FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 34: W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P

Posted: March 23, 2013 by kingcrimsonprog in First Impressions Articles

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 34: W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 34: W.A.S.P – W.A.S.P

This is the thirty-fourth entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.

I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.

If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.

It seems that eponymous, L.A. based, debut albums from band’s I’ve overlooked are in vougue at the minute, because following Van Halen I’ve chosen W.A.S.P’s first record for this edition of First Impressions.

I usually talk about what I know about the genre in these articles. The genre could either be Heavy Metal or Hair Metal, or Shock Rock. I’m going to go with Hair Metal. Hair Metal is one of the subgenres I’ve tried out the least over the years, since any Hair Metal song or music video made me instantly switch off with a ‘yuk’ reaction and not give it a fair chance.

I remember I’d hear something to do with Rock or Metal that was 80s-sounding like ‘The Final Countdown’ or ‘Here I Go Again,’ ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ or ‘Jump’ and see a few brief seconds of their music video, I’d just instantly feel that they were shit and switch off, completely unaware of what they actually sounded like all the way through.

When I later found out that Hair Metal bands wore make-up and dressed semi-in-drag, I thought it was stupid, because something that thought Nu Metal’s image was cool told me so, and so felt dismissive about it all.

There wasn’t a tonne of Hair Metal going about to be fair. I’d see one of four Bon Jovi songs (Bad Medicine, You Give Love A Bad Name, Wanted Dead Or Alive and Living On A Prayer), I remember hating Guns N Roses for years until getting into them rather late.

I remember one acquaintance who would always cover ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ at pubs and rock gigs in a total anachronism at that Nu Metal period of time. I also remember it was in an episode of The Simpsons, but it doesn’t seem properly famous in the same way as ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’ or ‘Paradise City.’

Side Note – I remember that for years, the eponymous local music shop, ‘The Music Shop,’ in my home town had unsold (or, if-true, bizarrely well-selling and inexplicably continuously re-stocked) guitar tablature books for Anthrax’s ‘Fistful Of Metal’ and Ratt’s ‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’ (Ratt = a Hair Metal band) which looked bizarre and out of place having presumably sat there unwanted since the 80s, surviving both the Grunge and Nu Metal eras without ever being bought.

I didn’t think much about Hair Metal after a while because it didn’t often come up in any other context than one friend loved it, and the occasional time I’d flick past ‘Girls Girls Girls’ without ever giving it a chance when channel hopping through Music TV channels, which I did a lot.

The Darkness did explode though, to Megastar sized status. I got their album as a gift which I partially enjoyed (‘Love On The Rocks With No Ice’ is still one of my all time favourite songs, when I remember it exists, and I always enjoy ‘Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman Motherfucker.’) I enjoyed them until it got grating. I saw them live with Metallica and it was really good. Then they became so overexposed it became hard to like them, they were on every tv show, I remember my school even made me learn ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ on the drums in music class. I never bought any of their subsequent releases (although do still to this day like their Christmas song, which I almost bought on single, as well as almost buying a Slayer Divine Intervention artwork t-shirt, in The Music Shop (the eponymous music shop that was in my hometown, remember?)’s expansion-shop, that appeared late in my time there, in Magherafelt’s Meadow Lane shopping center, which my family used to call all-of Dunnes Stores, even though that was just one of the stores in the shopping center, and then deciding to instead buy nothing) [-the grammar there was all kinds of fucked up!]

Side note, I remember going to a gig somewhat recently, I think it was Chimaira, where they just played the Darkness’ album on repeat over the PA instead of anything appropriate OR more than one album.) I think it was because The Darkness had just got back together but it was before their Hot Cakes album came out, so the person who made the PA choices was possibly just really excited about a bright Darkness future.

Speaking of The Darkness, there is also a band called Steel Panther, who, like The Darkness, are a modernized version of Glam Metal. But they are also a stand-up comedy routine as well as just a band. I never really got to listen to their songs all the way through because they’re reportedly all “Pussy-titties” sorts of affairs and my anti-Pervert-Bizkit instincts (read on) kick in and I turn the song off. Plus comedy. I can’t listen to a Deathklok album or a Tenacious D album for some reason even now, because of a still-burning passion against comedy music. I even tried Austrian Death Machine and had to turn it off. Oh well, there’s time to deal with that.

So anyway, after Guns N Roses and between The Darkness and starting this blog, there was a really long stretch of hearing no Hair Metal.

I remember one time, in about late 2008-early 2009, going out for a drink with a friend and some acquaintances and eventually getting ditched, in an unfamiliar area, drunk, and walking drunkenly to Asda on the other end of town, where I bought Guitar Hero 3 on Playstation 3 for about £70, WHICH I SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE, despite having no interest in guitar hero EVER, apart from liking an unidentified song which later turned out to be Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ because I heard it through the wall and it reminding me of Rush who I was big into at the time, and viewing the series with the same suspicion I view comedy music with up until that point.

