The Neon God
More than ever a solo vehicle for Blackie Lawless, W.A.S.P still stands as one of the last remaining hard rock bands of the 1980s. The last few years have seen some pretty dubious releases from W.A.S.P., none more so than their previous outing, Dying for the World, written in the wake of Sept. 11th, with Lawless reincarnated as everything he had previously fought against: a conservative, right-wing patriot, effectively ridding himself of the image as one of heavy metal’s few intellectuals (his solution to the terrorist attacks being, basically, to drop “the bomb” on the entire Middle East). Musically, however, even that album had some strong moments, proving the point that Lawless is at his best when he doesn’t try to think and simply churns out his anthemic, hard rock ‘n’ roll. Thankfully, The Neon God sees him doing just that.
Planned for years, The Neon God is the first of two concept albums about a young boy who finds he’s got a talent for reading and manipulating people, leading him to become a new Messiah with evil intentions. Nice plot there, but W.A.S.P. is, as always, best appreciated when we discard the lyrics and focus on the melodies. Lawless is back in his best form since 1988’s The Headless Children. “Wishing Well” burns and rambles with the fury of W.A.S.P.’s finest moments. It’s a demonstration of Lawless’s abilities as a hard rock composer and, above all, performer. Lawless is inimitable both as a vocalist and an arranger; the instruments blur together in the mix, his hoarse, beastly vocals roar and the drums and bass mesh together terrifically. It sounds like W.A.S.P., and it sounds great.
“Sister Sadie,” “Asylum #9,” “Red Room of the Rising Sun,” the list goes on. It’s all anthemic hard rock with a twist, Lawless blatantly ripping off lines from the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Who’s Tommy without it sounding derivative or cheap. The album, in true concept style, is interspersed with interludes and quieter moments that work surprisingly well in this setting. Although, the album will be enjoyed for Lawless’s return to hard rocking form, and not for its anguished ballad moments. I never thought I’d say this — ever since Lawless seemingly lost his plot around the early ’90’s — but I’m actually looking forward to his next one. The Neon God will probably not earn him any new fans, but for everyone who’s enjoyed W.A.S.P. at their finest, this is worth checking out.
Santuary Records: www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com