Sunday, February 4, 2018

Album Review: W.A.S.P. - ReIdolized

While a large part of the music industry is looking for new ways to make money from the past, I seldom partake in the long line of reissues, remasters, and other assorted parlays of history. Seldom do they add anything to the album's legacy, and often they only serve to mar the memories we have. While certain things can be made 'better', our minds are more powerful than Pro-Tools, and it will never sound as good. For the twenty-fifth anniversary of their seminal "The Crimson Idol", W.A.S.P. dug back into the past, but they did it in a way that changes our perspective, so I feel there's something to talk about here.

"The Crimson Idol" is one of the enduring metal albums of a fallow period, because it was a rare example of a metal artist looking to make something more artistic than another set of songs about drinking, fighting, and screwing (Blackie wrote as many cringe-worthy, stupid songs as anyone). This was a soundtrack to a movie that never existed, a story that worked on record with better songs than "Operation:Mindcrime" (still the most overrated album in metal history).

This new version of the album (there is also as much of the movie as could be assembled included) is both re-recorded, and re-imagined. This is not as simple as running the original album through a compressor to make it sound shiny and loud, and calling it a day. Blackie went back into the studio to re-record the entire album, while also including additional songs to flesh out the story. That makes this not just a different experience, but one that now spans two CDs.

What is amazing about listening to this new take is how little has changed in the last twenty-five years. When "The Invisible Boy" kicks into gear, W.A.S.P. is timeless. They were able to match the unrefined sound of amps from the day, while Blackie's voice is nearly unchanged from way back when. For everything he's been through, and as rough as he can look at times, his voice is in remarkable shape. This project wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't.

Let's be honest about one thing; no one this long after the fact is going to be able to match the youthful energy they had, nor the excitement for the initial recording. There is some of the spark of the original album that is lacking here. You can't expect Blackie to have the same passion for the playing after running through these songs hundreds of times over the decades. Everything just feels a beat slower than it used to.

The sound this time is cleaner, but that almost works against the narrative. A story about depression on Skid Row doesn't fit with a pristine presentation. A rougher approach is more in line with the story, and it's an example of how making things better isn't always for the best. The limitations of the time can lead to happy accidents, or moments of magic that can never be replicated.

And then there are the new songs included in this version. The most puzzling is the inclusion of "Miss You", which was featured on the most recent album, "Golgotha". That song, and that record, were both excellent, but I'm not sure how a song written twenty years later for a completely unrelated album can be shoehorned into a concept like this. It's the kind of decision that is not only confusing, but makes me think it has something to do with squeezing out a few more publishing pennies. It comes across as crassly corporate thinking, which goes against the

The biggest problem "The Crimson Idol" had is one that was only worsened here; bloating. The original album was well-crafted and featured the best songs of W.A.S.P.'s career, but the interludes and segues dragged everything out longer than it needed to be. This version only makes that more evident, as the addition of yet more songs slows the album down yet more. It might help the narrative flow, but it kills the album as a musical experience. It's too long now, and could use some serious tightening. There was never a need for minutes on end of soloing in songs that were telling stories, but it's an even more egregious error as the running time has grown, especially as one of the new songs more or less recycles musical themes from the album's other tracks. There is superfluous material here.

So what we have here is a bigger, better sounding version of a classic record that is actually worse for all that was added. The extra songs bog the record down, and there was a charm in the rougher sound of the original. You have to work hard to ruin a great album, which didn't happen here. "ReIdolized" isn't as great as the original, but it's an interesting take on what that album could have been if the vision had been fully carried out at the time. It's a bit of a curiosity, but that's about it. "The Crimson Idol" was, and is, just fine as it already exists.

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