Released: 2007, Demolition Records
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.