W.A.S.P have always been a band which seem to go down well, despite being, at times, on the borderline of being a glam band, and, as such, the target of a great deal of stigma. Fortunately, it's always been relatively apparent that there's a lot more to the band than that, from their early days, right up to, and beyond, the album on which I shall focus; The Crimson Idol.
The band manage to bring a very earthbound tale, that of the rise and fall of a rockstar, the "Crimson Idol" from whom the album takes it's name, but in typical W.A.S.P style, the music sounds oddly epic, juxtaposed enticingly, and fantastically with the sleaze, glamour and despair of the character's journey. There's a good balance between good songs and narrative, in that you can follow the storyline well, but it doesn't entirely prevent excellent stand-alone songs from existing, and it can safely be said, W.A.S.P's record on stand-alone songs is nothing if not outstanding. Not being a rockstar, I wouldn't know, but to my lay-man ears, the album seems to perfectly encapsulate the highs and lows of rockstar life - Manic, energetic songs are punctuated by the occasional heart-touching ballad or soft section, such as "Hold on to my Heart" which is one of the most brimming-with-emotion songs in my entire music collection, and I don't hesitate to theorise that Blackie's own experiences of the highs and lows of his career has shaped the song, and the whole album, a great deal.
The recurrent lyrics are nicely done, and make the catchiness of the songs immense - you know many of the chorus-like lyrics reasonably well without having listened to the song before, as I found on my first listen to the album as a whole; the sadness subtly evoked by "I just wanna be the Crimson Idol" melting away into "I don't wanna be the Crimson Idol" really gives something to the albums darkness and sadness. I can safely say that this is one of the most turbulent and emotional albums I've listened to, and I'm very much smitten with it. Perhaps, at this point, I should actually describe something other than the album's atmosphere; The playing is great, and although the album is darker and deeper than the bands earlier works, it's still the same W.A.S.P, albeit older and wiser - perhaps refreshed by the change in direction from raucous to expressive. The sadness element has always been present in the band's sound, taking them a cut above their peers, but on this album it's perfected.
I'm not an expert on concept albums, and I could certainly benefit from hearing a few more, but damn, I think I can recognise a good one when I hear it. It's well put together, filled with atmosphere, and truly feels like a journey, something which many albums promise, but few deliver. It's a sad story, and a fantastic album.
"The Crimson Idol" earns at least 9/10.
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