I eventually did get into the game a bit, well, I had to didn’t I? Otherwise it would’ve been an even more giant waste of money than it already was. And, I say got into it; although I’d still be embarrassed to play it in front of people, especially real adults who aren’t man-children. I’d hate to play it with my parents watching for example.

What has this got to do with Hair Metal? Well, I like the version of ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ in Guitar Hero 3, (by the band Poison, who are Hair Metal) although I initially hated it, but I had to play that level a lot and it grew on me, and so I tried to give the band a fair chance, two years later when I was reminded of them in the Hair Metal episode of Heavy: The Story Of Metal, but ‘Unskinny Bop’ just didn’t do anything for me. I don’t enjoy it at all.

After re-watching that aforementioned Hair Metal episode, and again after the Hair Metal episode of Metal Evolution, and again after Warrant’s singer passed away, I decided to check out a lot of Hair Metal.

See, in between then I had got into Judas Priest, and their critically panned Turbo album, which I found enjoyable, as well as got into Skid Row on the insistence of my friend Magnum, and I enjoyed them really rather a lot. When I later got into Ozzy Osbourne, I read the Wikipedia on Randy Rhodes, I found out he used to be in Quiet Riot, who I knew from GTA:Vice City, on the track ‘Cum On Feel The Noize,’ which I absolutely loved, until I found out it was a Slade cover, which then I still loved it but I was just unsure of how much (lol how do I grammar), and anyway because of this Randy-information I decided to try out their other famous track, ‘Metal Health…Bang Your Head’ which I incredibly enjoyed and resolved to buy the album if it ever was around for cheap enough. I later noticed the track in The Wrestler to some minor recognition-delight. Also I checked out some of the stuff that actually had Randy on it, but didn’t much like it.

The combination of Turbo, Skid Row, Ozzy and enjoying a few 80s-Era Scorpions tunes that were popping up in films, games and tv shows a lot at the time (‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ for example) and the final Metal Health straw on the Camel’s back, put me in the mood to try out some Hair Metal, and when that whim itself combined with the fact that James Gill of the Metal Hammer Podcast constantly recommended it, and those documentaries I’d seen, it got me interested.

I tried a few songs, both famous singles and obscure deep cuts, by bands like Warrant, Motley Crue (and I’ve always wanted to, and still want to, but never got around to reading ‘The Dirt’ ever since I was recommended it about a decade ago by Magnum), Great White, White Lion, Ratt, Cinderella, Thunder, Slaughter, Stryper, Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Europe, Dokken, Kix, Britny Fox, Bon Jovi and possibly a few others that I can’t recall right now.

For the most part it all washed over me as either uninteresting or not to my tastes. I enjoyed some Motely Crue and some Kix but filed them away as for another time. I did enjoy everything I heard by Twisted Sister though. I’ve been planning to get into Twisted Sister for a while and I’d buy a boxset of all their albums if one comes out soon, for a reasonable price.

I also recently was given a lend of Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits by a flat mate, and it is frequently put on when I’m in mixed company. I enjoy it a fair bit.

Y’know when I said Hair Metal was something I’ve tried the least… how’d I manage to write so bloody much about trying it then? Anyway….

One of the bands I forgot to check out in that whole Hair Metal exploration phase however, was W.A.S.P. I usually talk about what I know about the band in these articles. I don’t know very much about W.A.S.P; they never had any music videos on when I was watching, their concerts were never televised any time I was watching, they never played a bill that I attended, their songs, as far as I know, weren’t on any of the videogame soundtracks I’ve played (Tony Hawks, Grand Theft Auto Vice City etc, – which were massively influential to me and my generation’s entry to metal), none of their songs or film soundtracks of a similar nature (Queen Of The Damned, Underworld or Resident Evil 2 for example) and none of their songs were an attitude-era Wrestler’s entry music.

I remember knowing one and precisely one friend ever who liked W.A.S.P and one and precisely one friend’s brother, who I’ve never met, who used to like W.A.S.P and I remember being about 12 for the first time I saw their album cover, I thought they were evil and frightening, not because of their actual attempts to be so, but because my friend told me their name stood for ‘We’re All Sexual Perverts’ which made me not want to listen to them, since at the time, a Cradle Of Filth album cover with human breasts on it at the time would make me feel really uncomfortable, due to the weird Irish Catholic sex-shame that seemed very relevant in my youth.

I still have a bit of difficulty listening to Limp Bizkit’s ‘Hot Dog’ because of its “dirty” chorus, because it reminds me of being really young and not wanting to get in trouble for listening to something rude.

