W.A.S.P. – The Crimson Idol (1992) Album Review

Boy oh boy, how long has it been since I’ve written something on this blog. I seriously had forgotten about it, for a long while I showed no interest in writing some more, mainly because of tight schedule, and exams which are still ongoing even now. Summer is here, my appetite to write music reviews is destructive and contagious right now, I feel reborn, and I am ready to rock ‘n’ roll! I have to apologise to my viewers for me not giving any sings of life, but you know how it is guys, mood shifts and you start doing shit and you forget about everything else. Those of you that are going to university know how much this life sucks especially when it tightens your schedule, and you barely have time for yourself.

However, the best way to apologise is to write a review, this time about an old addiction of mine, one called W.A.S.P. a pretty old band, formed back in the early 1980s, pioneers of traditional heavy metal and hair metal. This band attracted me back in the old days with their old catalogue of albums, mainly their first 3-4 albums before shifting their focus. With Headless Children (1989), the band started to focus on concept orientated albums and the result, and probably, the cornerstone of their entire career, the most critically aclaimed album and the most groundbreaking out of all their work, The Crimson Idol.

The shit was not only in the musical aspect, where we see a bigger varierty of riffs, accoustic passages and intriguing chanting vocals throughout several songs, we can even witness narations, the drum work is much more efficient and much more intense and vary than ever, the guitar solos remained as wild as ever, but this time, we have a story here, a very heartbreaking one.

What I like about this album is that you can feel the emotions and feelings of the main protagonist through the songs, every song represents an important chapter of the story and every song tells the metal state of the main protagonist and also his dealing with society. Basically, this album shows the ups and downs of rock stars, how hard it is to rise and become one and how easy it is to venture into the path to decay, and never coming back.

“The Titanic Overture” represents the beginning of the album, an introductive song comprised by musical passages from the other tracks, it sets the mood of the album and it introduces the listener into the story. The real thing starts with “The Invisible Boy”, the beginning of the story. It introduces the main character, Jonathan, in his adolescent days. He is described as a boy, born in a family which isolates him and despise him. His father, nicknamed “Red” treats him like “an invisible boy” because he placed all his fate in Jonathan’s older brother. His mother also rejects him, being a religious person, she motivates her actions with religious reasons.

Everything started to fall apart for Joanathan after his brother died. Desilusioned by the death of their first son, Joanathan’s parents continued to ignore him while the violent behavior against escalated. Loosing the only person that truly loved him and encouraged him, Jonathan sets on a journey. At first, he did not know what he is going to do, but when he sees a guitar behind the window of a store, he has a revelation. He found a dream of his own, that was to become also his downfall, he wanted to become a rock star, he wanted to sing to his hearts content and pour his frustration into his compositions. He stole that guitar and he started singing songs in a place he called the “Arena of Pleasure”, the title of the 3rd track.

His succes could already be seen, as his most joyful period of his life was in that arena, where people stopped and stared at him and admired the passion he had when he was singing. Not long after, he signed a deal with a rather unscrupulous man named Chainsaw Charlie. He offered him the chance of a lifetime, promissing him everything he desired, fans, concerts, wealth and fame. With an already established fan-base, he accepted the deal. The events are recorded in the song “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue).

In the 5th song, “The Gypsy Meets the King” there is a 180 degree turn. Like the title says, Jonathan has met a gypsy fortune teller. He asked her to tell his fortune and he remained surprised when the gypsy lady could tell accurately his past events and also his present state. However, when he asked about his fortune, the gypsy woman warned him to be careful of what he chooses, because it might come true, and it will become his downfall.

Like the gypsy fortune teller said, the things started to take a turn for the worse. Influenced by a doctor, the so called “Doctor Rockter” (the 6th track of the album) Jonathan started to take drugs and to engage himself into a life filled with debauchery. With the 7th track, “I Am One”, Jonathan has already achieved his dream, he became famous and he took a nickname from his father, “The Crimson Idol”. From this point on, his objective was to show to his parents what he has become and to make them approve of him.

Not long passed, and Jonathan started to be overwhelmed by the unhealthy life that he has chosen. Drugs and daily orgies started to carve a deep wound in him, using them to forget the most important thing that he could never achieve, acceptance from his parents. After his manager told him off, in the song called “The Idol”, he reflects upon his decisions and realizes that nothing else matters as long as he could be accepted by his parents. An accidental call to his parents, the voice of his mother, made Jonathan numb, and the new and definitive rejection from his mother pretty much meant the last step towards the final decision. “We have no son” were the words that his mother whispered in the phone, less than 50 words were spoken, and Jonathan decided that it is not worth living anymore.

“Hold on to my Heart” probably the best ballad ever heard from W.A.S.P. represents the moments when Jonathan resigns and starts planning to end his life, but not before putting his last concert and saying goodbye to his audience. The events are vividly felt during the last song of this album “The Great Misconception of Me”, where he realizes that the nickname “The Crimson Idol” was never his, but it was his fathers. He ended his own life, using the strings of his guitars.

A rather tear-jerking ending, but a very entertaining and touching story. To think that W.A.S.P. could come up with something like this is a huge surprise, thinking that this band back in the 80s was singing stuff like Animal (Fuck You Like a Beast) or L.O.V.E. Machine, but here it is, overall, a masterpice, an album that I would definitely place among the best ever. What is unique about this one is that the music has its own life, you can put yourself into Jonathan shoes and feel the events that he has been through, this is what makes this album so special. Of course, it is not a perfect album, while concept wise I have nothing to complain in terms of instrument usage, the guitar performance are pretty much uneffective and it does not give tha feeling of heavyness and are mostly covered by the drum performance. Not the same I can say about the accoustic passages, these are done in a professional way.

We stand here and wonder, looking at the context in which this album has been released. Glam metal was pretty much dead, Motley Crue has been forgotten, Twisted Sister as well, most of the pioneering glam rock/metal bands such as Poison, Hanoi Rocks, Vixen, Skid Row or Cinderella had either disbanded or they reduced their activity while grunge music was leading the way with Nirvana as the front runner. In these gloomy times, we wonder if true metal really died, and W.A.S.P. wakes up from its 3 year slumber with a masterpiece. I wouldn’t name this one a glam metal opus, but the accoustic passages and especially the ballads mantain that glam atmosphere. Blackie Lawless always had a rather husky voice, very powerful, a model for every heavy metal vocalist, but I did not realise that he could be good with ballads as well, definitely a side of his that I did not predicted.

W.A.S.P. unfortunately did not manage to rise to the fame of the glam metal bands of the 80s but they surely left some marks in this industry. If I have to pic the best album they ever made, without second thoughts I would go with this one. You receive everything you want from W.A.S.P. here, and some more, infact you receive everything you want from heavy metal music with this album. If you are a fan of their older works, you might not find this one so appealing, as it is a little bit toned down to deliver the proper feelings and emotions to the listener. However, the concept and the impression it leaves it is unique and the playing style has matured. All hail The Crimson Idol! All hail, Blackie Lawless!

Overall: 95/100