Blackie Lawless has certainly lived an interesting life. Once the perfect target for those clucking hens in the PMRC, he embodied everything uptight suburban soccer moms hated. He looked like a glam demon, advocated the excessive use of drugs and alcohol, and his sleazy metal band wore oversized codpieces and wrote songs about fucking like a beast (I bet Tipper Gore got a secret thrill from that tune). As the years went by, Blackie mellowed as we all do and at some point he got back in touch with his Born Again Christian roots (likely around the same time he started naming his albums after biblical cities). One would think this spiritual conversion would spell doom for W.A.S.P., but no. After a six-year hiatus, the man and his band roar back with Golgotha and whether it’s the time spent away from the public or his new perspective on life, Blackie does indeed sound born again and this is the best W.A.S.P. album in a long time. Cock rocking for Jesus? Not even the Spanish Inquisition saw that one coming.
Opener “Scream” is vintage W.A.S.P. and uses the same winning mix of catchy rock and edgy hair metal that made The Crimson Idol such a triumph. It actually sounds like a song meant for that album and the chorus is so hooky, it hurts in all the right places. Songs like “Last Runaway,” “Shotgun” and especially “Fallen Under” cleave close to the traditional W.A.S.P. template, rocking with darkness and nihilism while remaining very accessible. “Miss You” is the obligatory mega-smaltzy power ballad cut from the same soggy cloth as “Forever Free” and “Hold Onto My Heart.” It’s unusually emotional, effective and just might make the more sensitive among you a little weepy. There’s no shame in crying either, so if it happens send us a photo of your tear-stained face along with your name and address.
The high point comes with “Slaves to the New World Order,” which is the best song Blackie’s written in ages. It’s the brother to their classic “Murders in the New Morgue” and every bit as fiery as Blackie sings his balls off and somehow locates replacement balls to keep the magic happening. I’ve had this one on repeat for days and can’t get enough of the gritty mood and bigger than life chorus.
After a middle section where the band comes into their own with several big winners, things wind out strongly with the seven plus minute title track that manages to impress despite constant mentions of Jesus and personal salvation. Hey, this is the place where Blackie is in life and it’s just as valid as Danzig singing about strippers with bat wings and devil horns. It shouldn’t affect one’s enjoyment of the music and it doesn’t come across as preaching as much as reflecting on how he copes with the trials and tribulations of the modern world.
Blackie has always been a solid song writer and the material is particularly well written and invested with powerful performances by Blackie and his newish band. Doug Blair returns to provide some smoking fret-work and emotional solos, and he and Blackie mesh well as a guitar tandem. I can’t tell if he uses his patented “GuitarCross” guitar/bass hybrid, or if he could outdrink former axe-smith Chris Holmes at a pool party, but I can attest to the shitload of sweet harmonies and hair-raising stadium rock solos Blair delivers. The biggest shocker is Blackie’s voice, which sounds ageless and almost as powerful as it did on the band’s 1984 debut. I don’t know how much studio help he needs these days, but it’s always a pleasure to hear his raspy barks and whisky soaked croons.
In what world does Blackie sounds better than Geoff Tate while also releasing a better album than the former Queen of the Rÿche? This world, and you should be thankful for that. If you loved W.A.S.P. in your misspent youth but lost touch, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with some old friends. They may not have intercourse like animals or toss raw meat in the crowd anymore, but the music sure sounds good and oh so familiar. Welcome back to the Electric Zoo, Blackie. Stay