Getting Into: W.A.S.P.


Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 19.06.2015


The articles in this series begun by our own Baz Anderson are designed to give a brief overview of a band's entire discography, so as to provide a clear point of entry for the uninitiated. It offers a different approach from the typical review format, for the curious newcomer to a well-traveled band.

W.A.S.P.
Heavy metal, glam metal, hard rock, industrial metal
USA

W.A.S.P. emerged from the same place at the same time as many of the hair metal "greats" and populated the same scene for the first few years of their existence, but they always possessed a special something that set them apart - and that would eventually mutate into dramatic changes. After three albums, founder/vocalist/guitarist Blackie Lawless took a sharp left turn into undiscovered country and proved himself a mature, adept songwriter over a series of increasingly-grim releases. Though W.A.S.P. are still defined to many people by those early albums (a fate that befalls so many artists), they have journeyed repeatedly to greater heights and more interesting musical climes - not always successfully, but leaving behind enough inspired work to make them more of a heavy metal institution than a footnote in the records of pop-metal's decrepit heyday.

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W.A.S.P. (1984)

Consistently counted among their best releases, W.A.S.P.'s self-titled debut burns with the confidence of a band that has already made it and the fury of a band that still has something to prove. Naysayers need look no further than the first songs to realize how erroneous the "hair metal" label can be for W.A.S.P.; they may have come from Los Angeles, but no ordinary L.A. glam band played songs as wicked, dark, and dangerous as "Hellion" or "Tormentor." The album does suffer from a few loose throwaway tracks in that breezy, braindead style, but for the most part, this debut sets W.A.S.P. apart from their compatriots, from the "Love Gun"-inspired "L.O.V.E. Machine" to the delighted odes to torture. What's more, the highly controversial single "Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)," the song that more than any other kicked off the PMRC-spearheaded censorship crisis of the mid-'80s, appears on the reissue.
Standout Tracks: "I Wanna Be Somebody," "L.O.V.E. Machine," "Hellion," "Sleeping (In The Fire)"

The Last Command (1985)

Riding high on the hit singles "Wild Child" and "Blind In Texas," Blackie Lawless and co. released their sophomore album to massive acclaim. While generally acknowledged in the same favorable light as the debut, The Last Command's zealously simple hooks fall more in line with the coiffured legions of the glammed. The filler is both less compelling and more plentiful, and the songwriting generally more mundane. Whereas W.A.S.P. had one foot in L.A. and one foot in hell (and there is a difference, apparently), The Last Command spends most of its time punching power chords aimlessly; but this does not preclude it from producing its fair share of boisterous mirth, and the haunting "Widowmaker" preserves Blackie Lawless's good name like few other songs.
Standout Tracks: "Widowmaker," "Wild Child," "Cries In The Night"






Inside The Electric Circus (1986)

For all the potential they showed for something deeper and more powerful than the hair-based buffoonery on whose coattails they had ridden into the public eye, W.A.S.P. sure loved to revel in the world of lowest common denominators. Even those for whom this era and style represent the height of W.A.S.P.'s career typically think twice before revisiting this album; Inside The Electric Circus captures a burnt-out band at their most generic and uninspired. The somnambulant guitar-slingers can almost be heard collapsing from exhaustion after the ironically-titled "Restless Gypsy." This album does little to distinguish W.A.S.P. from the Ratts and Dokkens of the day, and even less to interest its audience.
Standout Tracks: "Easy Livin'," "Inside The Electric Circus," "I'm Alive"

The Headless Children (1989)

The Headless Children forever changed W.A.S.P.. As the last album with original guitarist Chris Holmes (for now), the first with drummer Frankie Banali, and an extraordinary departure from anything the band had attempted previously, it crystallizes Blackie Lawless's drive to transform W.A.S.P. from a skint tribe of juvenile disrepute into a legitimate musical venture. Featuring thunderous drumming, electrifying riffs, and an atmosphere of unprecedented darkness, this W.A.S.P. crushes its old self like a Sherman tank, as the Chris Holmes theme song "Mean Man" officially bids farewell to the last vestiges of glam and goofiness. By finishing out the 1980s with The Headless Children, W.A.S.P. ensured both their survival as a band and a serious reception from critics.
Standout Tracks: "The Heretic (The Lost Child)," "The Headless Children," "Thunderhead," "The Neutron Bomber"





The Crimson Idol (1992)

