23 January 2008

W.A.S.P - The Crimson Idol (1992) review

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You might argue that W.A.S.P is in fact hair metal, or at best shock rock. I maintain there's a world of a difference between the lawlessness of W.A.S.P and the sugary radio friendly ballads of Poison that make Bon Jovi seem loud. It's all relative. When the likes of Mötley "umlaut" Crüe, W.A.S.P and Venom came around, they were doing something outrageous for their time. When Poison came along, they were cashing in on the popularity of the Crüe, minus the risk of arson to their hotel. W.A.S.P is pure heavy metal, Poison is good business sense.

The Crimson Idol was originally conceived as a Blackie Lawless solo album. The reasons were that Blackie had been the only remaining member left in the band by the time the nineties came around, with the rest succumbed to drugs, rehab or foul, tempting wenches. One of these succubi is Chris Holmes, as you can plainly see:

Corporate pressures ensured that Blackie put the W.A.S.P moniker on the album, due to the marketing stunt known as branding. Critics disregard the Idol as a lacklustre attempt, but what do critics know anyway? Critics are spineless, megalomaniacs who couldn't write a song if Cthulhu put them to sleep and they woke up with the sheet music in their hands. Critics couldn't hold a tune if it were duct taped... to... their... foreheads. Wait, something about a pot and a kettle?

Moving along swiftly. The Crimson Idol is a concept album, written by a rock star, about the life of a rock star. Now this fained attempt at metarockstardom might seem revolutionary to those unfamiliar with Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars or the Monkees, but it's really flogging a dead horse. Imagine how much this horse resembled biltong by the time Marilyn Manson made Antichrist Superstar, several years after the Crimson Idol came out. As far as concept albums go, the first popular one is arguably Tommy by The Who. Tommy has a fairly captivating story about a deaf, dumb, blind kid who drowns but didn't literally drown since drowning here is a metaphor for getting over your ego and becoming one with the one true ideal ego, young grasshopper. The songwriting is excellent and the standard of musicianship is high. These aspects are also found in the Crimson Idol. What it lacks in concept is definitely compensated for in the songwriting department. It might just be my imagination, or my love for Tommy (now don't read anything into that, emo), but the drums on Crimson Idol remind me of the unmistakable drumming of Keith Moon on many of the songs.

Like all true heavy metal albums, this album has its obligatory share of power ballads. It might be a good idea to have something flammable handy so you could sway a light from side to side during these. Like a cat. Clean singing has lately fallen out of favour with metal bands outside of Europe (the band and the continent). However, there is but one Rob Halford, and but one Blackie Lawless. Blackie manages to find the balance between writing a plain song and experimenting with a bit of complexity without compromising either.

Feast your ears on the Tommy of the nineties. On the Dimmu Borgir DVD, you will hear W.A.S.P ringing through the tour bus and the corridors on several occasions. Most bands do not know their roots, this is why they try to reinvent the wheel around every turn. If the metalcore/rap metal/mallcore bands had W.A.S.P ringing through their tour bus instead of the occasional Metallica and idiotic (c)rap, they would be inventing Harley Davidsons instead of kick scooters. The RDA of W.A.S.P is two tracks, three times a day. It is the cure that most bands desperately need to be more than second rate cover bands. Baby steps. The Crimson Idol brings out the manimal in you.

Track listing

  1. The Titanic Overture

  2. The Invisible Boy

  3. Arena of Pleasure

  4. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)

  5. The Gypsy Meets the Boy

  6. Doctor Rockter

  7. I Am One

  8. The Idol

  9. Hold on to my Heart

  10. The Great Misconceptions of Me

Blackie Lawless: vocals; guitars; bass guitar; keyboards.
Bob Kulick: lead guitar.
Frankie Banali: drums.
Stet Howland: drums.



Anonymous said...

I'd always thought of W.A.S.P. as kind of a joke. Seems after your examination, I may have to reconsider. Nice write up....

Titania Starlight said...

I absolutley love W.A.S.P. I have all and I mean all their works. I have met very few people that appreciate them.

Great review!

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