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"W.A.S.P." is the debut studio album by the American heavy metal band of the same name. It was released in 1984 on Capitol Records and produced by Blackie Lawless & Mike Varney. The line-up for the album was Blackie Lawless (vocals/bass), Chris Holmes (guitar), Randy Piper (guitar) and Tony Richards (drums).
This is one of the most influential heavy metal albums of the 1980s and you don't even know it. W.A.S.P. inspired a lot of bands to do something different and when Blackie Lawless formed the band in 1982 after splitting up Circus Circus, he took Randy Piper with him. Soon afterwards Chris Holmes became the band's second guitarist and Blackie reverted to bass, while Tony Richards completed the line-up on drums.
The album kicks off into high gear with "I Wanna be Somebody" which is a great song with an upbeat tempo to match. The energy on this track is really good with the narrator telling the world that he's ready to make it big and he doesn't want a dead-end day job and doesn't want to beg to force his way through life. Instead, he's saying he has what it takes to get to the top. The guitar solo is typical Chris Holmes. It's mean, angry and dirty. A little like the man himself! The ending of the song repeats the chorus and when it's played live, it usually involves Blackie having the audience sing along.
"L.O.V.E. Machine" is one of my favourite W.A.S.P. songs and it's no surprise that it's ended up on a greatest hits album. I really like hearing this live and have done so on a number of occasions when I've seen the band play. It's another classic W.A.S.P. song that's about sex, in particular the narrator is talking about his girl here. He doesn't see her as a person, just a sex object. Again, though, I advise you to look past the words and listen to the music. I like the main guitar riff on this song but it's the simplicity that I enjoy the most. It flows effortlessly through its time changes, and Blackie's vocals are strong and powerful. This has all the ingredients for a great heavy metal song.
"The Flame" is a raw rock and roll song that I like very much. The guitars are rough and ready and Lawless' vocals sound as powerful as any song on the album. W.A.S.P. really had something special going on with their debut offering and this song brings forth some really good guitar hooks and a melody that you would struggle to get out of your head after listening to it just once. The only problem I have with it is the two solos that appear in the bridge. They are slow and laboured and just don't fit the tempo of the song, in my opinion.
"B.A.D." sounds a lot like a cross between Judas Priest and Mötley Crüe with the guitars chugging away in the background with plenty of feedback coming out of the speakers. I'm not sure if the song is meant to be a ballad but if it is, it doesn't quite sound like one. I absolutely love Chris Holmes' guitar solo here that shows his talent to the max. This is the kind of soloing that the previous song was missing out on. It's not a brilliant song but it's nowhere near a bad song either - it's a little in-between for my liking. It's a good rocker of a track with a wonderful solo, but that's about all it is.
"School Daze" is one of those songs with an anthemic chorus but not much more going on in the entirety of the song to keep me interested. Simple guitar lines can often be a good thing but here they just don't work and I'm going to guess that this song is filler. That's not the sort of thing you want to do on your debut album but W.A.S.P. is still going strong nearly 30 years later, so it didn't do much damage, which is very fortunate for the band and fans of the band.
"Hellion" is one of my all-time favourite W.A.S.P. songs and one that is packed full of big, fat and juicy riffs. It starts off slow, but when it gets going it's a track that grabs you with both arms and shakes you violently until you agree with it, especially in the chorus where the backing vocals back up Blackie's singing as good as any 80s metal anthem does. It's a great song live, too, and I've been fortunate enough to see the band play it on stage.
"Sleeping (in the Fire)" is a slower song in which Chris Holmes' use of the guitar during the solo really stands out as something special. The solo isn't ripping as such, but it's masterful in the way it's played, almost as if he's telling the guitar that he's the boss. This is one of my favourite songs on the album because it's moody but it's serious as well. This is a very good attempt at being a power ballad when not really trying to be, and Blackie's vocals are top notch here. There's a quick-fire riff about halfway through that's only played twice but it's absolutely brilliant.
Without going into too much detail, I think we it can be safely assumed that we all know the subject matter for "On Your Knees", so I'll jump straight in to reviewing the song. When I first got into the band in the mid 80s, I got hold of a VHS of a live concert of theirs from the Lyceum in London, England. It was raw and energetic and featured semi-naked women in cages to give the impression that W.A.S.P.'s persona was that of sexual predators, with We Are Sexual Perverts amongst others being linked to the band's acronym. On that video, "On Your Knees" was performed and I immediately connected with it. Not for its content, but for what W.A.S.P. was trying to achieve that night. The studio version still captures enough magic to make it a worthwhile listen, but I always long to hear it live.
"Tormentor" has a great punchy opening riff that is purely magical and the chorus rocks to the core, except for the backing vocals which try too hard to match Blackie Lawless' power. There is a really good time change in the bridge where a brilliantly controlled riff is spoiled by a solo that isn't quite a solo. This is a song I do like, but it's one that frustrates me as well. It could have been W.A.S.P.'s finest but for a little laziness in the creativity, and that's a bit of a shame.
"The Torture Never Stops" is a song played with a trademark 1980s guitar gallop - the sort of thing you'd likely hear on an Iron Maiden album, for instance. I so wish I'd have seen the band play this live, if they ever did, because it's a gem that has been left behind somewhat. It's a fantastic end to the album and I can't think of a better song out of the ten to finish it up. The lyrics suggest that it's a song about masochism and the guy in question keeps going back for more of the torture that never stops.
In summary, this is a really good debut album from a band that didn't quite become as big as what they should have done but still gained plenty of fame in the process of trying to make it huge. There are some killer metal songs here with great riffs and fantastic vocals. I'm glad Blackie Lawless decided to write what he did back then because although the band's stuff is still good to this day, it's those early records that got my head banging.
1. I Wanna be Somebody
2. L.O.V.E. Machine
3. The Flame
5. School Daze
7. Sleeping (in the Fire)
8. On Your Knees
10. The Torture Never Stops
My rating: 8/10