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W.A.S.P.
Dominator
May 2007
Released: 2007, Demolition Records
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: Mortuai

If there were such a thing as a Dictionary Of Metal, you would probably find within its flesh-bound, blood-inked pages an entry for "Outspoken," another for "Controversial," and still another for "Perserverance." Or maybe you'd just find one entry for all of the above with the name "Blackie Lawless" attached to it...probably accompanied by an illustration of an exploding codpiece. After a deal with SPV records fell through, W.A.S.P. have found another new home on the up-and-coming Demolition label and the long-awaited lucky-thirteenth studio release from the master of psychodrama-drenched shock rock has finally arrived to grace your ears and kick your ass from here to kingdom come.



Though he's almost never mentioned in the same breath as the greats like Halford, Dio, and Dickinson, there is no doubt Mr. Lawless stands firmly entrenched among them as a possessor of one of metal's most recognizable and unique voices, and more than anything else it's that often-attitude-laden, frequently spine-chilling, and always brutally honest voice that makes W.A.S.P. who they are. Over the past decade and a half of their twenty-five year career we've seen the band go from Wagnerian rock-opera to industrial metal to three-chord rock and roll to classic metal and back again, yet somehow they've managed through all the ups and downs and twists and turns to always maintain their own sense of uncompromising identity. Would DOMINATOR contine that sense of identity...and would it be a worthy successor to its quartet of excellent precursors? I pondered these questions as I began my first listen, and within moments of hearing the classic-metal crunch of the opening track I instinctively knew the conclusion I would eventually come to: this is one hell of a great album!



Other than Blackie himself, bassist Mike Duda is the lone carryover from the last album's incarnation of the band, but fear not, for new drummer Mike Dupke and guitarist Doug Blair prove themselves quite worthy to step into the shoes of Stet Howland and Darrel Roberts. Blair is an emotionally-charged fire-spitter on the fretboard, lending a fierce sense of energy and a decidedly rock'n'roll attitude to the music that never seems out of place or excessive. He ain't Chris Holmes from the HEADLESS CHILDREN era, no, but he's pretty damn good nonetheless. Dupke does an excellent job of driving along the rhythm section and incorporating some tasty fills along the way. And Blackie, of course, is Blackie, effortlessly bending that unmistakeable voice from aggressive snarl to trembling falsetto to banshee-scream and everywhere in between seemingly at will. The production is superbly clean and very heavy - sounding much better than the somewhat thin-sounding tone from the last couple albums - and fits the overall mood of the album perfectly.



As DYING FOR THE WORLD was Blackie's response to the 9-11 attacks, DOMINATOR is his reaction to how the current U.S. administration has since those attacks arrogantly and dismissively treated even their staunchest allies with disdain and ignored the crises faced within the borders of their own nation. It's not a pleasant subject to deal with by any stretch of the imagination, but the band is up to the task of tackling it with an even blend of honest sorrow and unfiltered vitriol.



Lawless certainly hasn't forgotten how to write a catchy chorus, as almost every track on the album features a stick-in-your-head refrain you'll want to scream or sing along with after your first listen. While lead-off rocker "Mercy" has a great chorus and may be the album's most single-worthy cut, the best songs are definitely the slower, more introspective songs like the poignant "Heaven's Hung In Black" and the beautiful "Take Me Up," the intro for which reminds me a bit of the beginning of "The Idol" and the opening portion of "The Great Misconceptions Of Me" from THE CRIMSON IDOL before bridging into a tremendous "Heaven And Hell"-inspired riff and a monster of an emotion-wracked chorus that will stay with you for days. This isn't to say the faster tracks aren't excellent as well - far from it! Cuts like "The Burning Man" and "Teacher" are classic W.A.S.P. scream-along anthems and "Long, Long Way To Go" has a great chunky gallop in the verses that shows off yet another new side of the group's sound. There's even a tip o' the hat to the old days in the hard-rockin' closer "Deal With The Devil." Blair's leads sound particularly good on this song, his bluesy style complementing the devil-may-care attitude of the track perfectly.



