W.A.S.P. – Golgotha

WASP - GolgothaA few years ago, I was just about to give up on Blackie Lawless and his W.A.S.P. For many years Blackie did nothing but repeat himself and the music just got worse and worse and I started to believe that with Blackie as the sole song writer and producer, no one would get the chance to even try to convince Blackie that he was running on empty and by the sound of the music, he wasn’t aware of it himself. See, I was a teenager back in 1984 when W.A.S.P. conquered Sweden with a bang. With a strong look and a stage show that included a rotating saw blade between the legs, throwing raw meat on the crowd, drinking fake blood from a skull and cutting the throat of a chained topless woman, the Swedish press went berserk and did exactly what Blackie wanted them to do – covered them in every magazine and TV show to the point that even my grand mother knew who W.A.S.P. were, with the result of every rock kid in the country found themselves a new favorite band. Add to the fact that their self-titled debut album was full of killer melodic hard rock songs and the deal was done. I have been a W.A.S.P. fan ever since. I do love the follow-ups as well, the heavy and darker The Last Command (1985), the back to the roots and rawer (not to mention underrated!) Inside The Electric Circus (1986) – why Blackie hate that record so much is beyond me – and the fabulous milestone The Headless Children (1989) where they went both more metal and back to a more 70’s sound. Up until then, W.A.S.P. still felt like a band even though there was changes in the line-up with every record. All that stopped when Blackie’s side kick and only remaining original member beside Blackie, Chris Holmes left the band. The masterpiece The Crimson Idol (1992) was originally planned as Blackie’s solo album, but was released as a W.A.S.P. album, but just like its follower, the great and very underrated Still Not Black Enough (1995), it is a Blackie Lawless solo album, no matter what the cover says. So far, so awesome, but times they were a-changin’ and when Blackie and Chris reunited for the next record Kill Fuck Die we wrote 1997 in our calendars and the music that W.A.S.P. played wasn’t commercially viable one bit. We had grunge, nu-metal was on its way to become the new big thing and the new master of shock rock wasn’t named Kiss or Alice Cooper or Blackie Lawless, but Marilyn Manson and his music was dark, industrial, cold and hard, so Blackie and Chris decided to jump on that bandwagon. Bad move. Not only was the music on Kill Fuck Die horrible, but the image was wrong as well. W.A.S.P. always did their shock rock show with a twinkle in the eye and humour, but now they were dark, evil, distasteful and way, way too serious. Since then, the image has changed for the better and the music too, but not good enough, I’m afraid. Both Helldorado (1999) and Unholy Terror (2001) were disappointing records and the music was too hook-less and dull and after the latter, Holmes left again. He and Lawless hasn’t come back to speaking terms since. Dying For The World (2002) had some good songs that gave some hope, but most of the record was uneven and after that everything bombed completely with Blackie’s biggest failure ever, the rock operas The Neon God (two records called  The Rise and The Demise, 2004) that was nothing more than a failed and contrived attempt to make The Crimson Idol once again. That’s when I said enough! I had spent my last green on Blackie and his band.

I didn’t gave W.A.S.P. much thought for the next three years when they all of a sudden released Dominator in 2007 and my curiosity took the best of me and I decide to see if maybe, just maybe Blackie and his band, now consisting of Mike Duda who joined in 1995, guitarist Doug Blair and drummer Mike Dupke, a line-up that was relevant up until just before the release of this album when Dupke jumped the ship, had woken up and smelled the coffee musically. They had. Stuff like “Take Me Up” and “Heaven’s Hung In Black” was among the best songs Blackie had ever written and most of the album felt fresh, alive and kicking and when they repeated the high quality only two years later with Babylon, it felt like W.A.S.P. was looking at a second coming and a bright future. Also, as live act.W.A.S.P. were stronger than ever, free from blood, guts and other gimmicks. Then Blackie found salvation and became a new-born Christian. Good for him, but the truth is, this was such a hard turn that I wondered if he was gonna keep doing W.A.S.P. and if so, would they sound the same or would he go soft on us. Would he even bother to release any new material? Well, it took a good six years, but now the Christian named album Golgotha is finally here and it looks like the record was a long time coming. Blackie broke the news that the new record was more or less ready to go a year ago and the release date has been postponed a bunch of times. The first track that was released through Soundcloud was “Last Runaway” and the first time I heard it I was floored, knocked out down for the count – this is by far the best song Blackie has written, except maybe for “Take Me Up” and “Heaven’s Hung In Black”, since The Crimson Idol. And finally, Blackie has dared to move out of his box to try something new. See, folks, this is the poppiest track W.A.S.P. has ever recorded. Sure, many might hate him for it, but I love it. The sound is very much Blackie, of course, but the melodies screams both Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi when they were great and the song is so catchy you could use it as glue. To say that the expectations for the album shot though the roof is the understatement of the year – and then some.