Not every band achieves something that could be truly called a "magnum opus," and very few have approached the level of intensity, perfectionism, and drama of The Crimson Idol. Nowhere else is Blackie's powerful influence from The Who more evident as this supremely theatrical rock opera weaves its highly emotional tale of fame, corruption, success, and suffering. Utilizing leitmotifs, multilayered sonic assaults, and the most tortured vocals he could muster, Blackie - aided by an expert team including the inimitable Frankie Banali and Bob Kulick - crafted a masterpiece of blistering heavy metal anthems and brooding, impassioned epics. The Crimson Idol is a roller coaster of powerful music and storytelling; if The Headless Children proved that W.A.S.P. were a "real band," The Crimson Idol proved that they could be legends, too.
Standout Tracks: "Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)," "The Invisible Boy," "I Am One," "The Great Misconceptions Of Me"

Still Not Black Enough (1995)

Like The Crimson Idol, Still Not Black Enough was essentially a Blackie Lawless solo album press-ganged into becoming a W.A.S.P. release; also like The Crimson Idol, it marked a serious departure from anything the band had ever done before, growing still darker, heavier, and more sinister. Dark emotions run deep throughout, but where The Crimson Idol chronicled a fictional character, Still Not Black Enough channels the grief, frustration, anger, and despair of a beaten and weary Blackie Lawless. Musically, it is less extravagant, not so much a blockbuster production as a raw statement of furious heavy metal. Even "Rock And Roll To Death," exactly as silly as it sounds on the surface, rages a lot harder than the old glam days; while the quality of songwriting does not hold up quite as well to the two previous albums, its attitude and heaviness certainly do.
Standout Tracks: "Scared To Death," "Breathe," "Still Not Black Enough," "Goodbye America"






Kill, Fuck, Die (1997)

Original guitarist Chris Holmes made a surprise return to the band for this album, but W.A.S.P. had no intention of regressing to their earlier style; in fact, quite the opposite. Once more fueled by unadulterated rage, Kill, Fuck, Die is a ragged and vicious album with intense industrial influence. The pounding assembly line drums and distorted-to-oblivion guitars, laid out under Blackie's increasingly-agonized screams, create a new jungle of unexplored heaviness. Despite the gruesome appeal of this punkish mechanization, it becomes apparent that Blackie Lawless only knows how to write a few different types of songs. He can dress them up in many different ways, but the well only runs so deep; when it dries up is just a matter of listener opinion.
Standout Tracks: "Kill Fuck Die," "My Tortured Eyes," "Killahead," "U"

Helldorado (1999)

While his songwriting and musical attitudes had matured during the '90s, Blackie's increasingly-sinister output continuously alienated legions of old-school W.A.S.P. fans; poor reception and backlash sent him into a crisis of confidence that resulted in a desperate attempt to recreate the "old days," begetting Helldorado. Helldorado is more than a return to W.A.S.P.'s roots, however; in fact, it goes a few steps further into pop territory they hadn't touched even at the height of hair metal's popularity. Blackie threw every stereotype of loud, brash, unadorned hard rock at the wall and built a generic mound of pabulum from what stuck. A decade too late for the sound to have any impact or meaning, and after W.A.S.P. had gone to such lengths to prove themselves as an intelligent, complex entity, Helldorado serves only as an embarrassment to their discography.
Standout Tracks: "Helldorado," "Damnation Angels"






Unholy Terror (2001)

After Helldorado flopped even more spectacularly than its predecessors, Blackie wised up and returned to doing things his own way. While songs like "Who Slayed Baby Jane?" do try to redeem the sound they attempted on Helldorado, the haunting grind of "Charisma" and thoughtful instrumental "Euphoria" signify a return to deeper ventures. Once more Chris Holmes-less, W.A.S.P. shook out the last vestiges of big-haired buffoonery all over again and turned to developing the aggressive sound they would embody for much of their 21st-century work. While Unholy Terror's slightly mismatched nature occasionally works to its detriment, it makes it a great transition album - leaving behind both the glam roots and the experimentation for a more stable, appropriately W.A.S.P. style.
Standout Tracks: "Charisma," "Euphoria," "Raven Heart"

Dying For The World (2002)

By far the most gleefully sadistic album in W.A.S.P.'s whole catalogue, Blackie Lawless describes Dying For The World as "music to kill people to." In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, W.A.S.P. whipped up a frenzied (and, as one might have guessed, somewhat politically tense) war soundtrack that mixes anguished laments with wicked exhortations to kill. The lyrics are vague enough to not appear juvenile or dated, and the songs can certainly be enjoyed out of context, but the album bristles with a very real kind of anger, the intent of which is clear. Dying For The World is stocked with some of Blackie's best vocal performances and W.A.S.P.'s strongest songwriting in a decade, making it an imperative listen even for those not interested in "real-world response" pieces.
Standout Tracks: "My Wicked Heart," "Revengeance," "Hallowed Ground," "Stone Cold Killers"






