Most people will remember W.A.S.P. for their combination of heavy metal with shock rock. The band was formed in 1982 by Blackie Lawless, who is now the only remaining original member. They were in the LA scene in the early 80’s that also included Mötley Crüe, Dokken and Ratt. Their self-titled debut album was released in August 1984 and their first single ‘Animal (F*** Like A Beast)’ was excluded from the album in the US so that it wouldn’t get banned from major chain stores. In fact, their early releases were all littered with sexually explicit songs and they suffered a backlash from the establishment. Tipper Gore (the wife of a US senator) founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an organization that pushed for warning labels on recorded music, and made the band one of their prime targets.
Blackie Lawless had a fundamentalist Baptist upbringing and went to church until his late teens. But when he left home and moved to California, he ended up studying the occult for three years. It wasn’t until many years down the line that Blackie would shock the metal community by reading the bible and becoming a born-again Christian.
The first inkling that change was afoot came with their fourteenth studio album, ‘Babylon’ (2009), which was inspired by biblical visions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The theme continues with ‘Golgotha’ (2015), which was the hill where Christ was crucified – Hebrew for “the place of the skull”.
In a recent interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Blackie was asked what effect this had on the new album, ‘Golgotha’. He responded: “Certainly, lyrically everything is written from the eyes of my faith, everything is through that filter. You’re also talking about a genre [heavy metal and hard rock] that, in general, is obsessed with the idea of God and/or the devil. Jazz, pop, there is no other genre that is absolutely obsessed with it as this genre is.”
“The Bible tells us, ‘The truth has been placed in the hearts of all men.’ In other words, people know what the truth is. What I see is people in the search of the truth. They’re all on a journey, the people that are attracted to this genre are people who are really a lot more in tune with it than they think they are.”
What becomes immediately clear is that this album treads the same musical ground as ‘Dominator’ and ‘Babylon’. The album opens with the groove-laden, hard rocking ‘Scream’ (I want you to scream my name) which you could easily have been mistaken into thinking that it refers to sexual ecstasy. However, the video opens with a crow on top of one of three crosses before moving onto skeletons and skulls. It has pounding drums, a thumping bass and a scorching Doug Blair guitar solo. And Blackie’s vocal prowess is undiminished.
‘Last Runaway’ comes blasting out of the starting gates too. It is semi-autobiographical and refers to Blackie arriving wet-behind-the-ears in Hollywood 40 years ago as a teenager. It is a tale of desperation and shattered dreams, yet clinging onto hope. ‘Shotgun’ rounds off with another energetic arena crowd-pleaser before they move over to the epic semi-ballad ‘Miss You’ with its recurring guttural chorus. “Oh god I miss you / Tell me can you hear me / Oh god I miss you / Can’t scream and I can’t speak / Show me now / Will I ever be free / From you”.
‘Fallen Under’ is where it starts to get more lyrically explicit and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. “Pull me up from saints of darkness / Breathe me back to life / Slave in hostage, slain in bondage / Bathe me in your blood back alive / Save me from armies of darkness / Save me so cruel / Un-chain me, let me walk on the water / Un-chain me from me dying a fool”. This continues into ‘Slaves of the New World Order’ which you could either take as a political anti-globalisation theme or as a Book of Revelations inspired end-time warning.
Then its time for another perspective as the Dio-esque ‘Eyes Of My Maker’ looks at the world from Satan’s point of view as he wonders what went wrong with his plan for mankind’s downfall. ‘Hero Of The World’ takes another glorious end-time romp with “In chaos comes your hero / And all the children sing / Superman from a foreign land / Tyrannous with an iron hand / Countdown comes to zero / Valley of the Kings / Messiah Man with a better plan / Hero of the world at last”
Finally, it is time to unfurl the epic ‘Golgotha’, which is told from the viewpoint of one of the thieves being crucified with Jesus. As he contemplates his inescapable fate he cries out: “Jesus, I need you now.” Now that is something that I would never in a million years have expected to be uttered from Blackie’s lips. The fact that it is sung with heartfelt conviction is a testament to the power of his faith.
Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby
2. Last Runaway
4. Miss You
5. Fallen Under
6. Slaves of the New World Order
7. Eyes of My Maker
8. Hero of the World
Record Label: Napalm Records: Oct. 2015
Blackie Lawless – Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
Doug Blair – Guitars (lead)
Mike Duda – Bass, Vocals
Mike Dupke – Drums
Soundcloud player: ‘Last Runaway’
Lyric video: ‘Scream’
Lyric video: ‘Golgotha’