Review: W.A.S.P – 'Golgotha'
W.A.S.P are back with a bang, a swagger, and a sack-full of excellent songs. Like an evil Father Christmas, Blackie and the boys have served up an album of serious note, an album that harks back to their powerful best, and for me, their best recording since ‘Crimson Idol’.
It may have taken six years to reach us, but after just one listen, I knew it was well worth the wait. I caught W.A.S.P live on the recent tour, and I have been begging for this album since that day. If you caught the live show, you know how good the band were. If not, tough luck, you missed a cracker, but do not despair as this album will fill that void, and then some.
After a few listens, it dawned on me the reason that this album feels so good. It spans their whole career. Each song has a different feel and, almost automatically, could slot on previous platters. I will explain what I mean on the song break downs but this sounds like W.A.S.P, but newer. More demanding, bigger, and really crisp. You will always know a W.A.S.P song straight off the bat, as there is no mistaking Mr Lawless’ voice, so any change will be the underlying music… the songwriting, the story, and the composition. The new tracks basically grab you by the throat and demand to be listened too.
For a start, we have three songs over seven minutes long. No more of those quirky three-minute wonders for 80’s radio. No songs for cheesy horror movies. I have always said Blackie was very underrated as a songwriter and lyricist, and this album just proves my thoughts correct. ‘Crimson Idol’ was the album that changed how I felt about this band. Sure, I loved them right through the 80’s, but I loved them for the catchy tunes and visual antics live… gimme naked women and raw meat, and I am happy. Like Blackie, I have changed, and I can really appreciate the stories he unwinds on our ears, as well as the makeup and technicalities of each song.
The album opens with ‘Scream’, which many of you will already have heard, as it was the first single. This is a solid opener, and reminds me of ‘Inside The Electric Circus’ era. ‘The Last Runaway’ has a ’95 nasty feel. A sure-fire MTV hit back in the day. ‘Shotgun’, for me, was the first total substance song. A song that ticked all the W.A.S.P boxes. You can see Blackie doing the two hand hair poofing in the studio whilst recording it…it is like a ‘Blind In Texas: Part Two’. It has that upbeat, good time, old south, dungaree-wearing sound, with the iconic ground oil pistons of the famous state bashing away in the background.
There is no doubt what and where the sound to ‘Miss You’ comes from. Blackie already informed us that this was the first song written for ‘The Crimson Idol’. They played this live and it blew me away. Blackie’s voice was just right on the money, and the song seeps of atmosphere from that classic album. I cannot believe this was not included, but I am so glad he dusted it off, as it is one of my outright favourites from the album. The guys always could do a great ballad, and this goes to the top of the pile. Like the whole ‘…Idol’ album, it is layered with pain and remorse, with a slow-winding solo that tugs on the heartstrings.
‘Fallen Under’ starts slowly, and would sit alongside any track on ‘Headless Children’. This has the first of what I would rate as outstanding solos of the album. There are plenty, and for a guy groomed in the 80’s metal scene, I am in heaven. With ‘Slaves Of The New World Order’, we get a Blackie ‘woo-woo-woo’ intro, and the first thing I thought was, there is no way this cannot be a great track! Unfortunately, I was wrong, as it is a blinding piece of metal. Clocking in at over seven minutes, this songs throws everything at you. The drums are powerful and ferocious, the guitar work is way out there on the edge. The subject matter is interesting, to say the least, and we get the slowdown and rebuilding of tempo, peppered with more axe work that only W.A.S.P can do. This is the stand out track on an excellent album. I challenge anyone who has had a love of this band over the years not to fall in love with this song on its first play.
‘Eyes Of My Maker’ is probably a very personal tale of Blackie’s lowest moments and the path to God he has found. Enough has been written about this and to be honest I am not going to touch it with a barge pole. For me all that matters is the music. There are some exceptions to that rule, but these are personal choices to me, and, to be honest, if you want to downplay anyone’s choices in this world, you are not worth talking about, whether it be faith, style, or beliefs. The end result is that this is another great song, end of.
‘Hero Of The World’ is a ‘Last Command’-era track. This is what I love about this album… the journey it plays over the bands career… so much so, I dusted off all my original vinyl (you just cannot get the sound on your iPod) and listened to them all, in order, off the back of this album, it had that effect on me.
We finish with the title track, and this was the one I was desperate to hear. They played this live and I lost all track of time on it. I remember the solo went on forever and this is the final of the seven plus minute tracks. The solo was just as I remembered it. Long, meandering, powerful, and enthralling. The title, ‘Golgotha’, again refers to Blackie’s faith, and it is the skull mountain where Jesus was crucified. The song hears Blackie screaming ”Jesus I Need You Now” for all his worth, like a broken man with nowhere to turn. A man who has faced up to his past and his failings. A man who has come to the point of no return. A man with a fork in the road, and one path would be very dark and short. I am delighted Blackie chose the path he did, for his own sanity, and for my listening pleasure (I know I am being a bit selfish here).
So there you have it. Six years of waiting. Waiting for an acceptable album, only to be knocked backwards and shaken back in love with a band I spent my teenage years listening too. Sat there alone with my album sleeves, my picture discs, my cut to shape discs (wondering why they cut certain bits of the ladies anatomy off) and my 12 inch copy of ‘Animal’, that now crackles like a bronchitis sufferer on their deathbed. Those days are gone now. Part of my makeup and youth still run through my veins, but mostof it is a distant memory. All I can say is, I am ecstatic W.A.S.P are not just a part of that memory, they are in the present, and with this album, I think they have sealed a future where they are back at the big boys table, and quite rightly so.
Review: Ritchie Birnie
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