The Neon God - Part 1: The Rise (2004)

When it came time for The Neon God - Part 1, Blackie pretty clearly attempted to recreate The Crimson Idol; fortunately, he did not also attempt to rewrite it. Once more taking cues from The Who's famous rock operas, W.A.S.P. open the album with an overture and thenceforward make liberal use of leitmotifs, short interlude pieces, and some pretty exceptional bass work on the part of Mike Duda. While less extravagant than The Crimson Idol and very obviously intended to parallel it throughout, The Neon God - Part 1 rivals it both thematically and musically, and hosts its fair share of unique songwriting. The utterly ragged "Asylum #9," heart-wrenching "The Raging Storm," and psychedelic "The Red Room Of The Rising Sun" all prove that Blackie can still create works of art.
Standout Tracks: "Asylum #9," "The Raging Storm," "Sister Sadie (And The Black Habits)," "What I'll Never Find"

The Neon God - Part 2: The Demise (2004)

Where The Neon God - Part 1 brought W.A.S.P. unadulterated success, Part 2: The Demise dropped the ball. It takes a wholly different approach to the story, dispensing with the embellishments for a stripped down and straightforward heavy metal album; having such a radically different second half to the story doesn't entirely make sense, and Part 2 suffers from the comparison. It is easily one of W.A.S.P.'s heaviest albums, but without the dramatic power or musical intrigue of the first half of the Neon God saga, this installment feels very much out-of-place. It's possible that Part 2's poor reputation stems partly from its juxtaposition to Part 1, but in a two-part concept album, there's no escaping that.
Standout Tracks: "Clockwork Mary," "Never Say Die," "Come Back To Black"






Dominator (2007)

Dominator carries on the powerful crunch implemented on The Neon God - Part 2, but stylistically returns to a more "regular" W.A.S.P. sound. The seven-minute (ten-and-a-half, counting the reprise) "Heaven's Hung In Black," another heartfelt triumph of Blackie's emotional side, seems to swallow much of the album, but otherwise Dominator is populated by more conventionally-wrought heavy metal cuts that would not sound out-of-place on most W.A.S.P. albums. The album runs very smoothly, confidently, and consistently, with nothing unexpected or off-putting to be found - in other words, a thoroughly solid W.A.S.P. album.
Standout Tracks: "Heaven's Hung In Black," "Mercy," "Take Me Up"

Babylon (2009)

The phrase "resting on their laurels" would typically suggest something negative about the quality of this album, but in the case of Babylon, it refers merely to the fact that, after the success of Dominator, this older, wiser W.A.S.P. no longer feel the need to explore uncharted territory and radically change their sound. Though "Babylon's Burning" is perhaps the only track that sounds unmistakably W.A.S.P., the unmitigated hard rock/heavy metal sound of Babylon plays right to the band's strengths without sounding like an attempted re-write of a previous album, even differing sufficiently from Dominator to stand as its own entity. Babylon wields the simplicity of early W.A.S.P. with the bite and intelligence of later W.A.S.P., and while they may yet search for other sonic avenues in the future, they could easily meet success continuing in this vein for the foreseeable future.
Standout Tracks: "Babylon's Burning," "Into The Fire," "Godless Run"




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Overview

From The Headless Children on, W.A.S.P. have made a name for themselves not just in the scene from which they originated, but in the world of heavy metal as a whole. They have wavered and wandered, releasing material in multiple spectrums to various degrees of success, but Blackie Lawless's vision and an exceptional roster of musicians have kept them from collapsing under pressure or falling into obscurity over the decades. With every pitfall offset by a masterpiece, W.A.S.P. have fulfilled their old wish to become a well-respected musical entity, carving their signature sound into the minds of new generations whether reinventing themselves again or revisiting classic techniques.



