W.A.S.P. – Dominator (2007, Demolition Records)
- Long, Long Way To Go
- Take Me Up
- The Burning Man
- Heaven’s Hung In Black
- Heaven’s Blessed
- Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)
- Deal With The Devil
Blackie Lawless – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Mike Duda – Bass & Backing Vocals
Mike Dupke – Drums
Doug Blair – Lead Guitar
Darrell Roberts – Lead Guitar on ‘Deal With The Devil’
Producer: Blackie Lawless
Total Time = 43:28
After twenty three years and twelve studio albums of shock Rock, W.A.S.P. mainman Blackie Lawless resurrects his infamous band after a three year abscence to release the politically charged DOMINATOR. A lot of things have happened in the W.A.S.P. camp since we last heard from the band, the most glaring event is another lineup change: Stet Howland is replaced on the kit by Mike Dupke and Doug Blair replaces Darrell Roberts on lead guitar (except for one song). The other major change is the band’s label…..the previous four albums were released under the Metal-Is/Sanctuary label, now a division of SPV. The band’s deal fell through and the independent Demolition Records added W.A.S.P. to their roster.
DOMINATOR is an album written in direct response to the ongoing U.S./Iraq war but Blackie has stated that it’s not a concept album, more like a collection of similar ideas. One look at the cover art and the liner notes and you get the general idea of the album’s direction. The Iraq war and the war on terrorism is a fresh topic for musicians to draw from to make their personal statement…..take a listen to Megadeth’s UNITED ABOMINATIONS that was also released in 2007, I expect these current events to be an influence on metal for a long time to come. One thing you can always expect from Blackie and company is the need and ability to shock the masses. In the early days, the threw raw meat and desecrated a nun prop on stage, now Blackie is using his lyrics and intelligence to get people talking. One thing is for sure, when Blackie Lawless writes a record he always finds a way to play mind games with his audience be it with the music, the lyrics or both! You never know what to expect.
‘Mercy’ starts the album off to a rocking start with a cool guitar intro, that reminds me of 1985’s ‘Wild Child’, that continues throughtout the song. Blackie doesn’t use his high pitched shriek from the early days but he’s found that mid-range vocal that sounds dangerous and evil but is also very melodic. ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ continues the barrage of high intensity Metal with some really solid drumming from the new drummer Mike Dupke and some intense soloing from current lead guitarist Doug Blair. Wonder who has incited Blackie’s venom this time around? ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ is blistering attack on the current state of the Iraq war with references to big Oil, “Burnin’ Bush’s lie” and the “Halliburton war machine”. The final lyrics “Bastard, bloody bastards” is pure rebellious, out spoken Lawless. ‘Take Me Up’ slows down a little and offers a more emotional performance from the band but retains all the power with a steady bassline from Mike Duda (who has basically carried bass duties in W.A.S.P. since ’97) and superb guitar from Blair. Blackie’s vocals are pure melodic emotion with a little hint of the old school singing from the early days of ‘Cries In The Night’ or ‘Widowmaker’. ‘The Burning Man’ is another fast Metal feast that sounds like it could have easily fit on THE HEADLESS CHILDREN (1989). Doug Blair really shreds all over this track and has become the a serious focal point of the entire album. One of the things I expected from this album was to have a good guitar performance, so far I’m blown away! It’s not surprising though because Doug has been a member of the band on and off since 1992 and he knows exactly what Blackie is looking for.
Over the years, Blackie Lawless has been able to write mid-tempo balladeering epics that have emotion and power. ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’ starts off with a subdued portion of the Civil War tune ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ (‘The Ants Go Marching One By One’ to some of you) but kicks into power epic form with crashing drums and plenty of riffs. The vocal is emotionally charged, you can feel the pain that Blackie is trying to push across. At over 7 minutes long, this is the album’s longest track but it is also it’s best. I look at ‘Heaven’s Blessed’ as sort of a faster companion to ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’ but also as a rival. ‘Heaven’s Blessed’ is faster and a straightforward in-your-face beating with more excellent Blair guitar but, lyrically, it comes down as more greedy whereas the previous song was more humble? ‘Teacher’ is another Iraq war themed song that is fast paced and has some similar guitar tones to ‘Mercy’ and ‘Long, Long Way To Go’ but the solo mid-way through is very impressive as is Dupke’s crashing drum kit. Something I’ve noticed 7 songs in, Blackie’s voice seems to get stronger/better with every song.
‘Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)’ is part two of the epic three songs previous but it’s totally out of place and unnecessary. Maybe the idea is to get the listener back into a somber mood? The Reprise cuts out the heavy guitars and focuses on the vocal so it’s definitely toned down. Good news is that things pick up again with an old school styled rocker with ‘Deal With The Devil’. Fast and furious with another solid performance this time from former guitarist Darrell Roberts. Duda and Dupke drive the song underneath that blazing guitar and Mr. Lawless sounds like the clock has turned back 15 years. If you had to pick a representative track for the album, this could be it, ‘Deal With The Devil’ would have made a great single.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from W.A.S.P. The band’s output has been spotty since their resurgence in 1997 — I enjoyed the evil KILL, FUCK, DIE but ’99’s HELLDORADO was a joke! UNHOLY TERROR (2001) was a solid W.A.S.P. album but I never got around to getting the following year’s DYING FOR THE WORLD. Then there are THE NEON GOD concept albums that I thought were both terrible. Add the constant lineup changes, the upheaval with the label, and another “concept”…..let’s just say I was discouraged, I didn’t even pick this album up until early this year and the record had been out since early 2007 and I’ve been a W.A.S.P. fan since the debut. It just goes to show you that you need to give things a listen and not assume what a band is going to do because DOMINATOR is an excellent album and I am a fool for not picking it up when it came out. The song concepts on the war is real that makes it more appealing to me and the performances from the entire band are solid. The standout performance has to go to guitarist Doug Blair, he created some of the best riffs and solos of the W.A.S.P. catalog. I should also mention that Blackie sounds stronger at the mic than he’s ever been and I was surprised to hear him really belt out some of these songs when he’s been more apt to use his mid-range the last few years. One of the best albums of 2007 that I missed out on…..until now.
Favorite songs: ‘Mercy’, ‘Long, Long Way To Go’, ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black’, ‘The Burning Man’……I like every song on the album but ‘Heaven’s Hung In Black (Reprise)’ counts as filler.