Formed in the early 80's, W.A.S.P. is the brainchild of former New York Dolls member Blackie Lawless. (Blackie Lawless filled in for heroin-soaked guitarist Johnny Thunders for only the last two weeks of their "Red Patent Leather Tour".) The band was originally named Sister, then Circus, Circus before becoming W.A.S.P. (Bassist Rick Fox claims that he came up with the name Wasp, without the periods, while he was a member of the band. Blackie has not only denied this claim, but has for years denied that Rick Fox was even in the band.) With Lawless on vocals and bass, Chris Holmes and Randy Piper on guitars and Tony Richards on drums, the band put out their debut E.P. "Animal: F**K Like A Beast" in 1983 and set the stage for their raunchy reputation right from the word go. The original lineup lasted for only that e.p. and their self-titled album "WASP". After that, in a span of less than 3 years, Steve Riley would take over on drums, Blackie moved to guitar and Johnny Rod was hired as the new bass player. The lineup stayed fairly stable until 1989 when Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali took over behind the kit: in 1993 Bob Kulick, who had worked with Kiss in the past, took over guitar duties for the newly departed Holmes. Despite the changes, WASP put out several albums in the late 80's and 90's that showed Blackie's talent for crafting strong songs and powerful lyrics, as evidenced by 1988's "Headless Children", 1993's masterpiece "The Crimson Idol". Several lineup changes (including the return of Holmes), lawsuits, an attack by the PMRC, and 17 albums have followed that infamous debut e.p., but throughout the years, Blackie and his Boys continue to crank out their own brand of raucous, powerful heavy metal, having released their latest disc, "Unholy Terror", in 2001.
These guys were so outrageous when they first came out. No one sounded like them, looked like them and few had the stage antics they did. At first, I honestly did not like this album, mostly due to the lyrical content. I also think that I may have shrugged them off as Kiss clones. In actuality that comparison is not too far off. Musically the band is a spiced up 70's heavy metal band with those hanging chord, hard-rock anthems. There are four booming anthems on this disc including "I Wanna Be Somebody," "L.O.V.E. Machine," "The Flame," and "On Your Knees". Having become a big W.A.S.P. fan over the years, it's hard for me to pick a favorite, but if forced to, I'd probably chose either this one or the follow-up "The Last Command". Both are equally great.
The 1997 reissue contains their first "single", "F*** Like a Beast", which for some reason is added as track one. I would have preferred they left the track listing like the original and added all the bonus material to the end of the CD. "Paint It Black" is a Rolling Stones cover which previously was only available on their "School Daze" single.
Children of Bodom have covered "Hellion".
The whole disc is actually quite good. By the time "The Last Command" came out, WASP were already very popular and had become the poster children, along with Twisted Sister, for everything that was wrong with rock 'n' roll. The PMRC loved WASP because their shocking Alice Cooper meets Kiss stage antics just repulsed every conservative who didn't understand the point. Of course Blackie Lawless didn't help any during those times as he just used the whole PMRC thing as a vehicle to promote his band. He just went along with it and added fuel to the fire with even more material to gawk at, including pictures of the band with mostly naked woman covered in blood. However, it is not the marketing and stage antics that I am interested in. "The Last Command" is chock full of solid heavy metal anthems, including "Jack Action," "Ballcrusher", "Fistful of Diamonds", "Widowmaker", "Last Command" and the classic nod to the Lone Star state, "Blind In Texas". Almost two decades later, the PMRC is all but forgotten, but "The Last Command" is now considered a heavy metal classic.
The 1997 Sanctuary re-released version contains six bonus tracks, including a smokin' version of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" and an excellent B-side original titled "Savage." The other five tracks are all recorded live at the Lyceum in October 1984.
W.A.S.P. - Inside the Electric Circus (Capitol) 1986
"Electric Circus" is the first album with Blackie Lawless on guitar instead of bass and is the first album to feature ex-King Kobra bassist Johnny Rod. This disc features two smoking cover songs; Uriah Heep's "Easy Living" and Humble Pie's "I Don't Need No Doctor". This is the album that Blackie slags claiming that the record company pushed the band into a more pop metal direction. Well, OK, whatever, I don't see the problem here. Perhaps the music is a tad more pop metal than the first two discs, but it still sounds like W.A.S.P. to me. A good listen, although not quite as good as "The Crimson Idol" or "The Last Command" in my opinion.
You know, I NEVER, EVER see used copies of any WASP CDs, until a friend went out of his way and recorded me CDRs of the band's entire catalogue, then in a matter of two weeks, I find three of the band's CDs in the used bins for under $6 each. Go figure!
