How can you not love the debut album from California madmen W.A.S.P.? Pretty sure it’s a proven scientific fact that it’s impossible for any loud-loving longhair to not get at least one goosebump during songs like the absolutely amazing “I Wanna Be Somebody” or “The Torture Never Stops.” When the band dropped this in 1984 it was shocking: this legitimately freaked people out at the time, quaint as it may seem now. And, sure, jaw-dropper “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” was dropped from the final track listing due to everyone flipping out, but the album didn’t suffer for it, the band’s songwriting, energy levels, and all-around danger cranked out on this classic. Decibel‘s Chris Dick recently spent over two years getting a story together to induct this album in our Hall of Fame in our September 2016 issue (which you can purchase here); as an addendum to Dick’s excellent work, take a journey through the album’s songs here, ranked from worst to best.
10. The Flame
Three songs in to W.A.S.P. and we get to the first song the average punter stumbling down the road wouldn’t be able to sing the chorus of if you cornered him and demanded it happen (uh, not that I’ve ever done that, really), and there’s a reason: the energy levels dip quite a bit for this suspicious rocker, which takes the party vibe the band occasionally dabbled in and amped it to 11, the song fun but forgettable melodic hard rock, the chorus almost awesome but kinda not, the bridge just sort of there, Lawless’ always-on delivery the only thing stopping it from being a total dud.
A cool mid-tempo moody rocker four-fifths of the way through side one was not an unusual choice in the ’80s, and here “B.A.D.” fits the bill perfectly, the highlight of the song, oddly enough, being the expressive and downright cool guitar solo. The chorus has that W.A.S.P. flair too, the song overall not having enough going on in the energy department to kick it up any higher than ninth place, but a good effort regardless.
8. On Your Knees
You can’t really overemphasize the importance of track eight on a ten-track album back in the days of side one and side two. It was either where energy died or the band picked up the pace. Some jokers tried to put a ballad there before storming off to battle with two rockers, but W.A.S.P. ain’t no wimps, putting “On Your Knees” in the risky position of being a brisk, speedy melodic rocker introducing the album’s final two. It’s got a good “metal guy laugh” in it, and a killer chorus to boot. Only down so low on the list because the rest of the album is so unbearably good.
7. School Daze
The band owes us an apology for that goofy song title, which almost single-handedly foreshadowed what Twisted Sister would be all about four albums in, but I suppose it got some teens on their side in ’84. The tune itself is way better than the title promises, and while it sticks to familiar W.A.S.P. formula—moody verse, anthemic chorus—the band were so on at this point that even the most formulaic songs are awesome. Lawless puts in one of his best vocal performances here, too, and that’s saying a lot, as this is an album full of great ones.
Cool idea here, an almost Venom-ous slow stomp of a verse bashed up against a melodic W.A.S.P. chorus that gets you punching the sky and racing off to conquer warriors or to find bananas at the grocery store that are just the right ripeness… man, whatever your daily battle is, here’s a tune to help you out. Arguably the album’s heaviest song, and that post-guitar-solo breakdown part hammers the point home: W.A.S.P. totally rule. Five more songs to go here; enthusiasm is going to reach a fever pitch.
5. Sleeping (In the Fire)
That acoustic intro had lots of longhairs nervously looking around before a little too quickly announcing to mom and dad that, look, this real music. I remember the song title scaring me as a kid, plus this eerie slow-burner name-drops Lucifer, making the first two songs on side two of this album “evil” once we got through the awesome but more hard-partying side one, the band proving that in 1984 they really had all metalhead bases covered. Another smooth guitar solo here, and I still absolutely love that chorus. Where’s my car? I gotta go listen to this loud, now.
Smartly placed as song one, side two, the band started off the considerably darker (lyrically, anyway) second half of this album with “Hellion,” an absolutely terrifying (well, in ’84, if you were seven, which I was) nearing-speed-metal-and-nearing-thrash-metal song which is really neither of those and is entirely W.A.S.P., and entirely awesome. The evil lyrical content everyone was horrified would happen happened here, even though I think it’s sort of a song about how metal is awesome. Man, win-win there. Killer tune.
3. The Torture Never Stops
It’s so good. The chorus of “The Torture Never Stops” is so incredibly good. How was W.A.S.P. coming up with this stuff? This album has some of the best metal choruses ever, and this one is a great example of that. And they closed off the album with this! For most bands, this would be the killer opening track, and W.A.S.P. have the balls—and the songs—to save it for last. Features the line “You’re hanging by your balls” as well as “Your master sucks the juice.” As kids, we didn’t know if this was about drink boxes, tennis, or bondage, but I think I’ve got it figured out now. Either way, an absolute drop-dead metal classic. And it places at number three? This is a very good album.
2. L.O.V.E. Machine
Yeah, I H.A.T.E. all that acronym stuff going on here too, but how’s that for a chorus? Even if you haven’t listened to this in a decade, you know the chorus. But the verses are just as great, Lawless’ voice at this point totally unstoppable, the band’s knack for writing songs both catchy and moody a thing of beauty. This song perfectly encapsulates all that was great about ’80s metal in one memorable package that makes you feel good—damn good—to be alive. Can I say I L.O.V.E. this song? Thanks, and sorry.
1. I Wanna Be Somebody
Was there ever any doubt? Sure, this album has some stiff competition, but this right here is an all-time classic metal anthem, and that’s not something you come across too often. Plus, the first verse starts two seconds into the song! And it was the first song on the album. That’s how it’s done: no time for screwing around, and the first chorus comes in at a mere 43 seconds, which is great: the verses rule, but the chorus is just unbelievable. This isn’t just the best song on this album, it’s one of the best metal songs ever. It’s almost impossible to not believe Lawless as he screams out “I want shiny cars and dirty money/lots of rock and roll/I will live in fame and die in flames/I’m never getting old.” Scratch that in my tombstone and toss me to the side of the road, man. I’m done.