Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Album Review: WASP - Golgotha

My experience with WASP goes only so far as a single album. Over the years, I've found considerable enjoyment from "The Crimson Idol", despite its overwrought self-importance. Without the band's usual air of hedonism, it featured songs that were able to break out of the stereotype of what "Fuck Like An Animal" turned WASP into. That song in particular made me apathetic about ever checking out anything beyond that one oasis of music in their otherwise forgettable career. But not long ago, when the first single for this new record "Last Runaway" premiered, it caught my attention. It wasn't the WASP I was expecting, and it did more than any amount of fawning press attention could to make me interested in "Golgotha". So was that optimism misplaced?

The album kicks off with "Scream", which recycles the general sound of the 80s through a melodic lens that is stronger than what bands were getting away with back then. What immediately jumps out is that Blackie Lawless is in terrific form, his voice sounding every bit as good as it did at WASP's height. There's absolutely nothing new in the song, but that doesn't matter. When it's as engaging as this, you don't need to reinvent the wheel.

The aforementioned "Last Runaway" follows, and stands out as the best WASP song I've possibly ever heard. There's a far more upbeat tone to it than the usual WASP song, and Blackie's melody is sweet with a pop sheen that is infectious. It takes the same course as the opener by slowing down before the solos kick in, but again, when it's done well there's no reason to complain. This song is "Golgotha's" version of "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)", the big, fun song that will be a huge sing-along moment for the live show.

And in a continuing trend on WASP records, a little bit of editing could have done some good. Most of these tracks stretch out longer than they need to, hitting five, six, and seven minutes with ease. There are a couple of repetitions and bridges that could have been cut down for the sake of brevity.

At nearly eight minutes, "Miss You" is one of those songs that could have been cut down, although that doesn't take away from it being a strong piece of work. It's a slow, dramatic semi-ballad that shows Blackie wringing everything he can out of his voice. I love the mood, and the melody is strong, but two minutes of guitar soloing to end the song is a bit much, when there had already been a solid solo in the heart of it. Likewise, the ending of "Slaves Of The New World Order" spends several minutes with a chanted bridge that leads to nothing, which kills the payoff.

But those are minor points that don't detract from the larger picture, which is that "Golgotha" is the most enjoyable time I've ever had listening to WASP. It doesn't have the epic scope of "The Crimson Idol", but that cuts both ways. It's easier to write-off "Golgotha", but it knows its limitations. Blackie can easily get so bogged down in his concept that he makes music that drags its point out for so long it becomes tiring to sit through. "Golgotha" doesn't hit hard and get out of the way, but it's focused enough on what it does well that you don't find yourself wondering when certain parts are going to end.

I don't imagine "Golgotha" is going to get mentioned as one of WASP's best albums, but that's the truth about any band that's been around so long. What I'll say is that "Golgotha" is a damn solid album, and a really enjoyable listen. Blackie is on the right path here, and whether you agree with his inspirations or not (the chorus of "Jesus, I need you now" on the closer might be too much for some), they've led to a record that's as fun as WASP can be.

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