Excellent, well recorded live album that was released during the band's peak years of popularity and documenting the more theatrical years of the band. These were the years that every rock critic sat with jaw open as WASP were throwing out raw meat and drinking blood from skulls. Of course it was all an act and the music is what is important anyhow. This disc focuses mostly on the hits, although there are two non-album tracks included, "Manimal" and "Harder Faster", as well as a bonus studio track. A pretty violent live testament. Nice packaging with tons of photos of the band.
W.A.S.P. - The Headless Children (Original Masters) 1989
I read a review in "Riff Kills" by Martin Popoff that said this was the WASP album for those who don't like WASP I have never been a huge fan of the band. Despite the fact that I enjoy Blackie's shrill screech and can appreciate the band's showmanship, I always thought the band's music was lifeless and riffless. That being said, I never gave this album a chance as I had totally lost interest in the band by this point. However, a generous friend of mine had an extra copy of this disc and decided to pass it on to me. (Thanks Arttie) To my surprise this disc is actually quite good. Actually, this disc is beyond good, and is excellent! Perhaps the fact that the band was concentrating less on theatrics allowed them to focus more on their songwriting, either that or perhaps I just misjudged their older albums. This actually turned out to be the case, as I somehow managed to miss the charm and charisma of those classic past discs.
At this point in the W.A.S.P.'s career they were down to a three piece with ex-Uriah Heep/Blackfoot keyboardist Ken Hensley, not to be confused with Ken Fisher, helping them out. Every song on here is totally awesome from the pummeling album opener "The Heretic" to the dynamic "Thunderhead" to the awesome cover of the Who's "Real Me." Basically everything about the album fits right into place; the songwriting, the production, even the lyrics are better (save for the overuse of expletive on "Mean Man". "The Headless Children" establishes Blackie as an excellent songwriter and musician. I originally had the regular ten track version but invested in the remastered version of this disc with the six bonus tracks. "Locomotive Breath" is a Jethro Tull cover. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is not the Metallica track of the same name, although that would have been very cool to hear. Actually the bonus tracks are excellent as well, not sounding like leftovers, but rather these would have been right at home on the album.
The shaped vinyl single pictured above was released to promote "The Headless Children" and contained two non-album tracks. The tracks have since been added to the remastered version of "The Headless Children". (thanks Arttie)
W.A.S.P. - The Crimson Idol (Original Masters) 1992
Absolutely my favorite WASP CD! Crimson Idol is a concept album that tells the tale of a tormented rock star named Jonathan. Despite the WASP name on the CD, this is pretty much a Blackie Lawless solo CD, with Blackie handling the rhythm guitar, bass, vocal, and keyboard duties. Bob Kulick (Kiss, Meatloaf) handled much of the lead guitar work and Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) handled some of the drum duties. Musically, "Crimson Idol" is quite enjoyable, and probably my favorite WASP CD Blackie must have been on a serious The Who fix during the writing of this disc, because their influence is heavy in this disc. However, the music doesn't stray that far from the band's past discs. I actually amazed at home much I enjoyed listening to this disc on the very first listen. Blackie certainly put his all into this album. The bonus disc features three studio tracks, including a cover of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks". Tracks 4-5 are live acoustic tracks. The remaining tracks are all recording live at Donnington in 1992. "The Real Me" is a cover of The Who. Track 11 on disc one is some Black Lawless dialogue.
W.A.S.P. - First Blood Last Cuts (Capitol) 1993
1. "Animal (F*** Like
a Beast)" (3:07)
"First Blood...Last Cuts" is a pretty definitive collection of WASP classics, showcasing some of the best ("I Wanna Be Somebody," "L.O.V.E. Machine," and "Blind in Texas). I'm not real big into 'hits' collections, but since I found this disc used relatively cheap I decided to pick it up for the two unreleased tracks ("Sunset and Babylon" & "Rock and Roll to Death").
W.A.S.P. - Still Not Black Enough (Metal-Is) 1996
1. "Still Not Black
First thing I did upon receiving this disc in the mail was check out who was playing on it. Back for another round on this album is rock 'n' roll veteran Bob Kulick "Still Not Black Enough" is very similar to "Crimson Idol" and "The Headless Children" in that Blackie is focusing on his songcraft rather than the just the shock rock antics or anything vile. There are a few cool headbanging numbers on this one ("Goodbye America" & "Black Forever") as well as a couple ballads ("Keep Holding On" & "Breathe") and even a cover of Jefferson Airplanes "Somebody to Love."