 



Written on 19.06.2015 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 17   Visited by: 143 users
19.06.2015 - 10:28
musclassia
I have the first 5 albums, but aside from Babylon I never ended up checking out anything else they did - I might possibly give Neon God Part 1 or Dying For The World tries out now, they look promising. Also, we have very different standout songs on Babylon - for me it's Crazy, Live To Die Another Day and Burn
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19.06.2015 - 10:51
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by musclassia on 19.06.2015 at 10:28

I have the first 5 albums, but aside from Babylon I never ended up checking out anything else they did - I might possibly give Neon God Part 1 or Dying For The World tries out now, they look promising. Also, we have very different standout songs on Babylon - for me it's Crazy, Live To Die Another Day and Burn

As far as post-Crimson Idol W.A.S.P. goes, I'd say that The Neon God - Part 1 and Dying For The World rank the highest. As far as Babylon goes, they're all good, although "Babylon's Burning" easily takes the cake for me.
----
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Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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19.06.2015 - 11:06
slim pickings
Account deleted
When I'm in the mood for some WASP, I listen to their 80s albums and of course The Crimson Idol. I have listened to most of their albums just out of curiosity but the albums beyond 'the Idol" did not do much for me.
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19.06.2015 - 11:32
Maco
Handbanana
Until now this is the only glam metal band I could truly enjoy and at its best, love with passion.
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I'm derp.
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19.06.2015 - 13:37
ManiacBlasphemer
Black Knight
Low rating for The Last Command. That album is over stuff like Kill Fuck Die, Still Not Black Enough or Unholy Terror. I would give it at least 4 stars if not 4.5 stars. Also, the Part 1 of Neon God is good but nothing compared to The Crimson Idol.
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20.06.2015 - 08:23
Bad English
Masterchief
You did little early, could wait until new album is out
I agree great band, albums, all you said, unique band, no bad songs, well top songs many stands out, but its album band
My fav Dying For The Worls, fav song Breakdown America , great and awesome band

PS 1th time I use mobile for I net ever and I read this, at work not much to do so I did read this, I comment from PC ... some thoughts I lost at time, will come back when remember
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21.06.2015 - 20:48
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by ManiacBlasphemer on 19.06.2015 at 13:37

Low rating for The Last Command. That album is over stuff like Kill Fuck Die, Still Not Black Enough or Unholy Terror. I would give it at least 4 stars if not 4.5 stars. Also, the Part 1 of Neon God is good but nothing compared to The Crimson Idol.

Written by deadone on 21.06.2015 at 15:01

Great stuff but harsh on Last Command. Fair enough though.

Keep 'em coming.

The Last Command was the one thing I was worried about; I have much less tolerance for it than most people, and I knew that my take would be fairly unpopular (I'm especially worried about what'll happen when Doc Godin finds this). I originally gave it three-and-a-half stars, but I figured that wouldn't be sufficient to placate the people who like it and it's higher than I would have rated it, so it made for a terrible compromise. W.A.S.P. was a slightly complicated choice for one of these articles since my tastes are a little more varied from the norm than with the last two articles I did, but at least The Last Command has an excellent user rating, so I'm not too worried about damaging its reputation.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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22.06.2015 - 02:00
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by deadone on 22.06.2015 at 01:52

I have no issues with your rating and I don't think it hurts its reputation. It is all down to opinions.

After all I personally don't like Crimson Idol!

Well, I was going to gasp in horror, but I guess this makes us even. I'm glad you enjoyed the article, though.
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Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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22.06.2015 - 06:39
Doc Godin
Full Grown Hoser
Interesting read. Gotta say though, my take is largely different. Dominator sounded incredibly thin to me, sort of suffering from Mustaine syndrome - the actual music took back seat behind the political/ideological message. Babylon sort of found a balance between the two.

Same with Last Command vs the debut...Its funny you say that Last Command falls more in line with their hair metal counterparts, as I found it to be reversed, to me it sounded like they started finding their edge with the second album.

...And I'll always take The Headless Children over the Crimson Idol, but that's mostly because I'm not a big fan of overt concept albums (also why I didn't love the Neon God as much as a lot of folk).
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"I got a lot of really good ideas, problem is, most of them suck."
- George Carlin
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22.06.2015 - 12:03
ManiacBlasphemer
Black Knight
I think Dominator was at least equal or, if not, better than Babylon. Those 2 albums are pretty close in quality. The Last Command for me is something like Doc Godin described. I do like the debut, and I think it is at least equal with it. I never really considered WASP a hair metal band even in their early days. They were always more on the edge of traditional metal and glam but with a shock rock attitude. Their sound even on the first 3 records was more edgy, not so glossy as the glam metal bands. It had a degree of dark atmosphere that basicaly did not allow them to fit in either of those genres.

