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When I first heard The Crimson Idol, I wasn’t fazed at all. I thought it was the worst W.A.S.P. album I had heard thus far, but little did I know it was an album that would grow immensely. Even during the early stages, the first song that struck me wildly was “Chainsaw Charlie” (for this review, I’m not going to include the “…(Murders In The New Morgue)” part); beginning with that chainsaw revving up and the following riff / drum spiral, you know you’re in for a treat. However, this single provides you a “(Sawn Off Version)” that completely cuts this part and most of the first half out. Instead, it begins with a quick drum intro and dives right into the song’s main riff and pre-chorus. While the song still sounds very hellish, melodic, and twisted, it completely dismisses the first half which the listener would likely love even more.
I’ve always hated that about commercialized songs – the fact that the record company wants to trim shit down all the time because many listeners don’t have the attention span or patience to sit through a song longer than five minutes. It’s a terrible shame, but it works with them as well because if the listener has faith enough in this short version, then they’ll check out the real deal and be blown away even more. “Chainsaw Charlie” still retains its epic riffs, lovable chorus, and can still enjoy W.A.S.P.’s focused sound in a compact form. It should be noted that for fans at the time, this was considerably different than anything Blackie attempted before. The atmosphere was darker, keyboards were a common inclusion, and a concept was applied to bring the album more to life. The song itself sounds very heavy metal, but progressive elements and a much different approach to writing definitely made this one a drastic change from the glammy band of the last decade.
“Phantoms In The Mirror,” which no one was entirely certain would appear on the original release or not (which it didn’t), isn’t a song I’m entirely certain about. It reminds me a lot of The Headless Children, and I bet it reminded fans at the time (if they knew it even existed) as well. My main problem with it is the drums; they sound so stale and buried. The same thing can be said about the guitars; they’re weak and buried. Both of these instruments deserve much better, but they’re pushed aside for the chilling keys, which only play a background role on here and the album anyway. The solo for the keyboard is blasphemic and sweet, though, followed by a raunchy guitar solo and a fantastic bass / keyboard bridge. The song has more going for it than it seems, but because it’s a B-side, it wasn’t given as much attention to detail as the others.
Blackie’s voice on both tracks and the production (and I’m talking in really general terms, as the paragraph above sort of writes this off) is much like The Crimson Idol. His vocals are still grainy and dry, but he sounds much more in turmoil – you can feel the anguish in his voice, but it’s more melodic in “Chainsaw Charlie” because of the chorus. There’s grit to them, as well, which makes sense since by this time he perceived things from a scarred perspective.
The last track can be found on The Story Of Jonathan single and on the reissue of The Crimson Idol; I personally find it a great addition. It’s not entirely a song, though it can be seen as one, I guess. It’s a recording that’s produced like a song basically with Blackie and an acoustic guitar playing the last tune from “The Invisible Boy” (from the main album). Lawless himself tells the story (not lyrically read) of the album’s main character, “Jonathan,” in his own words. It gets about halfway through, so you need to listen to the second part in order to hear the whole thing. Blackie speaks with his deep, guilty voice (not singing) and the vibe is very relaxing. I could listen to this song while driving and would love every second of it.
For a single, this offers quite a lot; you have three varied tracks that take a look at the new album from different sides. Nothing’s biased and the cover art itself is tasty – makes me hungry, really.