As circumstance and logic would have it, being a life-long metalhead and given my chronological advancement, it turns out that I have a lot of what I like to refer to as “Old Guy Metal Stories” occupying useless nostalgic space in my back pocket. More often than not, these geezer-y milestones are unimpressive markers related to the fact that I happened to be alive and breathing with reasonably permissive parents in the 80's. On the other hand, those who are impressed by the fact that I saw Metallica with Cliff Burton, Atheist with Roger Patterson or oodles of classic outfits in their original lineup configurations before egos, money, illegitimate children and steady paycheques in IT started fucking with the ability of some people to be in a band, are those who were too young, or not even born, at the time.
So, my cache of old guy bullshit, as it relates to the task at hand, pertains to how I used to own a picture disc copy of the Animal (I Fuck Like a Beast) 12” and once paid witness to a Dave Lombardo-less Slayer blowing W.A.S.P. off the stage on a leg of the Reign in Blood tour (and, I should add, when I witnessed the mighty Clifford Lee Burton holding down the low end for Metallica, the band was opening for W.A.S.P. Thus, in spite of any and everything that has happened, we should be thankful for the band's daring to take out the thrashers few else dared to back in the day).
I will tell you right now that aside from the occasional “the gang’s all here, let’s throw it on” nostalgic courtesy whirl of The Last Command or their self-titled debut, watching Exhumed cover “Wild Child” during sound checks or hearing stories from promoters about having to deal with Stephen Edward “Blackie Lawless” Duren’s 14 trillion pound microphone stand, my following of, and interest in, W.A.S.P.’s love machine came to screeching halt in the mid-80s. The internet has informed me that subsequent releases have included labyrinthine concept albums, lyrics that tackle navel-gazing introspection with shameless aplomb, that Lawless has become a born again Christian and in the process has disowned portions of the band’s early catalogue, including Animal. Wow, this just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?
So, Golgotha. Album number fifteen. Holy crap! They’ve released thirteen albums since I stopped giving a shit? Thirteen! That’s crazy. You know what else is crazy? That Golgotha starts off on a handful of very good notes. Despite the fact that “Scream” and “Last Runaway” both have some of the most hackneyed lyrics I’ve heard ever come out of a sixty-year old man’s mouth, the songs themselves deftly balance the distinctive elements of the W.A.S.P. sound – Lawless’ voice, four-on-the-floor gutter metal, choruses that twist infectious vocal lines over sustained chord progressions designed for whatever remains of commercial/mainstream radio and television – with a more grandiose 70's hard rock feel in the keyboard accompaniment and Doug Blair’s ponderous solos. It’s still W.A.S.P. circa the glorious debauched era of the Sunset Strip, but it’s also as much The Eagles, Little Feat and The Doobie Brothers. Fuck, throw in some Pablo Cruise and you’ve got a collection of hard rock/metal songs tailored for those nights you’re stuck in the house and pops wants to hang out and try and bond with you on a musical level. “Shotgun” continues along that surprisingly robust path, though it is a bit more bristly and heavier with some of The Who bumping the blue-eyed soul and softer rock influences aside.
From there, it all goes downhill – really fucking quickly. “Miss You” takes the foot off the gas and the hands off the wheel as it starts off with Lawless repelling any potential or interested listeners with a nasally mumble and strained warble before the rest of the band thrusts itself into the equation to create one of the diabolically bad ballads of our time. “Hero of the World” is a step up, but not much of one as it sounds like a tired phone in which was written in the studio once they realised Golgotha was a good five or so minutes shorter than the length clause in Napalm’s contract called for. The picture in my mind is the members looking at one another, then looking over at Herr Duren and simultaneously intoning, “Let’s just quickly fire something out. No one will know the difference and it can’t be any worse than the half-assed melodrama we crammed into ‘Fallen Under’ and ‘Eyes of my Maker,’ can it?” Folks, I’m here to tell you it can, and is.
When it comes down to it, if you took the first three tracks, maybe threw in the catchy “Slaves of the New World Order” to round things out, you’d have a super-solid EP or mini-album. If you buy this on vinyl, don’t ever bother flipping to the second side. Golgotha has its moments, but there are not nearly enough of them and they’re all stacked to make it a top heavy spin. So take that for what it’s worth.