I’ve heard that W.A.S.P mainman Blackie Lawless found God, and refuses to play some of the band’s more offensive material live, such as arguably one of their most famous songs, ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast).’ – A song notable for being on the famous ‘Filthy Fifteen’ that you’ll notice in a lot in Metal History articles, documentaries etc. – And if I had trouble listening to fake-ass-titties-on-a-fucked-up-chest then I was probably safer not bothering getting into W.A.S.P at that age, with song titles like that.

Speaking of which; The album doesn’t actually feature the profanity-filled single that grabbed everyone’s attention back in the day, the aforementioned ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ (a parallel it shares with The Libertines’ debut not featuring ‘What A Waster’) so I decided to buy it separately off of iTunes and plonk it down as the last track on the record myself.

But aside from the pervert-fear in 2001, and then knowing one mate who liked them in 2005, seeing them in tiny print in side notes in Metal Hammer a few times etc. Exposure to W.A.S.P was very very minimal until about 2010 when I started watching lots of documentaries about Metal.

I remember watching “The Decline Of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years,” and seeing W.A.S.P’s guitarist drunk in his Swimming Pool, embarrassing his also-present mother with his swearing.

I’m pretty sure they came up in the aforementioned Metal Evolution episode on Hair Metal too. So yeah, I’ve seen them around, but never tried them out. That’s going to change.

[Play]

The first song kicks in, its called ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’ its got a surprisingly thrashy riff, the vocals are very reverby, they remind me a bit of Twisted Sister, from my limited exposure. The music reminds me a little of Anthrax’s ‘Spreading The Disease’ material. I like when the music cuts out and Blackie sings ‘For Crying Out!’ with no music behind it – I’ve discussed numerous times on this blog how I love when songs do that. The guitar solo is very energetic and enjoyable. Then it breaks down into a stompy floor tom driven build up. After that, the final section sounds a bit like Megadeth.

The next track begins; ‘L.O.V.E Machine.’ It reminds me a lot of Overkill but the vocal patterns remind me of Turbo/Ram It Down era Judas Priest. There’s a main bit that is based around tom rolls and a quiet bassline. When the big hanging chords start ringing out half way through its really powerful. The vocals remind me a lot of Vice City.

‘The Flame’ starts off with that kind of Guns N’ Roses sleaze rock sound that I associate with Hair Metal, more than I do the Metallic sound of, for example Twisted Sister’s ‘Burn In Hell.’ What’s interesting is that the production on the track feels really different to the previous songs. This one feels like they should play it in an L.A. Strip Club, where as the previous two sounded like they were for stadiums supporting Ozzy. It sounds like Palm Trees, Motorcycles and people dressed like Gilby Clark.

The album’s artwork reminds me of the artwork to Kiss’ Love Gun. I wonder if they were done by the same artist?

Next up ‘B.A.D’ – more periods. W.A.S.P, L.O.V.E, B.A.D what’s next ? – this one also sounds like Vice City, but it sounds sad, it sounds like L.A. at night as opposed to sunshine and mixed grills. One of the guitar lines sounds like Judas Priest writing a triumphant song about mountains, but changed to fit in with a remorseful song about somebody who got arrested. Three songs, three guitar solos. Thank you 1980s. My oh my but I do loves me a guitar solo.

‘School Daze’ – horrible title – starts off with kids pledging allegiance and I think Soulfly’s ‘One Nation’ is about to start. Instead it doesn’t. Because honestly, why would it? Anyway. This one reminds me a bit of ‘L.O.V.E Machine’ its based around hanging chords and tom pumping. Its probably a really unremarkable and generic song if you know a lot of this music, but its fun to these underexposed ears. There’s a bit where the lyrics sing about a fire bell and a really loud ride-cymbal’s bell comes in in one earphone, its really smile-inducing.

Next up is ‘Hellion’ which I think Children Of Bodom cover. Its intro reminds me of Guns N Roses’s ‘You Could Be Mind’ and its verses remind me of Judas Priest’s ‘Electric Eye’ which (ironically?) has an intro called ‘The Hellion.’ Its an absolutely perfect 1980s Metal song and I don’t understand how anyone could dislike it. The solos are great fun, the main riff is energetic, the vocals are melodic but masculine. Its driving, propelling forward. If it had a music video nowadays, it would undoubtedly feature either a high-speed train or a motorcycle.

Next up, ‘Sleeping (In The Fire)’ –which has nothing to do with Rage Against The Machine – it starts off with some clean arpeggios and some intermittent cymbal washes. Its not strictly a ballad, but it’s a bit ballady in comparison to the previous tracks, kind of like how Trivium’s ‘And Sadness Will Sear’ feels. It actually reminds me of Black Sabbath in a way, because it reminds me of Stone Henge, Druids and that sort of thing. There’s a little guitar line that sneaks by almost unnoticed that sounds like Maiden’s ‘Dance Of The Dead.’ What’s good is how hard the drummer plays, and the solos are really ripping. Its not wimpy, they play the shit out of it.