W.A.S.P. - Still Not Black Enough (Castle Records) 1996
1. "Still Not Black
The ORIGINAL American version of "Still Not Black Enough" that came out in 1996 on Castle Records. What's cool about this disc is the addition of the AC/DC cover "Whole Lotta Rosie" and the Queen cover "Tie Your Mother Down." I'll bet WASP could create one heck of a cover CD if they put all their various B-side covers on one disc. Also contains two originals not on my original CD, 'One Tribe,' and 'Skinwalker.'
W.A.S.P. - K.F.D. (Castle) 1997
1. "Kill F*** Die"
Can't say I have ever heard Blackie sound quite so angry. K.F.D. sound more contemporary than anything W.A.S.P. had done before, yet retains some of the the melody of old sound. It seems to me Blackie may have been trying to compete a bit with the Marilyn Manson's of the world that were dominating the scene at the time. After all Blackie was doing the blood and horror shtick long before 'ol Marilyn. Unfortunately the lyrical themes on this disc and the endless barrage of the same expletive over and over again are as annoying as a M.M. disc, so this disc ends up being most collection filler. Niftly digi-pack packaging.
W.A.S.P. - Double Live Assassins (CMC International) 1998
Double Live Assassins is a powerful live disc featuring an excellent tracklist and an excellent production. Double Live Assassins blows away "Live In The Raw". (It also far surpasses "The Sting" that was released a few years later.) In other words, this is THE live testament of WASP This CD was recorded on the "KFD" tour. Personally I like the new tracks from that album better in this live setting without all the industrial noises thrown in. Favorite tracks are the opening medley and, well, the entire disc is good. Could have lived without hearing yet another version of the juvenile, raunchy "Animal" though. Ahh, but that is what skip buttons are for...
W.A.S.P. - B-Side Themselves (CDR compilation)
1. "Saturday Night's
Alright for Fighting" (4:43)
Made a comment to a friend that it would be cool to make a CDR compilation of all the WASP covers from their various CDs Well turns out that something close to that already exists in the form of this compilation that features mostly covers and a few B-side rarities. Most of these tracks have also been released on the recent remastered versions of the different WASP CDs, but it's still cool to have them all on one CD "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" is an Elton John cover, "Paint It Black" is a Rolling Stones cover, "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "It's A Long Way to the Top" are AC/DC covers, "Tie Your Mother Down" is a Queen cover, "Somebody to Love" is a Jefferson Starship cover, "Mississippi Queen" is a Mountain cover, "When the Levee Breaks" is a Led Zeppelin cover, and "Locomotive Breath" is a Jethro Tull cover.
W.A.S.P. - Helldorado (CMC International) 1999
1. "Drive By"
Musically W.A.S.P. continue in the same mode that they have for the last decade, with the possible exception of "K.F.D.", however, the lyrics on this disc are the worst that Blackie has come up with yet. I mean, vile for viles sake. I suppose Blackie is trying to bring back the shock aspect of the band, but with such an arsenal of good CDs behind them, it just comes off as stupid. Spinal Tap was suppose to be a joke, yet Blackie offers songs such as "Dirty Balls" and "Don't Cry (Just Suck)" that take Spinal Tap sexual idiocy to epic proportions. Too bad cause the music is quite good, although a couple of songs, like "Damnation Angel", have a distinct AC/DC touch to them. Actually this is one of the better songs on the disc, in my opinion. Unfortunately this disc will have to be relegated to a collection filler, rather than a serious player. I think I will stick with "Crimson Idol," which is still my favorite W.A.S.P. disc.
W.A.S.P. - The Sting (Snapper) 2000
"The Sting" is a live disc that was originally recorded as a web-cast at the Key Club in Los Angeles. (Cinderella also recorded and released a live disc from this club.) While I am a W.A.S.P. fan, I don't think this is the band's finest moment. This disc is somewhat lifeless in comparison to their studio discs and other live recordings I own and have heard. The other thing is that I was just not impressed by "Helldorado" of which that band was touring for when this disc was recorded. Still, a nice collectors disc complete with extensive liner notes and a handsome slipcase that goes over the jewel case. This particular show is also available in DVD format.
