 1993, it seemed like Lawless and crew were ready to pack it in and call it a (successful) career.

But W.A.S.P. didn't go away as many probably hoped they would; instead, Lawless and crew started to merge industrial with their music - and much to my surprise, Lawless started writing songs that fit the image groups like the PMRC painted them as.

Their latest release, K.F.D., is evidence of the darker side to W.A.S.P.'s music - and after over a dozen listens to this disc over the last two weeks, I still can't say for sure if I like this new direction.

Time has not hurt Lawless's voice; if anything, his vocals are stronger than ever. He can go from a hellish growl to a pleading whisper without missing a beat. Guitarist Chris Holmes, the only other remaining original member, has further refined his chops - never mind he was a more-than-competent lead guitarist in the band's glory days. Bassist Mike Duda often sounds hidden in the mix; the times his work comes to the forefront are quite enjoyable. Drummer Stet Howland often sounds like he's playing a drum machine - I prefer the acoustic drums much more, always have.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The title track, an abbreviation for "kill, fuck, die," is the first real taste of W.A.S.P. 1997 - and it is one that takes some time to get used to. The problem I have with the track is the overamplification of the percussion - too much drums, not enough guitar and bass. The song just doesn't have the kick that other songs in the W.A.S.P. catalog do, and is a letdown. There are even times where it seems like Howland loses the rhythm on the hi-hat cymbals.

This isn't to say that Lawless has forgotten how to write a killer track. "My Tortured Eyes," complete with the pleads of "kill me," has some very beautiful moments. "Killahead" is a powerful rocker that sets a head-banging tempo that refuses to let up; it also somewhat turns back to the classic W.A.S.P. sound, though there's still lots of industrial on it as well. "Kill Your Pretty Face" starts off well, but trails off a bit near the end power-wise.

It's not the shift to industrial that bothers me the most about K.F.D., it's the much darker tone of the lyrics. People gasped in horror when Lawless used the word "fuck" twice on the non-album track "Animal," and there wasn't that bad of content on their second effort The Last Command to warrant a warning on the album jacket. But here, very few of the songs don't talk about killing in some way, shape or form, and "fuck" is much more commonplace. As much as I am no prude when it comes to the use of vulgarities, I find their increased use and constant images of murder disturbing.

And I'm not entirely convinced that this is the way that Lawless wanted himself and W.A.S.P. to be remembered. No doubt that he is carving a new trail for W.A.S.P. - and often backs it up with some solid songwriting and playing. But I fail to see what was wrong with the old W.A.S.P. that required such a shift in personal views and anger. (Not that Lawless doesn't have the right to express anger, after the band's fall from grace during the decline in metal's popularity and the fact the band never achieved the success of others like Whitesnake or AC/DC.)

No matter how many times I listen to K.F.D., I can hear promise in the album's weaker moments, and I can glorify in the strong performances. If I had any advice for Lawless, it would be simply to cut back a bit on the distortion and the industrial groove, and just do what the band used to - perform balls-out rock for the sheer fun of it. K.F.D. sounds more like a release of personal demons for Lawless ("Can't describe how I hate your fucking face" from "U" says volumes) - and in doing so, the music loses its fun-to-listen-to edge.

K.F.D. might not be the best stocking-stuffer for the tykes, and it may be an eye-opening listen for the long-time W.A.S.P. fans, but it is, indeed, progress. Lawless and crew have been forging ahead - never mind the critics, thank you very much - for over ten years, and seem perfectly content to continue bucking the trends and tastes of the masses. K.F.D. is a good album, though I do hope the band does revert a tiny bitto make listening to them more like watching Porky's than The Amityville Horror.

Rating: B-

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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Castle Records, and is used for informational purposes only.