I wrote this review for Metal-Archives
, and figured I'd post it here. If there's any one album that deserves a perfect score, it's this one. An album that made me rethink my expectations of "good" music; an album that changed my life.W.A.S.P.
, notoriously famous for their over the top stage antics, was the outrageous band that personified the 80’s metal attitude. Indeed, they had pissed a lot of people off through the years. But at this stage, Blackie Lawless
was left to pursue the project however he pleased. Chris Holmes had left only a few years earlier, and Johnny Rod went with him. Perhaps this record is the result of 3 years of fame-sick loneliness and soul-searching.
Indeed, I believe Blackie reached the ultimate peak with The Crimson Idol
. Many have claimed it is an autobiography of the man, explaining perhaps the extremely emotional vocal performance. However, in essence, it is still the same W.A.S.P. we have all come to love, but the album explores an emotional side of the band that had as yet remained unseen. The result is a stunning concept album that narrates the life of a rockstar by the name of Jonathan who longed for fame, but no longer wants it because of lack of real happiness in his life. Although Blackie would perform most of the instrumentation, guitars, keyboards and bass, veteran axeman Bob Kulick was hired to lend his skills, and a duo of drummers (Stet Howland and Frankie Banali) would be employed.
On to the music then. The songs stay consistent in mood throughout the album. There is not one weak song here. In fact, there are several parts which are reused throughout the album to give the whole body of work a very consistent feel. The songs themselves show a lot of variation as well. You have fast up-tempo rockers such as Arena of Pleasure
and Doctor Rockter
. One song that particularly strikes a chord is Chainsaw Charlie
which is how intense a song this fast can get. Blackie sings in complete anger, attacking greedy music business executives. Ballads include The Gypsy Meets the Boy
and The Idol
. The latter has that unquestionable epic tag written all over it, accentuated by yet another brilliant vocal performance but also a brilliant and downright huge solo the likes of which are very rarely seen. Bob Kulick makes his guitar cry and weep like no other. And to top it all off, just when the listener begins to think they possibly cannot top that song, they come up with The Great Misconceptions of Me
. Clocking in at 9:46, it’s the longest song on the album, but oh-my, what a closer it is. All the lyrical themes come back and are merged into a whole, giving the feeling that the story of Jonathan has come full circle.
By this point, it is pretty obvious that everyone puts on a brilliant performance. The drums, guitars, keyboards…they all fall in the place to make for one of the best Metal records of the nineties, and also of all time. The drumming is very different from the previous W.A.S.P. outings, becoming extremely technical, with precision based fills played out on the toms at breakneck speed. The lyrics are full of meaning and very interesting to read. Blackie has cemented his position as a prolific song writer and not just an airhead, especially considering the fact that here is a man who used to write about getting blowjobs.
I can hardly find weak points on this album, but if there has to be anything, Hold On to My Heart
probably is one of the weaker (and I use that term very loosely) songs on the album, and not up to par with the rest. But well, any song would find it hard to match the brilliance of "The Idol" and "The Great Misconceptions Of Me" when sandwiched between the two. However, that song also grows on you and either way, the album is meant to be absorbed as a whole, in which case it all makes sense.
The album is able to ceaselessly move the listener to feel the emotions that Jonathan is going through, and that is perhaps the highest accolade the album can get. From the longing for fame and acceptance after being shunned by his family ("I just wanna be the crimson idol of a million eyes"), to wanting nothing more than acceptance from his parents ("My father was the idol, it was never me"), it’s absolute brilliance. Is the music a shade of the torment Blackie has been through? Whatever the answer, the Crimson Idol will forever remain as masterpiece of pure emotional yet anthemic music.