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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

WASP

Unholy Terror

Review by Mike Korn

One of the most decadent and outrageous bands to emerge from the Southern California metal scene in the 80's was WASP. These fearsome freakos were infamous for shows where they decapitated nuns, slaughtered pigs and threw blood on the audience (it should probably be noted that no actual pigs or nuns were harmed during these revels) and also for their lyrics that challenged the prevailing standards of decency. Now into the new millennium and WASP is still charging along. "Unholy Terror" sees them in a more thoughtful and epic mode, tackling organized religion in actually a fairly restrained fashion (restrained compared to the likes of Deicide or Dimmu Borgir, that is). The record is obviously in the style of their classic "Headless Children" release of 1989 and will certainly not disappoint any fan of that breakthrough WASP record.

The only problem I have with the record and the band is the too comfortable feeling of familiarity about the whole project. We hear the same WASP riffs and WASP vocal hooks that we've been hearing since the debut. Only a couple of tracks here really push the envelope. In some cases, the similarity to past material becomes uncomfortable obvious. For example, "Locomotive Man" recycles the riff from "Rebel in the FDG" that was on "Headless Children" very blatantly. I would expect the band to push themselves a little bit harder than this. Yet no one can say this does not rock. The production is crisp and raw, the performances are energetic and it's obvious WASP is very into the material. If you're just looking to kick back with some heavy yet commercial metal, this is the ticket and if you are already a WASP fan, this will do nothing to dissuade you from following that path. And as far as the lyrics go, it's good to hear an "evil" metal band actually calling for more parental responsibility as on "Locomotive Man". "Headless Children" is still the ultimate WASP LP but this is nothing to be ashamed of.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Let It Roar
And roar they do! This is a good way to kick it off, with a really muscular and heavy rocker. Many of the familiar WASP traits are here and Blackie Lawless is in fine form vocally.
Hate To Love Me
Another aggressive track, this has a bit more of a rock and roll feel to it. It reminds me of what they did on their excellent debut LP all those years ago.
Locomotive Man
This is actually a fine track but its chief problem, as stated above, is that it is mostly a recycling of "Rebel in the FDG". The same riff is there under the verse with little alteration. The song is more epic and longer than it's progenitor, though, and the chilling lyrics about "killer babies" relate a cautionary tale about high school massacres. If not for its over-familiarity, this would be the standout track.
Unholy Terror
Quietly ominous, this little ditty has a creepy feel to it. Not loud or overly electric, it relates a story of religious and political oppression from the Devil's point of view and leads right into "Charisma".
Charisma
This is the most innovative track on the album. It continues the dark feeling of the title track but in a much heavier fashion. The song kind of oozes along as more stories of hypocrisy and evil are told by an impassioned Blackie. Featuring excellent lead work, this a hypnotic song.
Who Slayed Baby Jane?
Another raunchy metal rocker, with a feel similar to "Hate to Love Me", my complaint here is Blackie just doesn't know when to shut up. There are too many vocal shenanigans here, bulling over the music itself and no time to just concentrate on the riffs.
Euphoria
A mellow instrumental with jazzy overtones, this is well-played, and shows a more laid-back side to the band.
Ravenheart
A strong, catchy rocker that is tight and compact, a good chorus enhances this one.
Evermore
If this track is not a direct sequel to "Forever Free" from "Headless Children", then it's one of the most blatantly unoriginal tracks ever from a band. A sprightly semi-ballad, the riffs and hooks are only slightly different from "Forever Free". If there had never been a "Forever Free", this would have been more acceptable but even so, it goes on a little too long.
Wasted White Boys
A tale of hell-raising alcoholic youth, this provides a pretty strong closer to the CD. It starts out in very typical WASP fashion, but ends with dueling lead guitars from Chris Holmes and special guest Roy Z. I really jammed out to the string-bending orgy but the second time I heard it, I came to the uncomfortable realization that the final guitar solos are almost note for note from "Freebird". Ignore the backing riffs and you will notice it, too. The track still jams but I'm dismayed the band can't write their own solos.
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