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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews


The Headless Children

Review by Mike Korn

Released in 1989, The Headless Children was WASP.'s fourth album and a quantum leap in their career. Very few bands in metal history have leaped forward as much as WASP did here. Previously known for raucous, raw tunes dealing with sex, drugs and debauchery, The Headless Children dived into social issues, politics and the horror of drug addiction. Although a lot of their former style remained, the material on this album was altogether more epic, melodic and even progressive in places. It was a reinvention of WASP and saw them at their creative peak.

No less than Uriah Heep's Ken Hensley added a huge keyboard sound to the music. The album also marked the first appearance of former Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali as a member while bassist Johnny Rod bowed out after this effort. From this point forward, WASP would alternate between the huger, more epic style of Headless Children and their more straight forward hell-raising metal tunes. The Headless Children became WASP's highest charting album and my personal favorite out of all their work.

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Track by Track Review
The Heretic (The Lost Child)
An immediate difference from past WASP material is apparent right away as this track begins with haunting choral voices and a clean mournful guitar sound. There's a gradual build that creates tension until it breaks into fast, driving metal. Blackie Lawless' vocals weave an apocalyptic tale of society in decay. Everything sounds bigger and more epic right from the start, with great power-packed riffs. At the 3:35 mark, there's a huge shift in the song, with a completely different, more progressive guitar lick. It's such a cool transition and something the old WASP could never have done. This leads to an awesome stretch of wailing guitar solos and just majestic power chords that are subtly embellished by Ken Hensley's Hammond organ work. This is an amazing song that redefines what the band is capable of.
The Real Me   

Yes, this is a cover of the classic Who song and kind of an unusual choice for second track on the album. Yet WASP make it their own and Lawless' voice adapts magnificently to it.  In another styltistic change that would have been unthinkable on earlier albums, a brass section adds power to the soaring chorus. It's one of the best metal covers of a classic rock song out there.

The Headless Children

Ominous, scary chanting opens the title track and gives a doom-like atmosphere to the song.  It gives way to lumbering riffs and a barrage of guitar noise and evil laughter. Then we hear some more of Hensley's great Hammond B-3 organ before power-packed mid-paced riffs cut in. In many ways, this is a true doom metal song, both in sound and lyrics, which bemoan mankind's headlong rush to destruction. It's obvious that the human race are the "headless children." The atmosphere on this track is so thick you can cut it with a shows that the epic tendencies on "The Heretic" were not a one time thing. Like that song, there's another cool transition about half way through to a faster, hard-driving sound laced with cranking guitar solos. The climax of the number is crushing.

Sad piano leads us into this track, the longest on the album. This one deals with the misery of drug addiction - quite a shift from WASP's former debauched stance. Eventually the metal cuts in fierce and strong, with more of that great organ boosting the guitar riffs. Lawless' vocal delivery is impassioned, and the chorus is immense..."A gun to your head/The trigger, you're dead/ It's quicker and there ain't no doubt." There's a section where there's a dialogue between the drug addict and a monster voice representing addiction that ends with the monster voice asking "Thunderhead, will you die for me?"  I'm told that Lita Ford was one of the people singing along on this track. This is another multi-faceted epic track with a lot of moving parts and great performances all around.
Mean Man
This marks the "Side Two" of the album and shows that the raw and filthy WASP of the debut album is still alive and kicking. This song could have easily been on that great album. The progression of the early half of Headless Children is missing here as the song revolves around a catchy, grinding riff and the chorus is copiously laced with profanity. The lyrics are said to be inspired by band guitarist Chris Holmes, notorious for his excessive lifestyle.
The Neutron Bomber
Here's a sleeper track that's one of my favorites. It's kind of the mid-point between the more epic WASP of the first half of the album and their grittier early stuff. Ken Hensley's organ plays a prime part of the song, which is compact and to the point, but which still has its bigger than life aspect. I can't overstate how good of a vocal job Lawless does with his phrasing. The chorus is melodic and sticks in the brain. There's some cool multi-tracked lead guitar work here, too.
The Mephisto Waltz
Named after a 70s occult movie, this is a brief and effective acoustic piece...something else not typical of WASP
Forever Free

Most ballads on metal albums bore me, but this is a good one. It starts in an acoustic fashion which is quite wistful. Eventually heavier guitar powers in, but this never really loses its highly melodic touch. The chorus is quite beautiful, but there's a turn to a slightly darker sound and jamming guitar solo. The song fades out on a repetition of that great chorus, with added layers of organ and guitar to give it a kind of soaring sound.

One thing WASP is known for is writing songs that are great for bombing down the highway at a high rate of speed. This is one of their best in that style. It's fast and mean, but still melodic, and I could listen to that chorus all day. It has so much power and majesty and gets the adrenaline pumping every time. Sizzling lead guitar scorches the ears, and I'd also like to put in a good word for the rock steady drumming of Banali, which anchors every song like a metronome.
Rebel In the F.D.G.

This isn't a million miles away from the last track. It grinds away in classic WASP fashion with just a killer hook and chorus. It does sound like a lot of other songs here and on previous albums, but in this case, the quality is so strong, that's not a big issue. This isn't epic or's just blazing heavy rock n roll and caps off an awesome album.


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