By Jim Hagerty
Metal bands that broke in the ’80s became synonymous with a heavy sound that inched toward a conglomerate that, by the 1990s, splintered the genre into several categories. Like shock-rockers of the ’70s, led by Alice Cooper, ’80s metal took the movement a bit further with the arrival of Motley Crue and Twisted Sister. Dee Snider refined the glam, while the boys of Motley proved all it needed to dominate the charts was a few hooks, Kiss-like live shows and endless overtones never lacking in sexuality. Others, like W.A.S.P., flew under the pop radar, forging ahead with even more shock appeal.
With a strong 1984 eponymous release, W.A.S.P., led by Blackie Lawless (bass, vocals), redefined shock rock and put a new stamp on metal with classics like “I Wanna Be Somebody” and “L.O.V.E. Machine.”
Throughout the decade,W.A.S.P. would be a prime target of the Tipper Gore-charged Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and, according to many, the reason for the organization. Gore aimed to bring down the metal establishment—at the very least a satanic, violent and twisted sexual influence the outfit claimed it would have on American youth.
Sixteen albums later, W.A.S.P. is still on the front lines, moving forward with Babylon (2009, Demolition), a nine-song (eight written by Lawless) collection and much-awaited followup to 2007’s Dominator.
While some fans would expect Babylon to follow in a Dominator vein, it moves in a slightly different direction. Still capturing almost biblical catastrophic themes, Babylon echoes early material and classic sounds, pushing songs like “Wild Child” and “I Wanna Be Somebody” to mind. A cover of Deep Purple’s “Burn” is as in-your-face as the original, nestled among a solid lineup of songs that prove W.A.S.P., although not delivering anything earth-shattering of late, is still true to a powerful sound it has kept alive, especially in a confused part of the ’80s when flimsy hair metal and a wave of posers threatened to bastardize the genre. Babylon also proves what Blackie Lawless touches will, eventually, turn to gold.
More information about W.A.S.P. and Babylon is available at the W.A.S.P. Nation Web site, www.waspnation.com.
From the Dec. 30, 2009 – Jan. 5, 2010 issue