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Yes to Sex, No to Violence, Blackie… - 88%

bayern, February 9th, 2018

Although Blackie Lawless’ cohort was the least commercially successful team from the muscular side (Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister; early works) of US pop metal, they proved the most resilient and the most attractive one for the average metal fan; I had friends who were listening to thrash and death metal almost exclusively, but had, and still do, a very soft spot for W.A.S.P. I guess a major reason for that was their outrageous live shows as music-wise, the stupendous debut notwithstanding of course, they were hardly the most boisterous, angriest batch on the circuit save for Lawless’ highly passionate vociferous, barking vocals.

I have to admit I remained in the Crue/Sister camp due to these acts’ more consistent repertoire as W.A.S.P. really softened after the explosive first showing, and never managed to produce a gigantic hit from the ranks of “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”, for instance, one of my 20 top favourite songs of all times. On the other hand, they never released a really bad album during the 80’s, there were always bits and pieces of every affair that prompted repeated listens, but when they eventually peaked on the triumphant “The Crimson Idol”, it was a bit too late for the metal world to finally start paying more serious attention to the once underestimated shock rockers as new winds were blowing, sweeping away the classic metal laws to which the most Lawless of them all was holding onto steadfastly…

At least the results produced were definitely worth hearing although “Still Not Black Enough” was a considerable step bacк compared to the infernally serious, nearly progressive officiancy of its predecessor, the band opting for a return to the more stripped-down, rock-ish delivery from their classic efforts. That wasn’t going to cut it, though, not in the midst of the most gruesome for metal times. “Adapt or die”, or kill, or fuck in the best case scenario… that was the situation if an old timer wanted to stay afloat, and Lawless finally voted to obey…

“But how exactly?”, was the question; well, the title-track only too nicely describes the case with its overt industrialized flavour although, to be perfectly honest, except for the grating abrasive edge of the guitars everything else is vintage old school W.A.S.P., and this cut is a sure hit Blackie in perfect form, sounding pissed and emotional in equal dozes. The hits have just started, as a matter of fact, “Take the Addiction” being another stadium filler recalling “9.5.-N.A.S.T.Y.” from “Inside the Electric Circus”, catchy as fuck (not so much kill or die), lifting the mood big time although “My Tortured Eyes” goes the opposite direction being a brilliant poignant lyrical ballad, a staple for the band track followed by “KIllahead”, a most infectious modern metal roller-coaster with a rousing rock’n roll-ish vibe.

The listener would be completely sold for the band’s new cause after that last anthem, but the show isn’t over yet; in fact, it has just started and before you know it the whole of Tokyo is on fire with “Tokyo’s on Fire”, a spontaneous jump-arounder that partially abandons the industrial atmosphere, rocking in the good old school way to a great nostalgic effect. “Kill Your Pretty Face” is another ballad, but that’s totally forgiven this number soaked in ethereal Oriental atmosphere, performed in a sinister creepy fashion with epic accumulations in the second half. “Wicked Love” is the next in line supremely memorable heavy rocker that would have been a highlight on the debut even; and “U” is a minimalistic semi-balladic saga Lawless intent on touching the absorbing gravity of the Eternal album with more thought-out arrangements that also carry on on the final “The Horror”, a doom-laden progressive stomper the drama enhanced by serene passages, more Oriental tunes, and sudden more dynamic build-ups.

By no means the guys’ most seductive effort due to its sterile, mechanical at times character, this opus was a perfectly acceptable adaptation showing that immediately won them the privilege to support none other than Rammstein on the Germans’ first US tour… kidding of course, such a scenario never developed although it could have as Lawless and Co. captured the currents on the scene only too well here without losing their identity. It would take less than a minute for the fans to adjust to the innovations as the good old W.A.S.P. simply can’t be crossed off the list due to just a couple of noisier, louder chords. It’s quite inspiring to hear the classic heavy metal panorama delivering almost as well in these new, more artificial surroundings thanks to one of its undeservedly unrecognized representatives. Yes, Lawless had his moments of glory during this divisive period even if the crowd capacity couldn’t be compared to the one from the 80’s, and not only because there were no chainsaws and naked ladies populating the stage anymore...

And this was also the moment when the band literally re-invented themselves. Excluding the goofy unpretentious rockabilia “Helldorado”, a most unnecessary entry into the guys’ discography, the next instalments brought the old swagger to the fullest, especially the first two from the new millennium W.A.S.P. being one of the very few heavy metal warriors (the Danes Pretty Maids also come to mind) to have reached it without ever splitting up, not even for a month. Lawless’ integrity remains unstained all these years regardless of the diminishing returns from the last official release so far “Golgotha”; I’m not sure whether the re-mastering of “The Crimson Idol”, already a fact as we write, is a very good idea, but let’s hope the man knows what he’s doing… after all the “killing”, and “fucking”, and “dying” all these years we don’t want to mess up our finest hour, do we?