W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (Castle, US and UK versions)
This one came up due to some discussion between myself and Jon Wilmenius who suggested that I not outright dismiss Still Not Black Enough. I decided to give it a listen again, all the tracks from both versions, and listen with an open mind. I haven’t listened to this album in years. I went through a brief W.A.S.P. phase not long after quitting the store. I bought Helldorado, Unholy Terror, and both Neon God CDs, which might not have been a good idea; doing so many at once.
Still Not Black Enough was a treat to revisit. It’s top-loaded with some pretty great W.A.S.P. songs. In fact the album rocks and rolls along quite excellently for four solid tracks in a row: “Still Not Black Enough”, “Skinwalker”, “Black Forever” and the awesome “Scared To Death”. I’ve never heard Blackie attempt anything like “Scared To Death” before. Female backing vocals on a W.A.S.P. album? It actually works, and brings this track to a much higher level. Nothing wrong with the other three songs either — all are catchy, heavy W.A.S.P. songs with that Crimson Idol sound.
The album skids to a halt upon track 5, “Goodbye America”. The unfortunate thing is that “Goodbye America” is a great W.A.S.P. song, kinda similar to “Chainsaw Charlie”, like a shorter twin brother. Blackie chose to introduce it with a boring, spoken word political thing, which sucks all the air out of the room. Cut the shit, Blackie. You’re a rock star who drinks fake blood from a fake skull for a living. Leave the politics to Bono on the left and Ted on the right. Shit, even Ted doesn’t write his songs about it.
After a rousing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love”, Blackie gets out the piano and does the first ballad of the album. It’s essentially a reprise to “Hold Onto My Heart” from Crimson Idol. It’s even called “Keep Holding On”. Nice song, but no need to do it twice. OK sure, “Keep Holding On” is a different slant, on a lot of different instruments, but it’s the same damn song.
“Rock And Roll To Death” is both old (previously released on 1993’s excellent First Blood…Last Cuts compilation) and too gimmicky. It’s an old-timey rock and roll song a-la Chuck Berry played metal style. I guess it’s supposed to sound like “old W.A.S.P.”, like “Blind In Texas”? Regardless it’s out of place on Still Not Black Enough, and it was already on the last album, so to me, that means “delete”.
The original ten-track version of the CD placed a ballad here, after “Rock And Roll To Death”. The acoustic-with-strings ballad “Breathe” was removed from the re-release, and I get why. It’s similar once again to Crimson Idol songs like “The Idol” and “Hold On To My Heart”. The actual sonic quality of the song is not good at all, it sounds like a demo. The drums are obviously not real, they sound like a drum program. The strings are obviously synth. It sounds unfinished, compared to the rest of the album.
No matter which version of the CD you buy, track 9 is “I Can’t”. It’s also acoustic, so again it’s good they removed “Breathe” from the CD, two acoustic songs in a row is too much for a W.A.S.P. album. This one’s a little edgier, it’s not a ballad. It’s more a cheesy bad-ass cowboy song with gratuitous “fucks”. Thankfully it turns electric at the end. Track ten, and original album closer, is “No Way Out Of Here” which sounds like any number of songs from Crimson Idol. The similarities are more than superficial. There are lyrical references to that album, and both albums were performed by the same band: Frankie Banali and Bob Kulick.
The re-release of Still Not Black Enough has three bonus tracks. (It also has “Skinwalker” which was track 2, but not on the original release of the CD.) Track 11 is “One Tribe”, which is pretty different and pretty cool. It’s a softer song, but it’s about the most original song on the album. It has strong melodies, and a dramatic enough arrangement. There’s also what sounds like an electric violin solo! Lyrically, this sounds like redemption.
Then come the unnecessary covers: “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”. Of the two, I would say “Tie Your Mother Down” works best. It brings back the female backing vocals from “Scared To Death” and it’s fun! “Whole Lotta Rosie” isn’t particularly notable.
I was surprised that I like Still Not Black Enough as much as I do. I dismissed it outright years ago as an inferior clone of Crimson Idol. It has moments like that, most definitely. It’s also a pretty enjoyable listen, and now that I’ve dusted it off, I’ll spin it a couple more times. Regardless of which version you get (track listings for both below), I think Still Not Black Enough is worth about: