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If only... if only! - 95%

Gas_Snake, March 22nd, 2020

W.A.S.P are a band that I've neglected to check out for a while now. Until recently, I thought of them as just another glam band like many others that were so common in the 1980's. I did not enjoy their lyrical matters, nor could I appreciate their sleazy hard-rocking foundation. However, I eventually decided to check out their supposed crowning achievement "The Crimson Idol", curious about the more serious mood of the album and an overarching concept that promised plenty of opportunities for emotional weight. As the rating and review title should already tell you, the experience was very pleasing, but left something to be desired...

As far as concept albums go, what I like the most about this one is how the music and the concept go hand in hand with each other. This is not your typical concept album like "Operation: Mindcrime", where a set of songs just so happens to have a unifying story for the sake of having one. This is an album where the music is written for the lyrics. Here, the vocals and instruments set the mood ideally to give the lyrics the right dose of emotional weight, to make the hardships of the protagonist feel genuine and heart-wrenching, but not overdramatic and forced. The songs are loud and bombastic when they need to be, but they are evenly balanced out with clean guitar sections that are placed perfectly throughout the album. The "concept" nature of the album is also helped by several recurring themes that serve the purpose of linking the songs together. Because of everything I just mentioned, "The Crimson Idol" is best experienced in a whole front-to-back listen - the songs lose that much of their emotional weight when disjointed and thrown out of context.

But what about the specific songs? Not to worry, they are all heavy metal beasts of the highest caliber. "The Titanic Overture" immediately sets the mood for the entire album, and also introduces most of the recurring musical motifs that will show up later. The next tracks are all poignant metal anthems with amazing guitar work and unbelievable vocal performances. From there, the album's story develops more and more, and the rest of the songs begin to feel like stepping stones to a grand climax, but this is done without losing any emphasis on the actual music - just how a great concept album should be. "The Great Misconceptions Of Me" is an amazing end to the album, tying together all of the album's recurring themes to give the impression of the story coming full circle, and showing one of the most intense emotional outbursts I've ever heard in a metal song, - all of it lasting nearly ten minutes, yet not wasting a single second of its playtime.

As much as I'd love to call this album perfect, there is one big blemish here that prevents me from doing so. The elephant in the room is the ballad "Hold On To My Heart". No matter how hard I try, I cannot see a good reason behind its inclusion on here. Did the band want to include a break between the two long songs that are supposed to end the album? Perhaps they couldn't resist including just one glamorous radio hit on here? Whatever the case may be, the track adds nothing meaningful to the music or the story, and it only kills the pacing for the remainder of the experience. This actually bothered me enough to make me remove the song from the album. That "custom-made" version of this full-length (without "Hold On To My Heart") is among my all-time favorite metal albums, and it will likely stay that way. Just imagine "The Idol" immediately flowing into "The Great Misconceptions Of Me": the desperate plea for help, the announcement of "it's show time"... and instead of sinking into the fluffy pop rock ballad, it goes right into the main character putting on the performance of his life, fully exposing his feelings to the audience... beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it.

However, even with such a big flaw holding it back, this is an amazing album, and an exemplary work among concept albums in heavy metal. I find this to be vastly superior to most other concept albums that I've listened to. If you've at any point ignored this band for the same reasons that I have, give this album a listen. You will not regret it.