Unholy Terror


Metal-Is Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Blackie Lawless is known to be a songwriter of conviction. Whether it has been dealing with the skeletons in his closet ( The Crimson Idol - note I'm not claiming it's purely autobiographical), sheer raw anger and emotion ( K.F.D.) or raising his middle finger towards what we've been taught is "prim and proper", Lawless and W.A.S.P. have remained one of the most interesting bands in the metal genre to follow over the years.

So when it was hinted that Lawless was going to take on organized religion with the group's latest disc, Unholy Terror, I became nervously excited, wondering what kind of a spin Lawless would put on his experiences. I've lived with an advance copy of this disc for two months now, and I keep coming back to the same conclusion: the controversy is much ado about nothing. Unholy Terror is not W.A.S.P.'s best album, though it is enjoyable nonetheless.

If anything, Unholy Terror is a tame album, at least in W.A.S.P.'s standards. The two-song suite of "Unholy Terror" and "Charisma" are the tracks that have the strongest ties to Lawless's views on religion - as well as the frightening power that certain individuals in history have wielded over people. While there are a few jabs taken at religion (namely the Vatican and "holy wars"), Lawless seems to be warning people to guard themselves against the evil that lies in the charming powers some groups possess. It's less blasphemous than it is thought-provoking, and is a well-written piece of music that does rank with W.A.S.P.'s best work.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Where the weakness on Unholy Terror comes in is that these two songs are sandwiched between some lesser tracks. "Let It Roar" opens with a powerful enough guitar blast, but is noteworthy mostly due to the absence of a true guitar solo. "Hate To Love Me" could well be Lawless's view of certain people, but just does not have the conviction in the songwriting that so many of his compositions over the years have. Likewise, "Who Slayed Baby Jane?" tries to go for the shock value, but comes off sounding like an Alice Cooper toss-away.

This isn't to say that Unholy Terror is a disc of castaway tracks. The instrumental "Euphoria" dares to present a new side of W.A.S.P. to the fans - namely, the chance to focus on the music without the wailing guitars or Lawless's instantly recognizable banshee scream. In fact, this selection is quite enjoyable, proving there is true musicianship behind the Marshall stacks. And if W.A.S.P. ever was looking for another hit single, "Evermore" follows in the footsteps of their previous charting song "Forever Free". Borrowing a page from Led Zeppelin's "Thank You," one almost expects Lawless to break into a Robert Plant impression at times. Still, it's an enjoyable track.

Now that this album is out, you know that some pinhead is going to blame the next school shooting on a song like "Loco-Motive Man," despite the fact that Lawless vehemently states in the liner notes he's against such acts of terror. Instead, Lawless tries to place himself in the mind of one such individual, trying to discover just what pushes someone over the edge and into the state of madness that leads a person to commit such acts. He doesn't quite hit the mark with this one, but Lawless should be applauded for making the effort and trying to wake people up to a problem that just didn't exist 20 to 30 years ago.

Unholy Terror occasionally disappoints, and always seems to come up with something to redeem itself musically. Lawless and crew should be proud of the strong selections on this disc, but they should also be careful that they're not letting their musical guard down. It's too easy to slip into a pattern of mediocrity, and one can only hope the weak tracks on Unholy Terror aren't a sign of things to come.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal-Is Records, and is used for informational purposes only.