‘On Your Knees’ comes in next, it reminds me of Judas Priest’s ‘Riding On The Wind’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Two Minutes To Midnight’ as well as Dio’s ‘Overlove.’ Its once again, one of those motorcycle driving, leather jacket, perfect 80s Metal affairs. Its immensely enjoyable. There’s slow fun double kicks in the verses, a great guitar solo (getting sick of reading that aren’t you? – I think it’s the production on them as much as the playing, although the playing is great too, lots of flavour, not to much technicality). It doesn’t have a tonne of variety, but is direct and brief enough to allow for that.

Then comes ‘Tormentor’ which is neither a Slayer or Kreator cover. Its surprisingly rhythmic compared to the straight up driving tracks. The vocals are brilliant fun. The drums are so catchy. If this was a big single when I was growing up you can bet I’d have air drummed along to it when out in Rock Club nights. There’s some great fills, the obligatory solo for me to enjoy a bit too much, a bit more musical and structural variety. Its one of the best songs on the album so far. Its got a really intense final 30 seconds that would be massive fun live. Shame it fades out instead of a final explosion.

The album’s final track is ‘The Torture Never Stops’ which sounds like bloody Testament. Its dark, chuggy and powerful. Even the vocals are deeper and the chorus melody yet more masculine. The little lead guitar lines that come in give it a lot of character. The guitar solo sounds like Egypt. It sounds like a little story. I like the very stompy ending drums wise. Its something Charlie Benante would do. This song gives the record a deeper level of ‘Metal Credibility.’ If I wanted to show a Thrash fan that W.A.S.P weren’t like Poison, I’d show them this song.

That should be the record over… but I’ve got ‘Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)’ stuck on the end. It does the vocals over silence cut I like. There’s a great double kick based drum fill post-chorus. Its heavy for rock, but its not as Thrash-Heavy as the previous track. I absolutely love the vocals in the chorus. He’s got a great voice. When they do the final chorus with extra double-kicks it has a real impact. Great song. Surprised!

Oh well. That was the W.A.S.P album. Damn. Good album. I wouldn’t have thought it. Really surprisingly good band, as in the actual four guys. The bassist had a lot of presence, the drummer was very talented and energetic, the guitars had a lot of umph, and I like the cut of Blackie’s vocal jib. It’s a bit of a shame that history has them lumped into the shock rock thing, because there’s such a lot of legitimate, credible musical talent going on there, and shock rock is a tag that implies style over substance.

Some of the songs though. Boom. Yup, I’ll still be listening to this for a while. Its definitely not disposable.

If you’ve never heard them before, maybe give them a shot.

Ps. ‘Eponymous’

PPs. I also really like ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ from that Guitar Hero 3.

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Comments
  1. Nostalgia overload. Enjoyed reading this so much.

    Trivia time – Bob Kulick played on two WASP albums in the 1990s, and also performed on the Motorhead version of Triple H’s entrance music. So there’s a tenuous link there. To further tread the pedant’s path, the Attitude Era had all but officially ended by the time Triple H started using it ’round about late 2000.

    Love Gun’s cover is a painting dude. That’s a photo of WASP.

    Also, James reviewing “Animal” like it was a part of the album = LOLZ a poppin’

    That point you’ve made about them being lumped into the Shock Rock thing – you’re just as guilty for considering Hair Metal an actual genre of music! “Hair Metal” is the 80s equivalent of ‘grunger’ music when we were teenagers. It describes with abundant vagueness a wide palette of sounds as grouped by an image. Guns N Roses and Skid Row were counted as Hair Metal but they were fucking HEAVY metal bands, unlike Bon Jovi who were a straight-up pop band with guitars but fell under the same remit. The term’s always bothered me. Skid Row hair metal? Bah!

    Maybe you could do one of these on something by Ministry?

    Like

    • I think hair metal is a real genre with the wrong name. Just like some thrash was all east coast n punky while some was proggy Metallica worship and some was slayer-like pounding and buzzsaw guitars. Nu metal similarly had some rap rock bands, some industrial-lite bands and some detuned Ross Robinson bands with a bit of that Hardcore thing I went on about in the Prong FI.

      I think hair metal has its hard rock sleeze side, its classic metal side and its ultra poppy side. But many similarities in production styles, shared tours, member swaps, bla bla bla. It does feel enough of a genre to me.

      Though I will grant you GnR and Skid Row are like, the Slipknot of Hair Metal and Bon Jovi are the Linkin Park.
      Sometimes I feel that with any genre its not so much the iconic bands that fit in a genre as all the genre fodder faceless clones.

      Like

  2. Nu Metal’s another one! It’s like they cover far too much ground to be really useful in any way. Just easier for media and dismissive fans to use, I think.

    Like

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