Cast your minds back to a time when metal music was not cool. Nay, indeed, a time when metal was anathema to all that was considered to be “chic” and “in.” A time when your favorite bands were actually encouraged by the music industry to play slower, cut their hair, and write sensitive lyrics about their childhoods. Yes, this unfortunately really happened.
Our semi-irregular feature “90s Metal Weirdness” focuses on albums released between 1992 and 2001 and which we all probably would rather forget. But in the service of publicly shaming the musicians involved, we have pushed forward. — AMG
W.A.S.P.: Kill.Fuck.Die (1997)
The Back Story: I would bet that the genesis of Kill.Fuck.Die is when Blackie Lawless turned on the TV one day, saw concerned moms and religious fanatics freaking out over Marilyn Manson, and said “wait a minute, that’s MY fuckin’ job!”
The other half of the origin story is the return of infamous lead guitarist Chris Holmes. Most of us just assumed he was dead after watching Decline of Western Civilization Part 2, but somehow Holmes and his liver survived, and rejoined W.A.S.P. in time to participate in the making of Kill.Fuck.Die.
What Does It Sound Like: As if the blurry cover art didn’t tip you off, KFD is W.A.S.P. attempting a more industrial sound. Vocals are run through distortion, guitar tones are deliberately shitty, and drummer Stet Howland sounds suspiciously like a drum machine on most of this record. In fact, KFD sounds more like a low-budget demo than an album. I can picture Lawless and Holmes hunkered down in some sweaty hotel room with guitars and a computer, vaguely aware that the 1990s are turning their careers into pure shit, yet recording this album anyway.
The title track opens the record with some screechy rave keyboards, leading into a nearly-verbatim ripoff of Nine Inch Nails‘ “Head Like A Hole,” which is then somewhat redeemed by a huge, shout-along chorus. “Take the Addiction” utilizes a generic ’90s guitar riff and tone, attempts to build a W.A.S.P. song around it, and never quite succeeds. “Kill Your Pretty Face” is a slow-building epic, not far removed from the Crimson Idol material if you can ignore all the 2nd-rate Trent Reznor-isms in the mix.
It’s a testament to Lawless’ songwriting prowess that he was incapable of writing shitty tunes, even while trying to. Underneath the faux-industrial paint job, the structure beneath is still pretty much classic W.A.S.P., with all the anthemic bombast that entails. If someone were to remix KFD and strip away all the dated production, tracks like “My Tortured Eyes” and “Wicked Love” could hold their own against the band’s other early-’90s work.
If Holmes’ return had any musical significance, it’s rendered moot by the general absence of lead guitar. When Holmes finally busts into a solo on the otherwise useless “U,” it’s refreshing enough to almost distract from the idiotic lyrics (sample: “You fucking suck!”, repeated many times). Like Motley Crue‘s industrial clusterfuck Generation Swine, KFD boasts the return of a key band member but squanders it by avoiding the sound that would be expected of such a reunion.
Are There Any Songs About Molestation? As with many W.A.S.P. tunes, a lot of these songs seem to be about killing people and/or fucking them (hence the title). I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that everyone on the receiving end is at least 18 years old.
Stupid Political Lyrics? Lawless has occasionally written lyrics that are topical or issue-driven, but none are to be found here. KFD seems to be extremely personal and intensely angry. The Wiki entry on this album states that both Lawless and Holmes had gone through bad breakups prior to this album, which puts a lot of the lyrics into perspective.
Were Haircuts Involved? Conveniently, W.A.S.P. already looked like the bands they were trying to imitate (some of whom grew up on W.A.S.P. themselves, I bet). In an era where vinyl pants, eyeliner and goth imagery were the norm, Blackie and co. fit right in with minimal wardrobe upgrades. I vaguely recall that the chainsaw codpiece was temporarily retired during this era, although maybe Steel Druhm can confirm or deny this [I’m an editor, not a codpiece expert, dammit! – Steel “Codpiece” Druhm].
The Aftermath: While far from terrible, KFD represents the low point in a 30+ year discography that’s otherwise remarkably consistent sonically (if not quality-wise). W.A.S.P. wisely dropped the industrial elements for their next record, Helldorado, and gradually returned to more or less their signature sound. Holmes eventually quit again, pursuing a solo career that has earned much YouTube mockery. Meanwhile, W.A.S.P. carries on, with Lawless’ newfound Christian faith and advancing age barely affecting their sound. Their new album Golgotha is out now and it’s quite good.