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W.A.S.P. are truly one of metal's timeless bands. They never really produced anything that could touch the highest peaks of the genre like Transcendence or Awaken the Guardian or anything like that, but they did consistently peddle out enjoyable, driving, hard-rockin' metallic fury that quite frankly is as addictive as hell. I don't know what it is about this stuff, about this generally fun loving, carefree style in general, but it rules, and I can't stop myself from listening to it. Hell, I wouldn't be able to do that if you put a fucking gun to my head and threatened to kill me if I didn't. This band is just incredibly replayable, maybe moreso than 99% of the genre's other stalwarts. That is a feat to be lauded for.
Anyway, the punchline is The Headless Children, which was my very first W.A.S.P. album from a few years back. This one marked the transition between the happy, risque, party-addicted, sex-crazed band of old and the more serious, heavy beast they were becoming. There are some vaguely political and even epic lyrics hinted at on here, blended rather incoherently with the more traditional tales of sex, booze and drugs that have not been completely vanquished yet. The basic sound of the band is intact, but here it's like they were on fire - they always had heavy, catchy riffs and Blackie Lawless' rough, sleazy croon, but here the riffs are louder, the solos are more intense and Blackie sounds angrier and more focused - it's taking everything good about the band from before and amplifying it tenfold. I suppose this is due to Blackie taking on the rhythm guitar duties and leaving the solos to axeman Chris Holmes, making for an added diversity in guitar playing. Whatever the cause, the band just sounds great on here, with the energized, juicy production job courtesy of Blackie himself being a huge aid to that.
The song selection is one thing I like a lot about this album, varying from metallic Iron Maiden-caliber epics like "The Heretic (The Lost Child)," with its galloping riff, dark thematic and epic build up, the booming epic "Thunderhead" and the rumbling, dirgey riffs of the title track to angry, booze-sodden hard rock songs like the careening "Mean Man" and the furiously headbangable "Rebel in the F.D.G." There's a little something here for everyone, and the variety is just delightful, making for a fully functioning banquet of 80s metal glory. Even the pansy ballad "Forever Free" is completely genuine and not sleazy at all, with its open sounding guitar work and melodious backdrop being instantly charming and likable. I can't really defend the pointless instrumental "Mephisto Waltz," though, as it doesn't really fit in or build up to anything useful. Oh well.
The Headless Children is nothing if not a manifesto to energetic, rocking mastery of the style. It's compulsively replayable, endlessly enjoyable and it just rocks the fuck out like there's no tomorrow. W.A.S.P. have a lot of very good albums, and this is definitely my favorite at the moment. Check this out if you haven't already; it is mandatory. Just listen to Blackie scream out the "Ohhhh YEAH!" bit in the chorus on "Rebel in the F.D.G." if you want any confirmation of why this rules so much. God, is that powerful; now I have to go listen to it again...
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com