the best of W.A.S.P., Kettu-style – pt.1

Few metal fans would disagree with the fact that Blackie Lawless is one of the best vocalists in metal history. But even fewer would disagree that W.A.S.P. could use some outside songwriting aid.

Blackie didn’t grow up as a metalhead. He’s older than that – he helped codify some of the genre’s conventions actually. But he did it in the heyday of the 80s mainstream metal – which was, let’s face it, as mainstream as any other mainstream: it was all pop music at heart. It was a logical result of the mainstream 50s, 60s and 70s, same as Blackie’s songwriting.

Originally he was influenced by rock’n’roll stuff, think Elvis, Little Richard and the like. And The Beatles. Then The Ramones and maybe other punk bands, too. The Ramones were what he mentioned in one of the interviews.

And even in 2001, he was still sure that he was doing “commercial music”, and there were certain harmonic restrictions (like, his “Euphoria” instrumental was an example of what you cannot do as a commercial songwriter because it’s pure “artistic indulgence” and too unconventional). Okay, W.A.S.P. pays his bills (and luxurious hobbies), so it probably is commercial. But doesn’t this literal stepping on the throat of one’s own song just sound weird in the context of contemporary metal? Especially if we listen to something like Tarja Turunen’s latest albums that are even more experimental than many of the more underground releases… and it doesn’t get more “commercial” than Tarja.

And her stuff isn’t 250% metal either. It has loads of pop and punk inside. Same as W.A.S.P.

Maybe they should team up.

Okay, all this babbling was meant to introduce my perspective: that is, more “unconventional” W.A.S.P. songs, or at least those that execute the conventions better than other songs do. Proceed under the cut for the actual music, arranged in a more or less chronological order =) This post covers Blackie’s releases of the 20th century.

Continue reading the best of W.A.S.P., Kettu-style – pt.1

some things are truly hard to speak about

It’s easy to get lost singing praise to the complexity of music, vocal technique, and so on. That’s basically all I ever do here under this tag.

But speaking about what the music personally means to you… now that’s hard. And difficult. First, you don’t even know where to start. Next, well, it gets really personal most of the time.

Suffice it to say that the newest offering from Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P., the Golgotha album almost five years in the making, was indeed worth the wait.

A lot of events transpired over the course of these years, good and bad (some of which can be glimpsed from Blackie’s reports); but apparently they all turned out to be for the better.

You see… I’m a huge fan of Blackie’s. And even that is a glaring understatement; as I said, some things get very personal (and hence largely boring for most readers), but let me just say that he’s one of the folks whose creative work has basically kept me alive and (more or less) sane through the darkest periods of my life.

But I will be among the first to acknowledge that as a composer, Mr Lawless tends to be somewhat formulaic. In the words of Glenn Hughes (you know the dude, ex-Deep Purple, ex-Black Sabbath, yadda yadda yadda), “I may repeat myself from time to time; this is called ‘style’,” – by this definition, Blackie has got style aplenty.

This time, though, a lot of that is averted – yes it’s still clearly W.A.S.P., trademark harmonies, familiar rhythms, favourite keys and steps… but the general song structure on Golgotha is much better thought out, for lack of a better expression.

The production is the same oldschool analogue W.A.S.P. production we’re used to; and, even though I’m generally a weird sort of a guitar-indifferent metalhead, I have to point out Doug Blair’s solo work that can only be described as “beautiful” or maybe “breathtaking”. When Darrell Roberts left (along with Stet Howland) in 2006, I was worried at first… and then overjoyed because Doug Blair came back as a permanent member now (he used to play with the band briefly in the early 90s, but made an impression right away). I hope he stays forever.

And even though Blackie (for the first time in his songwriter life) openly addresses Jesus Christ on the title track – and oh boy does all that name-dropping usually sound beyond pathetic on those countless “Christian rock” tracks – it works. He makes it work.

Well, what did you expect from a song with a name like that?

And – yes, Mr Lawless is a Christian (not that it’s news to anyone keeping up with the world of metal, but last time W.A.S.P. were a household name was when Blackie projected a rather different image). Although I’m not sure which kind of Christian exactly – I like to think he’s the sort who won’t condemn Gnosticism (which, in case someone didn’t know, is “my” kind of Christianity). After all, he’s been known to emphasise the necessity to “think for yourself” – it’s even in this album’s liner notes.

…but one thing that should not be contested is that Blackie Lawless is an outstanding vocalist.

Did you notice the guitarist, BTW? The one with his shirt off? That’s Doug Blair. He was born in 1963, which makes him over fifty years old. Get it. Fifty. How many guys much younger (say, around thirty) can you name who are in comparable shape physically? As for me, not many.
I forgot to add Mr Blair can also sing very well (which he does).

And here is a studio cut which immediately soared to a place among my Top 10 W.A.S.P. tracks ever… check the lyrics out.

Now, if only Lizzy Borden stopped pretending to be perfectionists…