W.A.S.P. - Golgotha
Napalm Records
Heavy Metal
9 songs (55' 54")
Release year: 0
W.A.S.P., Napalm Records
Reviewed by Andy

I was about ten years old when I encountered W.A.S.P. -- secondhand, though, not on a CD or cassette tape. They were in a Christian book about Satanism and how it was infiltrating the world through cults, heavy metal, and playing Dungeons & Dragons (cause, the 80s). The misguided lady who wrote the book was even helpful enough to provide a list of all the heavy metal bands that you should search your teen's room for and get him help if found; artists with exotic, dangerous-sounding names like "King Diamond", or "W.A.S.P". Fascinated, I was careful to memorize the list for later use, a use that I'm sure was quite unanticipated by the author.

I thought about this little episode, and how much has changed in some ways, quite a bit while listening to W.A.S.P.'s latest album, Golgotha, which comes close to getting labelled as Christian metal. One wouldn't necessarily call it that -- it's not like Stryper or anything --, but it comes close, packing in a whole lot of Christian concepts, particularly the dark and lurid ones. Golgotha's an album that almost, but not quite, gets to concept album stage; it's apparently what happens when founding member Blackie Lawless sticks together a bunch of ideas in his head and tries them out on his audience, a tangled mix of pumped-up rock'n'roll enthusiasm, sorrow, and anger patted into a rough end-times story, with some unrelated tracks stuck onto the front and dark Christian imagery poured all over it. It's messy and odd, but like just about every W.A.S.P. album ever made, it's got a rock-solid core and makes for a good listen.

Lawless says he feels like this one's got a 70s rock vibe, but (perhaps because I associate W.A.S.P.'s sound so intensely with the 80s), it didn't seem much like that to me. Sure, there's a rock organ in the background of the songs -- that definitely seems like a 70s thing to me -- but Last Runaway's feel-good major key could just as easily be a little-known Pat Benatar track with a change of vocalist. Both Scream and Shotgun are classic W.A.S.P. songs, Lawless's distinctive voice chorused over the top of a driving beat with those jagged, ringing intro riffs they do, but Shotgun is angrier, the lyrics filled with images of armed rebellion and the vocals containing a harsh triumph; this is the anthem of a mob carrying pitchforks and torches. And Miss You, a song originally intended for The Crimson Idol, has the sad introspection of that album.

There are a plenty of older metal bands who released a few great albums in the 80s and coast on mediocre filler for the rest of their lives. W.A.S.P. took a different path; it evolved, but the output has always been strong, and this one's no exception, though I like it a little better than the past few albums. Lawless's voice is as changeless as ever as he howls the chorus of Slaves of the New World Order, another driving tune with a nice guitar solo and a theme of apocalypse, though I did notice that Lawless has gone back to his slightly less gritty vocals for this one, more like what he did on The Last Command than on The Crimson Idol. After this, the concept album themes get stronger, but most of the effort goes into the atmosphere, with the title track as the finale. Drenched in sorrow and loneliness with Lawless wailing against an equally wailing lead guitar, it's a much darker take on Christianity's darkest story than a more explicitly Christian metal band would normally do, with the protagonist not only not assured of salvation, but quite likely never to receive it.

A quarter-century after I first heard about W.A.S.P. from its would-be censors, the world seems like a very different place. Blackie Lawless is a born-again Christian, Satanic cults haven't taken over the world just yet, and I'm hoping that my kids won't find Dungeons & Dragons old-fashioned and boring when they're finally old enough for me to play it with them; the 80s seem more quaint and dated every day. But metal continues as strong as ever, and Golgotha shows that W.A.S.P. shows no sign of flagging either.

Killing Songs :
Last Runaway, Shotgun, Golgotha
Andy quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by W.A.S.P. that we have reviewed:
W.A.S.P. - Babylon reviewed by Marty and quoted 85 / 100
W.A.S.P. - Dominator reviewed by Jeff and quoted 75 / 100
W.A.S.P. - Still Not Black Enough reviewed by Chris and quoted 94 / 100
W.A.S.P. - The Neon God Part II - The Demise reviewed by Jeff and quoted 72 / 100
W.A.S.P. - The Neon God Part I - The Rise reviewed by Jeff and quoted 86 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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