Tuesday, October 04, 2016

REVIEWS: W.A.S.P. - Golgotha

After their longest ever gap in between albums, shock rock icons W.A.S.P. have released their 15th studio album, Golgotha. This long awaited follow-up to 2009's Babylon is named for what is commonly referred to as Calvary or "The Place of the Skull" - the area outside of Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was crucified according to the Gospels. W.A.S.P.'s notorious leader, Blackie Lawless, has been pretty forthright about embracing religion on the past few albums, and this one is no different. He produced this album, as he has most of the band's albums.

Golgotha is the band's first for Napalm Records, and W.A.S.P.'s line-up has stayed constant since their 2007 Dominator record. However, drummer Mike Dupke left the band upon the release of Golgotha.

"Scream" opens Golgotha, and this hard rocker with a classic metal sound is perfect for this purpose. It's a surprisingly fun song for an album with otherwise heavy subject matter, and the chorus of "Come make it scream if you love me / And make it bleed if you want me," is catchy. The rest of the song is filled with religious imagery, such as mentions of graven idols, prayer, and gods. "Scream" is a great choice for an album opener, and it would made a killer opener for a concert as well.

Other rockers such as "Last Runaway" and "Shotgun" follow. "Last Runaway" features strong bass playing from Mike Duda and lyrics about embarking upon the rock 'n' roll glory days and then coming home to rest. It also alludes to an autobiographical tale of redemption in which Blackie Lawless lives a rough rock star life and later turns to God. "Shotgun" is highly rhythmic and has a big, bright '80s sound to it. The subject matter is more socio-political than religious. The line, "Grab a torch, a pitchfork, and get your guns," tells of a political uprising. In the chorus, the cheesiness of the line "Tonight, got a rock 'n' roll shotgun," makes me take it a little less seriously though. There are several negative mentions of a king in the lyrics, and I'm thinking it may be a jab at U.S. President Obama.

"Miss You" is the heart wrenching ballad that follows several heavy and energetic rock tracks. It is highly emotional, and Blackie's vocals are top notch, and Doug Blair's guitar solo is fantastic. However, it clocks in at 7:42, which is about three and a half minutes too long. By the end of "Miss You," I groaned to myself, "I get it. He misses somebody".

"Fallen Under" starts off slowly, and you think it's going to be another ballad that hopefully doesn't drag on like "Miss You." It ends up being more of a mid-tempo song and one of the best on Golgotha. The line just before the chorus, "Save me from crawling in darkness / Save me so blind," is memorable and something you'll be waiting for each time you listen to the album. "Fallen Under" is heavily based on religion, as Blackie is begging for Christ's salvation as he sings. It also contains lyrical themes of slavery and chains that carry over into the next track, "Slaves of the New World Order." It opens with ominous "oohs" that show a nice side of Blackie's vocal range, and the guitar riffs are quite reminiscent of Iron Maiden. I even initially heard the opening line as, "Show me the Brave New World," and thought "Woah, that really is like Maiden!" After further research, it appears the line is "Grave New World." "Slaves of the New World Order" is one of the longer songs on Golgotha, just a couple of seconds longer than "Miss You." It's almost a multi-movement kind of thing with a lot of variation, so it does not get boring.

The album ends with its title track "Golgotha." "Golgotha" begins slowly with subtle synth sounds, but it builds into a heavy rocker. It is very openly religious, possibly even more so than previous tracks, "Eyes of My Maker" and "Hero of the World." The chorus of "Jesus I need you now / Free me I'm lost somehow," is a sincere plea for salvation. Because of the song's title and the line, "Are you who they say you are?" this song would be fascinating for someone who is spiritual, or at least intrigued by the Crucifixion, to further reflect on during Holy Week before Easter.

Golgotha is a great modern album from a classic metal band. It should not be dismissed as a lame "Blackie cleaned up and found Jesus" sort of thing. Golgotha is certainly heavy and dark, and the blood, guts, skulls, and other more violent aspects of the Bible have proven to be be very "metal." The Christian imagery that is presented by W.A.S.P. on Golgotha is very well done and fits well with the band's hard rock style.

Napalm Records/Rocket Distribution
Official WASP Website


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