W.A.S.P. - Unholy Terror (Metal-Is) 2001
Well, now, this is more like it. After the dismal "Helldorado" in which Blackie returned to trying to shock parents with his 'wicked ways' rather than just writing quality heavy metal, he returns with a much more personal album. 'Unholy Terror' has far better lyrical ideas and certainly better song writing. Despite the cover art and title, which even had me thinking this was probably more of the same "look how scary we are" garbage, 'Unholy Terror' is actually a look into Blackie's personal journey through religion and spirituality. This journey seems to be one that has yet to come to an end. There is a very lengthy and personal explanation of the album's lyrical themes and some insight into who Blackie is as a person. According to the notes, Blackie was raised as a Christian, but had seen a lot of hypocrisy within the walls of the church and struggled with the idea that only those who believed as his church believed would go to heaven. Two songs in particular address this from both a religious and political view. According to Blackie, "When I was writing the lyrics for 'Charisma' and 'Unholy Terror' I was talking about the preconceived idea that most of us have about world figures such as entertainers, politicians or athletes that we admire. But there is another side of 'Charisma', the dark, disturbing side..." While I may not agree with some of Blackie's view points, what I can see is that Blackie has developed a passion about his music that has gone beyond gimmick into something far more interesting than saw blades and raw meat. Much of the material is mid-paced, but with each track possessing an individuality that distinguishes one song from the next. There are several stand out tracks on this disc, including the killer instrumental "Euphoria" and the slow plodding power ballad "Evermore". Another noteworthy track is "Wasted White Boys" which ends with a guitar jam that brings to mind Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet. Overall, a vital album by a band many shrugged off as nothing but a joke.
W.A.S.P. - Dying for the World (Metal-Is) 2002
1. "Shadow Man"
WOW! What got into Blackie? This disc is the best thing I have heard come from him in a long time, both musically and lyrically. Quite frankly, while I liked 'Unholy Terror', this disc is far more infectious. Well, after listening through the disc once I discovered what got into Blackie after reading through the liner notes. The serious tone and manic songwriting of "Dying for the World" was brought on by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "Revengeance," "Stone Cold Killers," and "Hell for Eternity" are calls for the destruction of those who destroyed New York City's Twin Towers, although the songs themselves are worded in such a way that if you didn't read the liner notes, you may not necessarily know that Blackie was railing against middle eastern terrorists. Similarly, the excellent "Hallowed Ground" was inspired by Blackie's visit to Ground Zero NYC and "Shadow Man" brings into question the beliefs of these so-called religious men that are murdering in the name of their god. "My Wicked Heart" is a prayer directly to God asking him to forgive him for his dark heart, even going so far as to call on the name Jehovah. "Black Bone Torso" was inspired by the Catholic Church's scandals and cover-ups over the last ten years. Perhaps most of this is too emotional for some people, but I find Blackie's honesty and seriousness refreshing from the blood and guts gore of the past. Musically, as I stated, this album is quite infectious but still retains W.A.S.P.'s 80's heavy metal sound, which is just fine by me. I might even say this album is as good as 'Crimson Idol,' which up 'til now has been my favorite W.A.S.P. disc. We'll see if after a few months this one retains that same status in my collection, but as it stands "Dying for the World" is a good disc. According to Blackie's liner notes, this album is a "fresh batch of new songs to go into battle with. Something that will inspire us and scare the f**k out of them."
W.A.S.P. - The Neon God: Part One - The Rise (Sanctuary) 2004
I can't decide if I have become a W.A.S.P. die-hard or if Blackie has just been releasing a string of killer albums after the disappointing "Helldorado". Blackie manages to maintain the band's sound, which is 100% metal, but is also very creative and dynamic. He seems to be trying to create another Crimson Idol, and for all intents and purposes, he succeeds. I mean, Crimson Idol is among one of the best albums the band has ever recorded, so that is saying alot. Quality songwriting, a storyline that isn't the same old song and dance, smokin' guitar solos, and Blackie's signature wail! There are several standout cuts. "Sister Sadie (And The Black Habits)" is pretty much the second coming of "Chainsaw Charlie", from the galloping riffs to the squealing solo to the memorable chorus. "Asylum #9" is also a standout track and perhaps the best track on the disc. However, this is yet another W.A.S.P. album that is solid from beginning to end. Unlike the first three albums, which I liked on a song by song basis, "Neon God" has to be head in it's entirety.