I must admit I was a little disappointed to find out the two reported cover tunes supposedly recorded for this disc didn't make it onto the track listing, as I usually love W.A.S.P.'s metallized interpretations of various classics and I thought The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" would've been a perfect track for them to do. Other than that, my only real quibble with the album is its relatively short length, but I'd certainly rather have only this much of music this good than a disc padded with mediocre material.



Though we've still got months to go, this is already high on my list of possibilities for Album Of The Year and definitely a release no W.A.S.P. fan - or fan of classic metal in general - should be without.
Track Listing

1. Mercy
2. Long, Long Way To Go
3. Take Me Up
4. The Burning Man
5. Heaven's Hung In Black
6. Heaven's Blessed
7. Teacher
8. Heaven's Hung In Black (Reprise)
9. Deal With The Devil

Lineup

Blackie Lawless - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Doug Blair - Lead Guitar
Mike Duda - Bass
Mike Dupke - Drums


Next review: » W.A.S.P. - Dominator
Previous review: » W.A.S.P. - Babylon

W.A.S.P.
Dominator
May 2007
Released: 2007, Demolition Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Waspman

WARNING: This is going to be long-winded. For a more concise review of DOMINATOR, I suggest you read my new colleague Mortuai’s review.



It’s weird: I’ve been a staff writer at this venerable institution for a full 8 years now (!) and I’ve never written a review for a W.A.S.P. album. That’s actually downright bizarre if you take into account my chosen nom de plume. I guess it’s because I’m a die-hard fan of Blackie’s boys, and I’ve just assumed that I wouldn’t (couldn’t?) give an unbiased review. Why? Well suffice it to say that when it comes to W.A.S.P.’s music, I have got GIGANTIC blinders on.

To wit: no one, not God, not Satan, not EvilG, not even Blackie himself can convince me that the first six (including LIVE…IN THE RAW) albums are not perfect 5/5s. OK, actually THE CRIMSON IDOL is a 6/5 – not technically possible I know, but it IS that damn good. In fact, just for fun, allow me to digress and rate all the albums for you:



W.A.S.P. – 5/5

The Last Command – 5/5

Inside the Electric Circus – 5/5

Live…in the Raw – 5/5

The Headless Children – 5/5

The Crimson Idol – 6/5

Still Not Black Enough – 4.5/5

K.F.D. – 4.5/5

Double Live Assassins – 5/5

Helldorado – 3.5/5

The Sting – 3.5/5

Unholy Terror – 5/5

Dying for the World – 4.5/5

The Neon God Pt.1 – 4/5

The Neon God Pt.2 – 3.5/5



Like I said – I’m not exactly objective when it comes to W.A.S.P. music. So with that little rant out of the way, let’s move on to DOMINATOR, as it’s time I review at least one album by my favorite band.

I’ve always been of the opinion that Blackie’s at his best when he’s pissed off, and boy is he pissed off on this album. DOMINATOR is Blackie’s response to current American foreign policies and the war in Iraq, and it’s obvious that he’s not pleased with it. The album is full of vitriolic songs like “Mercy”, “The Burning Man” (my personal favorite), and the poignant “Heaven’s Hung in Black”. Despite the anger, Blackie has not forgotten how to write a catchy melody & chorus, as every song is full of hooks that dig deep. Much like the latest Manowar album, DOMINATOR is capped off with a song that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album thematically. “Deal with the Devil” is a old-school rock & roller in the vein of “Sunset & Babylon” and “Rock and Roll to Death”. For me though, it’s the weakest song on the album.

