Label: Demolition Records
Released: October 13, 2009
Are you sick of the 80s? I certainly am. Having the synthpop of my youth sold back to me as if it’s a new thing is bad enough, but the more egregious offenders are the old hair metal dinosaurs who not only want to resell their corporate sound, but also the mindless, superficial party mentality of the Reagan years. While that stuff was a musical mixed bag, it was, with few exceptions, an emotional void.
So, one would think that perhaps the latest offering from Blackie Lawless and WASP, the band who gave us the deep and heavy “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” as well as a drunken Chris Holmes monologue in Decline of Western Civilization Part 2, would be no different, but closer examination of the band’s career says otherwise. Even the stupidity of songs like “Animal” had a darkness that WASP’s peers only pretended to understand and it wasn’t long before WASP began expanding on that. By 1992’s The Crimson Idol, Lawless, who essentially is WASP, began using his music to take an introspective journey. By 2004, he offered up the social commentary of the Neon God two part concept album. The point is that there’s a little bit more to WASP than perhaps meets the eye and to lump them in with the other nonsense that’s been held over from the 80s hard rock scene is unfair.
That brings us to WASP’s latest release, Babylon. Musically, it isn’t a real musical departure from their sound two decades ago. Some tracks lean toward hook-heavy hard rock. They’re memorable and easy to fall into, but also suffer from that sense that there isn’t much behind the veneer and that’s where Lawless’ sense of searching that underscores the album really helps out, providing substance rather than just smoke and mirrors. Much of the album leans more toward the heavier 80s metal sound and while these tracks benefit from the album’s spiritual/emotional undercurrent, they don’t require it. Babylon is solid today, but would have held up back in the genre’s prime as well.
Overall, if you can’t take 80s hard rock and heavy metal, Babylon won’t change that. However, if the music is basically up your alley, but you’ve grown sick of its stagnation and stupidity, this might be the album that restores your faith that someone is playing your song without playing in your past. If you still wish it was 1988, you’ll love Babylon and hopefully its sense of growth will rub off on you, because you need it.
If you’re curious about my rating categories, read the description.