Mike Duda

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – K.F.D. (1997, domestic and Japanese versions)

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“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

We continue with the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS!  We’re looking at a collection of malodorous music.  Strike a match, you’ll need it for these stinkers!  This one smells like something went bad in that fridge….

W.A.S.P. – Kill.Fuck.Die (1997 Castle, 1997 Victor Japanese import)

W.A.S.P. sure started to suck in the 1990’s. 1995’s Still Not Black Enough was alright: It got the job done in putting new W.A.S.P. music on the shelves, though it was hard to find in stores.  Then Marilyn Manson came along, the new king of shock rock, and Blackie Lawless said “Hey!  I did that first!  I need to take back my throne.”  Caking on the makeup, he reconnected with erstwhile lead guitarist Chris Holmes.  Rather than playing to their collective strengths, the pair instead wrote and recorded an album of industrial rock that came off as a desperate attempt to be relevant.   The oh-so edgy album title Kill.Fuck.Die. had to be abbreviated to K.F.D.  The album packaging was clever in concept but crap in delivery.  A blurry picture of a fridge opens to reveal another blurry picture body parts and meat.  On the inside, yet another blurry picture of a pig carcass.  Go, 90’s!

Because this writer is a fucking OCD idiot, he owns both the domestic and Japanese versions of K.F.D.  This means I have all the different bonus tracks.  You get to read a one-stop review including all the tracks.  Good for you!

“K.F.D” sounds as if the band were playing in a shoe box full of stuffing.  W.A.S.P. are muffled, robbing them of the guitar excitement we’re used to.  Blackie’s voice is distant because…90’s.  As usual Stet Howland’s drumming is way too busy.  Fortunately the song has hooks, but who wants to run around singing “Kill!  Fuck!  Die!”?  Not this guy.  Sorry Blackie, but even as an angry young man I thought this was lame.

Skip the boring and monotonous “Take the Addiction”.  Do the same for “My Tortured Eyes”, a slow distorted drag of a song.  These tunes are necessary listening only for diehard Blackie fans who need to buy everything he burps and farts.  There are a couple good songs next, though the titles are pretty doltish:  “Killahead” and “Kill Your Pretty Face”.   The first is fast metal, but of course still with this annoying “industrial” production.  (I use the quotation marks because it’s really not industrial music per se…there are no interesting samples or loops to keep things moving.)  The second is a slow burn, that drags for a while before we finally get to the chorus, which is a good one at least.  Good enough to consider it a decent song.  “Fetus” is a waste of time, just a minute of screaming and noise.  It blends into “Little Death”, just noise trying to sound like Trent Reznor.  Wisely, the Japanese edited these two off, and included their own bonus track “Tokyo’s On Fire” in this spot.  Maybe “Little Death” could have been a good song if it wasn’t compressed and distorted into nonsense.  Thankfully they stuck to a rock production with “Tokyo’s On Fire”.  That does make it sound odd sitting in the middle of the album.  Suddenly, the music sounds alive, not strangled!  “Tokyo’s On Fire” sounds like W.A.S.P., not Marilyn-Trent Lawless!

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Another dumb title, “U”, masks an OK song.  The lyrics are pretty are pretty half-baked.  “U fuckin’ suck!” sings Blackie.  No wonder they didn’t include a lyric sheet in this baby.  Anger is a great emotion to express in rock music.  Get it out!  But “Kill yourself for me,” doesn’t cut it for lyrics.  Shock without purpose.  A molotov cocktail without a revolution.  It’s just shrapnel, nothing more.  “Wicked Love” is better, thankfully, with a good chorus and melody, but again the compressed guitars just underwhelm.  It would have been nice if Blackie had let the guitars sound like, you know, guitars.  The album closes out on “The Horror” which is way too long, and takes forever to go anywhere.  A good solid five minutes could have been trimmed from this coma-inducer.  It ends powerfully, but it’s basically just a reprise of “K.F.D.”.  So, if you consider “K.F.D.” and “The Horror” to be one song in two parts, and do the same for “Fetus” and “Little Death”, then…holy shit, Blackie only came up with nine new songs for this album, including the Japanese bonus track!