As usual, Lawless is backed up by a crack band, this time including new drummer Mike Dupke who easily lives up to the legacy of Stet Howland and Frankie Banali, long-time bassist Mike Duda, and guitarist Doug Blair, back for his third tour of duty in the band. All are worthy additions to the W.A.S.P. history. And of course, Blackie himself is still in fine form, his distinctive howl ripping across these tracks, making them unmistakable W.A.S.P. songs.

Then again, much as I’d hate to admit it, Blackie has been on a kind of autopilot for the last oh, eight years now. Ever since the experimentation of K.F.D. and back-to-the-roots HELLDORADO, it seems as though Blackie’s been content to re-write various CRIMSON IDOL riffs over and over again. I mean, if you were to play any of the last five albums (including DOMINATOR), back-to-back with CRIMSON IDOL, you couldn’t help but hear the influence and similarities.

The lack of variation is why it each album lives or dies based on the strength of the writing, and the fire of band. Thus my previous comment of Blackie being at his best when pissed off, and also why DOMINATOR is head and shoulders above the over-thought NEON GOD albums.

What does this leave us with? Well, in this fan’s opinion, the best damn W.A.S.P. album since 2001. This is excellent, vital music with a set Blackie’s most intelligent and affecting lyrics, a winner through and through. DOMINATOR will definitely be one of the Top 3 albums this year.
Track Listing

1) Mercy
2) Long Long Way to Go
3) Take Me Up
4) The Burning Man
5) Heaven’s Hung in Black
6) Heaven’s Blessed
7) Teacher
8) Heaven’s Hung in Black (reprise)
9) Deal with the Devil

Lineup

Blackie Lawless: Vocals, Guitar
Doug Blair: Guitar
Mike Duda: Bass
Mike Dupke: Drums


Next review: » W.A.S.P. - Dominator
Previous review: » W.A.S.P. - Babylon

W.A.S.P.
Dominator
May 2007
Released: 2007, Demolition Records/Sound Pollution
Rating: 2.0/5
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall

Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P have finally released the much-delayed DOMINATOR album. I have always liked W.A.S.P and grew up with the band, but to be honest the band has its ups and downs throughout their long career. Unfortunately, this album will be counted amongst the band’s downs.

Lawless says that DOMINATOR is an album based on the idea of Western Imperialism and about what’s wrong with Washington D.C., so this is another concept album by W.A.S.P. Music-wise, Lawless hasn’t anything from before and I really have a problem with the material. I’m really tired of the whole concept album thing. Please, Blackie, do something different next time!

The album peaks at “Long, Long Way to Go”, “The Burning Man”, “Heaven’s Blessed”, “Teacher”, and “Deal with the Devil”, which are heavy tunes that can probably stay in the set list for a longer period of time. Two ballads are featured and they sound just as Lawless ballads used to. “Take Me Up” and “Heaven’s Hung in Black” both have hit potential. “Heaven’s Hung in Black (Reprise)” is the same song once again, but with only guitar and vocals, which really does nothing for the album.

I don’t really know if he’s run out of musical ideas for a new album or if he’s stuck doing theme albums for the rest of his life. Either way, I’m getting tired of it and I really long to hear something fresh and new from my childhood hero. Lawless has a lot to say about a lot of things, but the question is if people have the time and interest to listen to his words of wisdom today. The best theme album by W.A.S.P is still THE CRIMSON IDOL, and the following albums aren’t nearly as good as that one. The album has its moments, but it’s too long in between each highlight. This is not what I had expected W.A.S.P to deliver at all, so the rating is a weak.
Track Listing

1. Mercy
2. Long, Long Way to Go
3. Take Me Up
4. The Burning Man
5. Heaven’s Hung in Black
6. Heaven’s Blessed
7. Teacher
8. Heaven’s Hung in Black (Reprise)
9. Deal With the Devil

Lineup

Blackie Lawless – lead vocals, guitar
Mike Duda – bass
Mike Dupke – drums
Doug Blair – guitar


Next review: » W.A.S.P. - Dying For The World
Previous review: » W.A.S.P. - Babylon





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