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W.A.S.P. > Black Forever / Goodbye America > Reviews
W.A.S.P. - Black Forever / Goodbye America

A preamble to an older shade of black. - 84%

hells_unicorn, April 16th, 2019
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Raw Power

It was a dark and turbulent time, that brief transitional era between the fateful end of the grunge scene and the beginnings of the post-grunge parody that began rearing its soulless carcass. It was not so much a total power vacuum, but it was pretty safe to say that the wind had been taken out of the proverbial sails of grunge's recent ascendancy with the untimely passing of its most auspicious figurehead, and it wasn't wholly clear just where things were going to go when 1995 rolled in. Perhaps the greatest degree of stability to be found was among the remnant of the metal world, as apart from the recent groove craze ushered in by Pantera, Sepultura and Machine Head, those that had stuck closer to the old ways were largely oblivious to either the pressure to crack the Top 40 (that ship had basically sailed a couple years back) or the drama that was plaguing the rock mainstream. Perhaps the most oblivious to these goings on was W.A.S.P. front man and recent metal opera pioneer Blackie Lawless, who found himself in the ironic position of paralleling the highly personalized and arguably confessional character of the Seattle lyrical approach, though largely ignoring the sonic packaging that went along with it.

As with his largely overseas hit The Crimson Idol, the task of promoting his eventual follow up Still Not Black Enough would largely be one that would center on markets outside of Lawless' home country. Given the market had become even more inhospitable to 80s heavy metal by the middle of the decade, the lone EP known as Black Forever/Goodbye America would stand as a preview for what would come towards the tail end of 1995, existing in three different versions of varying worth. Of these releases, the two CD versions would prove far superior to the two song vinyl single, each containing additional b-side material that would rival and arguably surpass much of what made it onto the initial LP release. The relative superiority of these versions rests largely on whether one wishes to hear two competent AC/DC covers or two riveting original songs that, by all standards, should have been included on the subsequent LP. To be clear, "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "Long Way To The Top" are basically faithful renditions with a punchier guitar sound and an even more forceful vocal display courtesy of Lawless, and one would be remiss to deny that AC/DC's influence has not been sizable on much of W.A.S.P.'s seminal output.

Be all this as it may, the more superior material contained in the first edition of this EP is where the real action lies, not withstanding that the duo of AC/DC covers does betray the more rock-based retread of the mid-80s that largely culminates in Still Not Black Enough's sound. The opening banger "Black Forever" shares a fair amount of musical similarity to "The Invisible Boy", though having more of a stripped down character and sporting a production that is a tad bit thinner. This tendency to channel elements of The Crimson Idol does not end with the opening song, as the politically charged mini-epic foray "Goodbye America" contains echoes of "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)", including a similarly haunting poetic narration at the beginning over a droning acoustic guitar line. Overall, the presentation is a bit less metallic than that of the previous LP, but the same epic mixture of atmospheric keyboards and shred-happy guitar solos courtesy of Bob Kulick makes for a similarly spellbinding experience. The real pay dirt, however, is hit once the brilliant upbeat cruiser "Skin Walker" is unleashed, playing off a brilliant shimmering build up segment featuring an electric sitar and exploding into a blistering chorus segment like one of the climactic points heard on The Headless Children.

As the EP closes its doors with a brilliant and blistering ballad in "One Tribe" that all but outdoes the signature interludes into softer territory on the last two LPs, featuring a massive violin solo that would have made the likes of Celine Dion jealous, a pretty clear impression is left what would be the dominant character of Still Not Black Enough, namely Blackie's vocal work and lyrics. As much as the music that rounds out this release is a brilliant exercise in reaffirming and expanding upon the range of the W.A.S.P. catalog, there is a case to be made that these songs, even more so than the ones that were created during the sessions for The Crimson Idol, function more in a solo project capacity. All of the bells and whistles that make up W.A.S.P.'s career thus far are all over this, but the highly personalized lyrical expression that rains all over this like black water from the sky is a bit out of character. Some of Lawless' most intense moments as a vocalist, both in terms of raw aggression and range of emotional expression, are all over these songs and the ones that would surface on the upcoming LP. But above all else, it is a very different expression from the self-loathing one that defined the grunge period, one that is more self-aware and is unafraid to let it all hang out.

W.A.S.P.’s Best Single (If The Correct Version) - 85%

OzzyApu, November 16th, 2009

Honestly, all of these tracks should have been on the UK version of Still Not Black Enough aka the only version that still gets pressed regularly. It’s bullshit that they left out these songs, forcing us to fork over more for the Japanese and American versions which are rare and expensive. One version has “Black Forever” and “Goodbye America” only, another has these two plus two AC/DC covers, and another has the first two plus two of W.A.S.P.’s most underrated tracks. If I had the luck to find a decent copy that wasn’t beat the fuck up, then I’d get this single.

“Black Forever” and “Goodbye America” are both standout tracks featured on the main album, and both are catchier than all hell. The former supplies a stronger vocal performance from Blackie accompanied by a tune that’s recognizable after the very first listen. The chorus is incredibly memorable and if you can get passed the dark tone of it all, it’s actually a pretty laid-back track. The guitar tone is noticeable much more than most of its peers; remember that the album doesn’t exactly have powerful guitar distortion. “Goodbye America” is much more serious, serving as a great counter to the former track. The spoken intro and its acoustic build-up already let you know that this track will be an epic monster with a message – its one of the darkest tracks on the album, and with another catchy chorus. What makes this one slightly better than the last song is how the memorandum wraps around the bleak, melodic lead by Kulick. Whereas “Black Forever” is loud and fun, “Goodbye America” brings you right back to the cold, hard truth.

The AC/DC cover are pretty fun, as well, but I don’t see them really fitting well with the album. It’s like “Rock And Roll To Death” on the main album – a fun hard rock track, but it doesn’t fit at all with the tone and atmosphere of the album. I prefer “Whole Lotta Rosie” since it has a sick hard rock break in the middle between Kulick and Lawless as they compete for the solo, but otherwise the two tracks are just a novelty inclusion.

The real reason why this single is the best W.A.S.P. have released and will likely never top with any other single is because of “Skin Walker” and “One Tribe.” Apparently, very few versions have the former on it, but it’s their loss because it’s a hauntingly surreal track that’s focused like all hell. Blackie didn’t mess around when writing the rhythm for that, even though it reminds me of another track that I can’t specifically identify The production quality on it and all the other tracks featured on any of the three versions are all from the same Still Not Black Enough recording sessions, so you know what to expect: a livid guitar tone, emotionally strained vocals, gloomy bass lines, and a ghostly drum sound.

“Skin Walker” is only destroyed by “One Tribe,” a song that utter slays everything W.A.S.P. has ever done. I proudly call it my favorite track and hail it as the best song Blackie has ever written. It can only be found on the American version, though it sometimes makes an appearance on some Japanese pressings (odd), but the point is that you must hear this. If you thought “Animal…” or “Blind In Texas” was the shit, then you will be blown away by this track. The energy, the love, the catchiness, the vigor; these words all fail to capture how awesome and inspiring this track makes one feel. The world literally feels like a better place every time I play it.: the violin solo, the wavy acoustics, Blackie’s strongest vocal performance to date, and some fantastic leadwork next to curb-stomping drumming and a cavernous bass tone. Everything comes together so perfectly with this song, making it an experience I always enjoy above all else.

So that’s a rundown on the single, which you should be investigating by the time you finish this sentence. It holds some of Blackie’s best tracks not only from the Still Not Black Enough album (which I consider one of his best, anyway), but from W.A.S.P.’s entire career. For some reason, the crow flew away with these tracks and made sure many fans wouldn’t be able to hear them, but hopefully you won’t take my praise lightly. Hear for yourself and prepare to be mesmerized.