This CD is the first half of a 2-part conceptual album that ponders the question "why am I here?", and interprets one man's search for purpose and existence in the universe. Like the last CD, I think the lyrics are thought provoking and introspective, although some may find them to be offensive. Once again it almost seems like Blackie is translating his feelings into this material. I may not agree with all the ideas presented, but I can appreciate the thought that went into the story and songs. The storyline revolves around a character named Jesse Slane, who's father died when he was a young child and whose mother was an abuser of alcohol, drugs and here children. Ultimately he was abandoned at The Sisters of Mercy Boys Home when his mother decided that Jesse was the devil incarnate. Eventually Jesse would end up in a mental ward and then completely homeless. The story goes on to describe the characters and horrors he lived through at these places. One of the main characters is Sister Sadie, the "Mother Superior" who ran the Sisters of Mercy orphanage with an iron fist. She was also the "Lord of Discipline" who would dispense cruel "justice" that she described as "cleansing" thus the song "Sister Sadie (And The Black Habits)". Other characters include metal ward friened Billy and fellow homeless, drug addicted occultist Judah. Eventually Jess became the leader of his own cult and was "god" to his followers as he was able to heal the sick through "faith healing." Ultimately Jesse became a world famous figure but he began to question why he was put on earth, which would disturb him greatly. The rest of the story will be finished in Part II.
This one will make my Top 20 of 2004. Great disc! Also was fortunate enough to see W.A.S.P. on the tour for this album.
The Neon God Pt 1 was released some six months before Pt. 2 was unveiled on the world. Of course, the Neon God albums were meant to be released as a double album, but apparently the record company didn't feel that this was a viable option. I suppose that is not that hard to believe as even Metallica, one of the biggest metal band on the earth couldn't convince their label to make such a move for the Load albums. The thing is, this is really the record companies way of ripping off the fans. While we all already forked over our $15+ for Part one, now have to fork over another $15 for Part 2 even though it was recorded at the same time as Part 1, and only cost them the price of duplicating the discs. Well, that's my gripe I suppose, but that is not really the fault of the band nor does it reflect on the music at all. Unfortunately it's just the nature of business, even the business of heavy metal. The good news is, however, now W.A.S.P. has a second album to tour under. Here's hoping they make it through my neck of the woods again. But enough ranting, on to the music.
Part 2 of the Neon God album, as would be expected picks up musically where Part 1 left off. I wasn't really expecting any surprises musically, as I assumed that Blackie and Co. would make the two albums work together. That is exactly what they did. If you, like I, enjoyed Pt. 1 with itıs dark, reflective, mood then Pt. 2 as the obvious continuation and conclusion to the story is a must. Each and every track on this disc is crucial to the next one in the whole conceptual story. However, that is not to say that each and every track is just as strong musically. There are some stronger moments than others. Probably the most inventive moment is the monstrous, epic, 13-minute conclusion OThe Last Redemptionı. This track is worth the price of admission alone. Other tracks such as "Come Back to Black", "Clockwork Mary" and the haunting ballad "All My Life" are also some of the stronger moments on this disc.
The storyline continues the life of Jesse who is now a powerful cult leader. Despite the success and limelight of his life, he was still not sure who he was and upon seeing his mother at one of his "ministry meetings" he realized he was not the prophet many thought he was. On top of the storyline Blackie also give an interesting personal look into his views on organized religion and God. On the very last page of the booklet there is a very personal note from Blackie, which confirms what I said in my review of Pt. 1 of this story, that Blackie is translating his own personal feelings into this story.
W.A.S.P. - Dominator (Demolition Records) 2007
1. "Mercy" (4:49)
Since 1989's "The Headless Children", Blackie and his ever changing line-up of W.A.S.P. band mates have been inconsistent. In that time W.A.S.P. have released some of the band's best and worst CDs. While discs like "Helldorado" were at the bottom of the barrel, others like "Crimson Idol" have been spectactular. "Dominator" is another excellent release in a string of good records that have started with "Unholy Terror". "Dominator", not unlike "Unholy Terror" is fueled by political unrest and how Blackie views the world because of this unrest. Because of this, his recent albums seem emotionally charged, melodic, yet still heavy. "Dominator" opens with "Mercy", a a killer song reminiscent of "Wild Child". It has a memorable vocal hook and excellent lead work. Likewise,"Take Me Up", the epic "Heaven's Hung in Black" and "Teacher" are some of the more memorable songs presented here. For the most part, Blackie sticks to mid-paced numbers but offers enough variety in tempo as to not get boring and redundant. Bassist Mike Duda, who has been with W.A.S.P. for eleven years, is feature prominantly throughout this disc. His playing, along with some sweet lead work from guitarist Doug Blair work well with Blackie's melodic songwriting. Ex-guitarist Darrell Roberts is also listed as a guest lead player on "Deal with the Devil". Unfortunately, as of posting this, "Deminator" still has not seen a U.S. release despite being released throughout Europe.
W.A.S.P. - Babylon (Demolition Records) 2009