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Blows Your Head Off - 99%

heavymetalbackwards, October 30th, 2009

It was during the tour for Inside The Electric Circus, while Blackie Lawless was viewing himself in the mirror as he finished applying his make-up; he was thinking of his childhood rock favorites: The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin. Hit with an attack of self-consciousness, he spun around to address his band mates, “When are we going to do anything of real artistic value?” He was met by blank stares.

Blackie had his mind set that the next record would address serious political and social issues, rather than just boozing it up with Satan and sadomasochistic sexual debauchery. That’s when “The Headless Children” was conceived, but the gestation period lasted years and into 1989.

Pete Townsend declared that W.A.S.P.’s cover of “The Real Me,” which appears on this album, was more like what he wished the original version by The Who would have come out like. Well, if that’s true, then Blackie certainly outdid some aspects of his childhood heroes, because that’s not even the best track on here. No, the best one is the ballad “Forever Free.”

A deep lyrical analysis is necessary to absorb the overwhelming gorgeousness of this song’s narrative:

“Mephisto Waltz” preludes. Then, “I ride all alone and can’t see the road to nowhere anymore.” Imagine a biker who once traveled miles and miles with his girl across the open highway, just riding to nowhere. But now, she is gone, and he can’t even see “nowhere” anymore. That magical, non-existent destination they perpetually traversed toward disappeared when she passed away.

So his memory whispers for him to return to the spot she fell, and passed over the horizon. The song then tells of how he is convinced he will never love again, but somehow, he finds another woman. But then he is haunted in his nightmares by his deceased lover’s cries, which eventually tell him not to worry, and to keep riding, to keep riding to nowhere. It’s still there. She knows; she rides toward it every day in the wind.

Bam! Blackie rides! He burns rubber, ripping that road to nowhere through the song “Maneater.” This is Judas Priest-style metal at its heaviest and most intense, and my favorite track of this style on the album. There are also the slightly inferior, but still killer, “Mean Man” and “Rebel in the F.D.G.” that are the same style of loud-and-proud motorcycle metal. It’s simplistic; it’s straightforward, but it ain’t glam and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. Glam went goodbye in W.A.S.P. starting with this album.

But you know, W.A.S.P. do more than just flex their macho-muscles. We get Blackie giving his social insight from the very beginning, with the opener “Lost Child (The Heretic).” Verse after verse, guitar solo after guitar solo, this song builds a tower of heaviness as Blackie screeches about political inequality, racism, and prejudice. Yeah, the melodies are still as awesome as the glam days, but they are less overt and more complex. Chris Holmes’s guitar work is also something to be amazed by, especially on “Thunderhead.” Musically speaking, this album is just outright superb.

Now, this album isn’t perfect. The title track, for example, is just a good heavy metal song but not particularly mind-blowing or fist-pumping. I think this is the best they had done since the debut, which would remain number one until a couple years later when W.A.S.P. put out their magnus opus, “The Crimson Idol.” Still, this is an almost perfect album, and if you’re neither into the more glammy nor the more progressive sides of metal, this could be your favorite W.A.S.P. CD.