The Last Command

W.A.S.P.

Original Masters Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/27/1998

Our look at the recently remastered catalog of W.A.S.P. takes a familiar turn for me today -- their 1985 release The Last Command, the album that caused Tipper Gore to have convulsions and the religious zealots to preach fire and brimstone against the band.

It's also the album that got me hooked on Blackie Lawless and crew, courtesy of such songs as "Blind In Texas" and "Wild Child". In a time where one radio station in Chicago had the guts to play such music (normally a foreign-language station, the evening was "brokered" for metal), it was a haven from such pabulum as Chicago (if I heard "You're The Inspiration one more time, I was gonna kill someone) for a 14-year-old like me. I quickly snagged a copy from my local record store, and nearly wore it out.

Thirteen years after its initial release, The Last Command still remains a high-water mark for W.A.S.P. in my book. With the change behind the drum kit from Tony Richards to Steve Riley, to my ears, Lawless had his killer lineup. Powerful performances backed with some of Lawless's best songwriting equalled an album that I don't think they've topped yet.

"Wild Child" might be seen as a strange way for W.A.S.P. to open The Last Command. It's not as heavy of a song as they had become known for; it was even - dare I say it? - melodic. If its goal was to get MTV's attention, it worked; I saw the video for this one... once. It still is a great track, and in retrospect, it's almost the perfect way to open the album - sort of a "calm before the storm".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Last Command was one of the first albums to feature a "parental warning" label of some sort, though if it was for songs like "Ballcrusher" and "Sex Drive," then they were really grasping at straws. True, they do allow Lawless to explore the more raunchy side of his songwriting, but they're both written and performed well. And, compared to some of the other stuff that the PMRC had their nipples in a twist about, these two songs were rather tame. (For the record, the worst word on this whole album is "bitch," used once. Strange... R.E.M. can say "fuck" and not get any type of label...)

But the material that seals this album as a true classic for me are the six songs from "Widowmaker" to "Sex Drive". "Blind In Texas" was the first song of W.A.S.P.'s that caught my ear, and it's still a fun song to listen to. "Cries In The Night" is a song that Lawless says in the liner notes that he wishes he had left in its original version. Now, with all reverence to Mr. Lawless and admitting the fact that I've never heard the original, I have to say that he's crazy. "Cries In The Night" is a beautiful song (if that term can be used with heavy metal) that is stellar from the faded in guitar work of Randy Piper and Chris Holmes to the ending bellow of Lawless. The title track and "Running Wild In The Streets" both could have been teenage anthems when I was in high school.

With all this great material, I almost feel that the bonus tracks included on the recent remaster ruin the mood ever so slightly. "Mississippi Queen" tries to stay somewhat faithful to the original version by Mountain, but it's not a song that lends itself well to cover versions, and this version falters. Likewise, the b-side "Savage" was not a strong enough track to have been included on The Last Command, and it shows. However, the inclusion of five live tracks from a 1984 London concert are interesting, and it makes me wonder if there was enough material like this to even justify releasing a live album from the vaults. (How about it, Blackie? I'd gladly be the first in line to buy it.)

Of course, you could say that I went into listening to this album with a pre-set notion of it. You'd be right... but I've listened to this album some 100 times over the past 13 years, so it's not like I wasn't familiar with the work. Fact is, whether you listen to something once or a hundred times, you know a classic when you hear it, and The Last Command easily qualifies as that.

This lineup, as great as it was, almost was doomed to splinter, for such greatness is hard to repeat. By the time the third album, Inside The Electric Circus came out, Piper was gone, Lawless had hung up his bass to return to the guitar, and Johnny Rod stepped in to be the bassist. But that's a story for another day... say, in two months.

Rating: A-

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© 1998 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 Original Masters Records, and is used for informational purposes only.