The aforementioned domestic CD packaging has two significant flaws.  One is that the cardboard fridge is hinged on a perforation, which usually tears after opening it too many times.   The other is that it is unfortunately not worth opening.  Keep the fridge closed, fans.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – Helldorado (1999)

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W.A.S.P. – Helldorado (1999 BMG)

Here’s an album I haven’t rocked in a while.  Let’s see how it holds up 16 years after release.  In 1999, this was W.A.S.P.’s “return to form” album after the industrial-metal of K.F.D.  In the liner notes, Blackie says that the goal was not to make a record that sounded like their first album, but sounded like their first demos.  In other words, even more raw.  Those were the goalposts.  Topically, Blackie was done with the messages and concept albums for the moment.  You can tell by the song titles:  “Don’t Cry (Just Suck)” and “Dirty Balls”, for example.

The record opens with creepy carnival music, motorcycle engines, and a voice asking us if we wanna go now?  This goofy opener (called “Drive By”)  goes on way too long, but at least the first song up is the purely smoking “Hellodrado”.  It’s definitely in the mold of the legendary first W.A.S.P. album, and the production does recollect an earlier era.  This blazing fast ride to hell n’ back is plenty fun, even if Blackie is just playing a sped up and more distorted Chuck Berry riff.  Either way, I’m on board, but I’m definitely fastening my seatbelt.

“Don’t Cry (Just Suck)” is lyrically as offensive as you’d expect.  Blackie went too far on this one.  There’s something to be said for leaving things to the imagination.  There’s nothing wrong with the music (similar to the first track with an Angus Young riff) but the lyrics aren’t justified.  I’m sure everybody thought it was hilarious when they wrote it and recorded it, but all I hear are old tired cliches turned up to 11, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

A slower and more ominous mood, akin to “The Razors Edge” by AC/DC, inhabits “Damnation Angels”.  This is a cool song, fitting the slot that a track like “B.A.D.” held on the first album.  “Damnation Angels” is fittingly the only long song (over six minutes) on an album otherwise composed of shorties.  “Dirty Balls” is one such shorty, and it’s fucking awesome.  Too bad about the lame intro.  Again, Blackie would have been better off leaving something to the imagination.  “Dirty Balls” is otherwise hilarious and smokin’ hot at the same time.  Sometimes all W.A.S.P. really needs is a rock n’ roll riff and a screamy chorus.  “Dirty balls! Balls! Balls! Is all I need, hang ’em high, oh tonight, so the world can see!”  I’m easily amused — all it takes is someone saying “balls” and I’m concealing snickers.  (When I was a kid, my favourite song was “Big Balls”.)

HELLDORADO_0003“High on the Flames” kicks ass in a mid-tempo groove once again aping the AC/DC template.  The problem with Helldorado isn’t bad songs, but songs that sound too much alike.  “High on the Flames” kicks ass, but blink for a moment and you might think it’s “Damnation Angels” again.  “Cocaine Cowboys” compounds the issue.  It is a virtual carbon copy of “Dirty Balls” and “Helldorado”, and even the next song “Can’t Die Tonight”.  I have found this to be a problem on W.A.S.P. albums going all the way back to The Crimson Idol if not before.  There seems to be a W.A.S.P. template that you can mix and match parts from.  Take this riff, add this solo, use that bridge, add lyrics and stir.

“Saturday Night Cockfight” is a great song title, you have to admit.  This one sounds especially raw, and has a neat little riff that doesn’t sound like a duplicate of all the others.  I dig Holmes’ solo(s) on this one; he just kicks ass on it. “Saturday Night Cockfight” is the sleeper track, a real classic tucked away at the end of the album right when you think it’s going downhill.

Finally, the album careens to an end by crashing into the boards.  A 9-song album (don’t forget the first track is just an intro), already bogged down by carbon copy riffs, ends on “Hot Rods to Hell (Helldorado Reprise)”.  That’s right, Blackie ends the CD with a reprise of the opening track.  This amounts to a whole lotta solos and screaming, and that’s all well and good, but you feel like the album was perhaps padded out a bit where it could have used a little more time at the songwriter’s table.

I like Helldorado, and if you love the first W.A.S.P. album, you’ll like this too.  You won’t love it as much, and you won’t play it as much, but it’ll have its place in your collection.

3/5 stars

Pet peave: Four full pages of the eight page booklet are dedicated to Blackie hawking his W.A.S.P. merch.