The second pre-album song was also released through Soundcloud and now as a video as well, was opener “Scream”. It didn’t floor me like its predecessor did, but it’s a good song. It sounds very alike “Crazy” from Babylon, which sounds a lot like “Wild Child” (The Last Command) so I guess he has kept some of his repetitive behaviour. “Shotgun” is a real killer, but the fact is that Blackie is borrowing / stealing from himself again here. This song could have been off both Dominator and Babylon and I kind of miss the diversity here. Still a really good song, though. There is one thing that Blackie is really good at, where he never fails and that is writing ballads. Here’s another one, it’s called “Miss You”, it’s a leftover from The Crimson Idol (which already had two amazing ballads in “Hold On To My Heart” and “The Idol”) and it’s so amazingly good that I get goosebumps and every hair is on my body is standing. It can easiest be described as the perfect mix of “Hold On To My Heart” and “Sleeping (In The Fire)” and Blackie’s emotional vocals sends shivers. Also, Doug Blair cuts a fantastic solo. “Fallen Under” could also be described as a ballad, but this is way heavier and darker and it’s very much W.A.S.P. – brilliant! “Slaves Of The New World Order” borrows some from “Chainsaw Charlie” and mixes it with a Dominator-ish sound. A rocker with a gut punch! “Eyes Of My Maker” comes with some more pop in the refrain and it’s welcomed. It has all the elements that a W.A.S.P. song should have, but the pop influence brings som diversity to the table. Awesome song, Blackie and more of this, please! “Hero Of The World” is somewhat forgettable, though. It’s ok, but it’s standard W.A.S.P., stuff like we’ve heard from them a million times before. Therefore it feels great that the record ends with a real monster – the title track. “Golgotha” is en epic and grand ballad, not a far cry from a song like “Heaven’s Hung In Black”, very atmospheric, dark and heavy. It do feels a bit awkward to hear Blackie shout out “Jesus I need you now…” full throttle, but he’s convincing, heartfelt and passionate and when I get used to it, it’s no big deal. The song makes me wanna play the record all over again.

I was hoping that this album would be the W.A.S.P. album that knocked me for six and partly, it really does. The songs on this album that are good are so very, very awesome, but unfortunately there are a few fillers and recycled ideas here as well. I have said it before and I will say it again, I think that Blackie could use an outside producer and a song writing partner, especially now that he has managed to leave his comfort zone and write some stuff that I never though would end up on a W.A.S.P. album. W.A.S.P. of 2015 really sounds more like band instead of Blackie with backing band even though drummer Dupke left while this album still hasn’t been released. That said, Doug Blair needs a mention here. The guy is by far the best guitar player that Blackie has ever worked with (yes, I include Bob Kulick here) and his tone, feel, technique and style is just amazing, the guy is criminally underrated. Doug is a real guitar hero and I wonder how he might be as a song writer, maybe he could add something to the variation of the songs. Blackie’s voice? Oh, it’s just as strong and powerful as ever. How about Blackie’s new-found religious belifes, then? Is it apparent on the album? Well, of course it is. The title track is already mentioned, but just check out some of the titles; “Fallen Under”. “Eyes Of My Maker”. “Hero Of The World”. Well, you get it. But as a non-Christian, it doesn’t bother me one bit, I really don’t care and if Blackie is happy and want to write about it, then more power to him. Musically, what Blackie started up again with Dominator is being followed-up and in many ways bettered here, so yes, I would say this is the best W.A.S.P. album since The Crimson Idol and it gives me hope because I have the feeling that Blackie Lawless has yet another masterpiece hidden inside. Until said masterpiece shows up, this album is highly recommended.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Scream
2. Last Runaway
3. Shotgun
4. Miss You
5. Fallen Under
6. Slaves Of The New World Order
7. Eyes Of My Maker
8. Hero Of The World
9. Golgotha

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