It has been six (very) long years, since Blackie Lawless and his mean muthafuckin’ metal-making machine by the name of W.A.S.P have warmed our collective ears with a new album. Of course, there are particularly good reasons for this uncharacteristically long delay, such as the rather small matter of not one but three tours – including their absolutely massive ’30 Years Of Thunder’ trek – and the frontman breaking his leg (“in 20 places”, as he described it during one of his between-song raps on their current triumphant UK and Ireland tour), as well as needing reconstructive surgery on his shoulder.
Having been a fan of W.A.S.P since the (then highly controversial) release of the ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ single – I had THAT poster on my wall for a good few years – I must admit that I have never known what to expect from the band’s new albums, especially during the Nineties and the first part of the Noughties, when their output was, in my humble opinion at least, somewhat patchy to say the least. But ‘Golgotha‘ is stunning.
This album is a return to the old school W.A.S.P of the ‘The Last Command’/’Inside The Electric Circus’/’The Headless Children’ era. At the same time, it is a statement about where the band are now: three decades into a career which has been all about “fuck you” and especially “fuck the critics”, ‘Golgotha’ stands tall and proud. It also reflects the ambition of ‘The Crimson Idol’ in its epic scope and feel.
To be brutally honest, it gets off to what could be seen as a relatively mundane start. ‘Scream’ is a fairly standard W.A.S.P tune, straight out of the above mentioned playbooks, but with an infectious hook, especially on the chorus. The romping first single ‘Last Runaway’ ramps things up somewhat, but it’s easy to see how to see how it fits seemlessly into the band’s current live set list, as it echoes the catchability of ‘Blind In Texas’.
However, the album really kicks into gear with the magnificent ‘Miss You’, a huge, eight minute epic which wrings every ounce of emotion from both the band and the listener, and features an absolutely blistering performance from Doug Blair, who also has wrenched every drop of sweat from the song in the live arena. ‘Fallen Under’ picks up the pace again and at the same time continues the epic theme, while the dirty, grunty edge of ‘Slaves Of The New Order’ well and truly winds the clock back to the late Eighties but is delivered with a modern sensibility. ‘Eyes Of My Maker’ reflects Lawless’ spiritual side, and possesses the darkness hinted at on the previous ‘Babylon’ album: similarly, ‘Hero Of My World’ questions conventional religion – especially in it’s refrained reference to a “superhero from a foreign land”, which in turn perhaps provokes the listener to question Lawless’ own (faux?) Christianity – and possesses the sort of sick edge many of us old school listeners (perhaps mistakenly) believed he had lost.
The highlight, however, is saved to the end, in the shape of the huge title track. Lawless digs deep into the darkest depths of his blackened soul as he pleads “Jesus I need you now” and speaks of how “my knees are bloodied from my crawl” on his journey from the depths of depression to personal redemption. It’s also a track which summarizes everything which has gone before, and wraps up what strikes this reviewer as a hugely personal album, born out of pain, both physical and spiritual.
‘Golgotha’ is an album that is by turns dark and joyous. It has its flaws, and will not please everyone, whether they are fans of W.A.S.P or not. But, it is one which defines exactly where Blackie Lawless – and, at the end of the day, he is the embodiment of the band, no matter who stands beside or behind him on stage or in the studio – stands at this present moment in time. It is also perhaps W.A.S.P’s finest album in 20 years.
Scream / Last Runaway / Shotgun / Miss You / Fallen Under / Slaves Of The New World Order / Eyes Of My Maker / Hero Of The World / Golgotha
Recommended listening: Golgotha
‘Golgotha’ is released on October 2 via Napalm Records.
W.A.S.P’S tour continues tonight (Saturday September 19) at Rock City in Nottingham, before moving on to the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton on Monday (September 21) and finishing at Motion in Bristol on Tuesday (September 22).
Live photograph of Blackie Lawless taken at Limelight 1, Belfast by The Dark Queen (courtesy of Über Rock).
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