As for The Headless Children, I consider it to be on part with The Crimson Idol. The Headless Children, while not having a concept story behind it, it had brilliant songwriting. The Crimson Idol though had brilliant songwriting adapted perfectly for the storyline, thing that really managed to click with me at an emotional level. Few concept albums managed to impress me as much as that album did and it remains one of my favorites even today.
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23.06.2015 - 23:40
FelixtheMetalcat
Very well done article. For my personal tastes I never considered WASP a "glam band", they sort of fell more into that "shock" vibe for me even though many of the songs weren't all that shocking, yet they were still a cut above much of the MTV drivel that was getting airtime. And back in the early 80's, what i saw of them on MTV was enough for me.......
THEN I heard The Crimson Idol in its entirety & realized an awful lot had changed with the songwriting & the overall approach. It was then I decided to revisit the band & it was exactly at the time that Unholy Terror was released.
From that point forward I dug in deeper & realized what greatness I had missed with The Headless Children, Crimson Idol & Still Not Black Enough. Unholy Terror still ranks very high for me & I guess I can attribute that to the fact it made me pay attention to a band I thought was long dead. The vast majority of EVERY album after Unholy Terror has been very good, my only exception would be Babylon because to my ears, it sounded like a re-hash of Dominator, which dominated in every possible way. Having never seen the band play live in the 80's but now twice post 2000, I feel like I am watching a band get better as they age & there's nothing wrong with that at all in my aging booklet.
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26.07.2015 - 17:32
Bad English
Masterchief
I cant find band thread in forums do we have it?
anyway someone can give me set list of latest months concerts? I will see band live soon
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Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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10.08.2015 - 09:30
Timelord
Written by Doc Godin on 22.06.2015 at 06:39

Interesting read. Gotta say though, my take is largely different. Dominator sounded incredibly thin to me, sort of suffering from Mustaine syndrome - the actual music took back seat behind the political/ideological message. Babylon sort of found a balance between the two.

Same with Last Command vs the debut...Its funny you say that Last Command falls more in line with their hair metal counterparts, as I found it to be reversed, to me it sounded like they started finding their edge with the second album.

...And I'll always take The Headless Children over the Crimson Idol, but that's mostly because I'm not a big fan of overt concept albums (also why I didn't love the Neon God as much as a lot of folk).


I'll take The Headless Children over any other album period. I hate Crimson Idol and have never considered it a WASP album as it wasn't intended to be so in the first place. I am not a fan of concept albums either. Very few have been able to pull off a successful concept album. When their careers are on he down slope they come back to try and recapture the lightning in a bottle only to ruin it.(Welcome 2 My Nightmare,Operation: Mindcrime II,Abigail II). What they don't seem to realize is that the songs on the original albums stand alone and not the storyline. So when you purposely write to mimic,you lose the creative edge that made the originals great.

To me W.A.S.P. flirted with hair metal briefly mainly in look more than sound(although the sound is noticeably more watered down) with Inside the Electric Circus. It was obvious at this point that it was all about Blackie. He was the only band member on the cover of the last two albums and to be honest I didn't think they would be able to climb out of that rut much less come out with their best ever The Headless Children. Then as I had assumed prior.....it was over and "WASP":mkII emerged.
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15.08.2015 - 12:23
Warman
Erotic Stains
A good read. Would have loved to read this a couple of years ago. I used to think WASP was one of those hair metal bands that all sound the same. Never even gave them a fair chance. Then one day I found a copy of "The Crimson Idol" (signed by Blackie) in my buildings trash room. Gave it a spin. Thought it was one of the best albums I had ever heard.
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07.09.2015 - 22:28
Guib
Thrash Talker
Very nice Screaming! You gotta keep those going, always nice to read. I didn't know much about W.A.S.P. but this just made me go check 'em out more. Enjoying The Crimson Idol right now hahaha.
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- I love my technical, melodic, my thrash, agressive and fast paced, my sludge, well thought, my heavy, heavier and my metal, ever-growing -
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07.09.2015 - 22:43
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Guib on 07.09.2015 at 22:28

Very nice Screaming! You gotta keep those going, always nice to read. I didn't know much about W.A.S.P. but this just made me go check 'em out more. Enjoying The Crimson Idol right now hahaha.

Thanks! I have no idea when the next one will finally be published, but I am (very slowly) working on a few new subjects.
----
Row, row, fight the power
Djently down the stream

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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08.09.2015 - 20:46
Bad English
Masterchief
Written by Warman on 15.08.2015 at 12:23

A good read. Would have loved to read this a couple of years ago. I used to think WASP was one of those hair metal bands that all sound the same. Never even gave them a fair chance. Then one day I found a copy of "The Crimson Idol" (signed by Blackie) in my buildings trash room. Gave it a spin. Thought it was one of the best albums I had ever heard.


I agree whit you its best from waspa nd hair band, well 1-2 albums, rest is just hard rock , heavy metal where they look like hair band, but sound abowe.
I wish I was able convince people that The Headless Children is not best wasp album
Great album band what is really worth spin whole disco
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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