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This Is for All You Headbangers Out There - 100%

Cat III, January 11th, 2020

In 1990, with its release of Super Mario Bros. 3, Nintendo of America honored Wendy O. Williams by naming one of the game's Koopaling bosses after her. Other Koopalings were christened after rockstars Iggy Pop, Roy Orbison, Ludwig van Beethoven and one time Williams collaborator Lemmy Kilmister. At twenty-five minutes, the Metal Priestess EP is the most concise demonstration why this little joke of video game localization was right to immortalize the Plasmatics singer alongside Orbison and Pop. Whereas Beyond the Valley of 1984 released earlier the same year showed major improvement in Williams' performance, Priestess sees her talents crystallize as a formidable vocal presence. Doubters get fucked, show critics and cretins the door: Wendy Orlean Williams was born to rock. In the beginning, focusing the hype around her could be dismissed as a gimmick to attract horny teens (horny adults too). After Metal Priestess, such opinions were reduced to dust—would anyone not converted dare utter their dissent at a volume detectable by human hearing? Williams was the genuine article, someone with chops and, more importantly, searing personality. Any hard rock band would be lucky to sport her as their frontwoman, but the one she landed in was especially primed to exploit her abilities.

“Doom Song” showcases her asphalt bark with echo effects added for fun. Her vocals on “Black Leather Monster” and “Masterplan” are dumb, snotty, punk. “Lunacy” displays a facet of her vocals overlooked and under-appreciated: her normal singing voice. When aggression was unneeded, she had a pleasing and traditionally feminine voice, and genuine talent, with the grace not to push beyond the limits of her ability. Being the first track on an EP declaring its singer a member of metaldom's clergy, “Lunacy” is bold to start off so subdued, but the risk pays off by creating a haunting intro hinting at things to come. It's also just a banging track and midway Williams unleashes one of her ear-scorching screams that would become entwined with listeners' perception of her, as the caw is to the crow or roar to the tiger.

None of this would be worth a damn were the instrumentation not up to par. Fortunately the band is tighter than they'd ever been. Guitar-wise, Beech and Stotts continue their mutualistic relationship, kicking out hits like the rollicking rocker “Black Leather Monster”, or “Doom Song” which manages to be catchy without a hook. Stotts' gets in effective, unobtrusive leads; for example the pretty chords that open the record. Newcomers handle the rest of the instruments. Chris "Junior" Romanelli takes up bass, a role he kept on the next LP and would return to in 1987 for Maggots: The Record. With its funky rhythm underlining wah-pedaled riffs, “12 Noon” shows the vitality he's capable of bringing to a song. During the bridge, the guitars shrink back to exhibit what a banging bassline it is. Pulling off a drum solo in the opening track, Joey Reese ensures his only stint with the band isn't completely uneventful. On the two live tracks, the rhythm section consists of bassist Jean Beauvoir, making his last appearance on a Plasmatics record, and former Twisted Sister drummer Tony Petri. These two tracks, “Sex Junkie” and “Masterplan”, are taken from Beyond the Valley of 1984. The former doesn't stray far from the original version. The latter balloons the soloing into a full-on jam, followed by a final stretch in which Wendy taxes her vocal cords to a manic degree, making this the definitive version of the song.

In Plasmatics fashion, the recording on these live tracks sounds fantastic, as does the rest of the record. Disco musician and former Edgar Winter Group bassist, Dan Hartman produced Metal Priestess, apparently at Hartman's request, and there's nothing to fault in the job he did. The cover shouts the Plasmatics' metal aspirations: from Williams' bondage gear complete with spiked nipples and a single horn protruding from her forehead, to the giant pentagram in back (in a time that was still shocking), to the chrome lettering of the band's name. Tracks one and two reference occultism in the lyrics; a subject that was sadly not explored further in later Plasmatics material. Metal Priestess succeeds in solidifying the sound the band pivoted toward on the record prior. At once ragtag, political punks and a mobilized heavy metal battalion, the Plasmatics were poised to conquer the planet, with LtGen Williams leading the assault.