REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – “Golgotha”
So, here we are yet again facing another band that is well over the 30-year mark and still releasing albums. W.A.S.P. has been gracing the hard/heavy community since 1982, starting out as a hard rock act and later balancing the sound to a more heavy metal-driven approach. Putting out impressive works in the 1980’s, the band, headed by mastermind and legend Blackie Lawless, reached its peak in 1993 with ‘The Crimson Idol’, an effort that is widely considered to be one of the best concept albums of all time.
While never really being able to gasp the lyrical and musical mastery of that album again, the band also never actually lost the sense of competence and inspiration, common in cases where media and fans put a band on a high esteem. After a 6-year hiatus since their last album, ‘Babylon’, Blackie Lawless (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Mike Duda (bass), Doug Blair (guitars) and Mike Dupke (drums) deliver ‘Golgotha’, the 15th full-length (counting both parts of ‘The Neon God’ separately, that is) in the band’s career.
With their genre of music having been struggling for the past decade or so, W.A.S.P. already has a tough spot to get out of even before the album begins, as the blend of hard rock/heavy metal lost its once magical, even mythical appeal throughout the 1980’s, giving up its place in the metal industry for a modern, seldom aggressive and more mechanic form of music. As it is with any industry, heavy metal is also cyclical in its own nature, and sticking to the roots is as dangerous as trying something new. So how does ‘Golgotha’ stand in this?
The album starts in the usual, classic W.A.S.P. sound in “Scream”, with crunchy vocal lines, a nice groovy riff and that rebel attitude so common in hard rock-oriented music. Follow-up “Last Runaway” keeps the hard rock approach intact and adds a 80’s vibe in the guitar tunes, emulating the characteristic sound that the band has become so recognizable for. “Shotgun” is the third in the lineup but sounds like a misstep, not really going anywhere with its bland riffs, mediocre lyrics and uninspired, static performance. Clearly meant to work as a bridge to the next track, it ends up revealing itself as filler.
As mentioned, this prepares the listener for the ballad of the album, “Miss You”, which delivers an emotional effort with a strong chorus. Standing at 07:55 minutes, though, this is not the usual slow-paced song that breaks tempo from the album, instead being a well-crafted and equally well-executed tune that only receives the ballad moniker because of its essence. Writing and performing ballads has always been a strong spot for Lawless, who excels in those situations. “Fallen Under” closes the first half of the album in the same energy of some of the previous songs: crunchy riffs, catchy vocals, and a groovy vibe. Although not offering anything impressive, it blends in well with the approach taken so far.
This leads us to the better half of the album, headed by the opus “Slaves of the New World Order”. This is probably the best song Lawless has written in years, and by far the best one on the album. It has a perfect balance between heaviness and groove, and the songwriting is nothing short of great. It is not even absurd to say that, given the right context, this song could easily be featured in ‘The Headless Children’ or even ‘The Crimson Idol’.
“Eyes of My Maker” and “Hero of the World” are both well-balanced, combining decent guitar lines with small glimpses of rawness, enough to shadow the first part of the album entirely. The title track closes the album on a high note, as it manages to capture the essence of the songs presented thus far and compile it into a well-crafted track, again displaying the more emotional side of Lawless.
Combining a tried-and-true formula with professionalism and inspiration, Lawless and company deliver another good piece with ‘Golgotha’, despite dragging through the songs particularly in the middle portion of the album. Longtime fans of the band should love this as much as any other W.A.S.P. album, while the casual listener may get skeptical in the first few spins, especially those with resistance to a more 80’s driven album. Although far from flawless, the album has its moments and is a nice alternative to the more extreme forms of metal. ‘Golgotha’ is a recommended listen.