Few people had seen this coming: that W.A.S.P. would make one of the best and most thought-provoking albums of 2015.
Then again, few would have ever imagined that Blackie Lawless, the man who sang Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) – the 1984 debut single that made W.A.S.P. the most infamous rock band in America – would in his 50s turn to Christianity and decide that he could never sing that song again.
Golgotha, the 15th W.A.S.P. album, is named after the hill on which Christ was crucified. The album is filled with religious imagery: sin and redemption, false idols, gods of war. “The messages in this album are based on my personal faith perspective,” Lawless says. But he hasn’t turned W.A.S.P. into the new Stryper. “I don’t preach,” he states, pointedly.
The intellectual weight and philosophical depth of this album is not without precedent. At the turn of the 90s, Lawless redefined W.A.S.P. with two ambitious concept albums – The Headless Children and The Crimson Idol – that were a quantum leap from shock-rock to art-rock. With Golgotha he took a different approach. “This is not a concept album,” he says. “There was no grand plan. I realised: the album will eventually start to talk to you and tell you where it’s going.”
It was a long time in the making, begun in 2011 and delayed for a year after Lawless broke a leg in an accident on his ranch in California in May 2013. There was, however, an unexpected benefit to this. “I had time to refine my ideas,” he explains. The result is his best album since The Crimson Idol, with the classic W.A.S.P. sound evident in the thundering anthem Scream, the measure of his spiritual awakening powerfully expressed in the epic title track.
“When Christ was crucified,” Lawless says, “there were two other guys crucified with him. So I wrote the song Golgotha from the perspective of one of the thieves. He’s hanging there, he knows he’s going to die, and he says to Christ: ‘Are you really who you say you are?’ And then he cries out: ‘Jesus I need you now.’ Because here’s a man who realises that in moments he’s stepping into eternity. That will make you think.”