Sunday, 1 November 2009

W.A.S.P. - Babylon (2009)

1. Crazy
2. Live To Die Another Day
3. Babylon's Burning
4. Burn
5. Into The Fire
6. Thunder Red
7. Seas Of Fire
8. Godless Run
9. Promised Land

Two years ago I went to see W.A.S.P. perform live in concert at the Manchester Academy. It was during the Crimson Idol tour, where the band played that record in its entirety and also a selection of "hits" as an encore. It was a great night and Blackie and the boys were on top form, note perfect. But, there was something worrying that night. Blackie stated that they would not be back for a "very long time" - take into consideration the fact that the man was into his 50s and had decided it time to fully tour an album 15 years old, one which became almost too personal for him during its initial release period. Two years went by since that night, no word of a new album, with W.A.S.P. only playing a few festival dates here and there, fans were worried that it was over for good.

Then, bam! It is announced that W.A.S.P. were to put out a new album entitled "Babylon" which I can safely say now sits next to me on the table as I type this. The previous album "Dominator" had been somewhat of a semi-concept record (focusing on America's "war on terror"), but a return to straight-forward hard rock after the deep, dark, story driven Neon God double with all their interludes and complex arrangements. Fans wanted new material but material that sounded like "classic W.A.S.P." and even if they didn't get that then hoping for more than refrains and covers to fill running times. Babylon is supposedly another semi-concept album in which the theme revolves around the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but that is far from accurate. Is Babylon another worthy addition to the already impressive W.A.S.P. catalogue? Has Blackie Lawless delivered the goods again? The answer to both those questions is yes.

Babylon kicks off with lead single "Crazy" - the band are supposedly shooting a video for it, which will be the first since "Black Forever" way back in '95. "Crazy" is an excellent rock song and a fantastic way to start the new record, though a lot of fans claim that it is too similar to "Wild Child" and simply a rehash of that track. They are wrong. I can hear a slight similarity in the main riff, but that is only comparable to the very first bars of "Wild Child", meaning the remaining chunks of both songs stand alone. Again it's a great song, good writing and Blackie lays some great vocals down, with his trademark voice sounding as strong as ever.
"Live To Die Another Day" maintains the quality and features a really cool chorus melody and some decent guitar work. "Babylon's Burning" is yet another cracking piece of music keeping the albums flow going, still devoid of any real apocalyptic feel as mentioned before - not a bad thing by any means.

W.A.S.P. then pay homage to the legendary Deep Purple with a truly great cover of "Burn". I must admit, I've heard Whitesnake do some pretty smoking live versions of this, but the W.A.S.P. version has taken the crown for me. Definately betters the original in my opinion. The guitar work again is great - probably the best track to showcase Doug Blair's talents on the axe - and everything else is tight, boosted by the fact that the track suits Blackie so perfectly.
"Into The Fire" is a ballad of sorts, albeit a tremendous one. I've read other reviews, where listeners have claimed that it is too slow or just okay....They seriously need to give this one a few more spins. I believe it to be one the best songs W.A.S.P. have ever recorded. It builds up beautifully and you can feel the emotion and power of it pumping out of the speakers. "Into The Fire" actually reminds me of "Lake Of Fools" and another song, though it escapes me at this moment in time. "Thunder Red" is another stone cold classic W.A.S.P. track, that is very pacy and Blackie's vocals are extremely strong on this one. Just a great, hard rock song still maintaining the quality of the album."Seas Of Fire" is just as good as all the tracks that preceed it, keeping the tone together, yet another stand alone track that oozes class. "Godless Run" has been getting much praise from articles I have read and it's easy to see why. Another song that builds up, beginning as somewhat of a ballad then becomes more pacy as it reaches its climax.
That brings us to Babylon's closer - "Promised Land" is another cover, this time it's a famous Chuck Berry tune about a man travelling to California and pledging to call home once he has arrived safe. I can honestly say I've played this track the most and I cannot express properly how uncontrollably ecstatic it makes me. It must be, has to be - is....The greatest cover song I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. It betters the original recording x100! It's a totally blistering romp. Fast, heavy, bluesy, the lead work is exceptional and Blackie's delivery is awesome. "Promised Land" is my favourite track after "Into The Fire" for sure.

Now, I like to think I am the world's biggest W.A.S.P. fan and it's hard to be biased or to moan about anything, so my only gripes are 1. The running time again is too short, seeing as there is only seven new original compositions and 2. While the playing and production is top notch, I was left wanting when it came to the guitar solos. I mean, they're there, but aren't memorable - which was the case on Dominator also. I know first hand that Doug Blair is a phenomenal player and has served W.A.S.P. for some time now, but I still find it hard not to long for Chris Holmes to be back in the band.

Overall, if you're a W.A.S.P. fan like me, this is a must buy. There are touches of the "classic" sound and obviously the newer sound we're all used to by now, soaked in brilliant production and wrapped up in a nice design. If you aren't, I still highly recommend it, as it is one of the best records of the year and is just full of great, melodic hard rock.


© Flash Metal Circus

1 comment:

  1. You know, I'm not a HUGE fan of 80's hair/glam/"flash"/whatever-you-want-to-call-it metal, but I do like WASP. A lot. Love 'em, in point of fact. WASP and Motley Crue are probably my two favorite bands from the infamous Sunset Strip scene (although I must say I prefer the satanilicious leather-and-fire version of Crue over the later silk-and-lace version).