Many regard “Crimson Idol” (1992) as the magnum opus of American heavy metal band, WASP. The sixth studio album for WASP, “Idol” is one of the most important heavy metal albums, ever. Emotively charged, “Idol” reflects a turning point in the life of WASP lead singer, Blackie Lawless.
Lawless, born Steven Duren, in Staten Island, New York, founded WASP, in 1982, with Rik Fox, Randy Piper and Tony Richards. The name, WASP, got much attention. Was it an acronym for “We are Satan’s People” or “We are Sexual Perverts”?
Conceived and recorded in the early 1990s, “Crimson Idol” stands out for its vivid emotional charge. Essentially, it’s a solo project for Lawless; he wrote each song. He used the name, WASP solely for its marketing value. None of the other members of WASP took part in the making of “Idol.”
Tours in support of a CD usually follow closely on the release. Fifteen years went by before Lawless and WASP managed a minor tour for “Crimson Idol,” in 1997. A video for the CD also released in 1997.
The main character, of the album narrative, is Jonathan Steel. He abandons his family that mistreated him. He seeks atonement and happiness in becoming a rock star.
Jonathan doesn’t find happiness. His hopes of a family reconciliation are dashed. He tries to commit suicide, hanging himself with the strings of an electric guitar.
The story of Jonathan Steele unfolds in ten songs, varying in mood and tempo, once again giving credit to versatility of Blackie Lawless. If you aren’t convinced of his musical talent, there’s no greater confirmation than “The Crimson Idol,” with its mind-numbing combination of complex drumming, heartbreaking guitar solos and, of course, his earth-shattering vocals.
Only someone no artistic sensitivity whatsoever, could have anything against this album. Paradoxically, Lawless did not want to release this album for the widest public; maybe he has no artistic sensitivities. Finally, he gave in to fan pressure; if it hasn't been for them, heavy metal music would be much poorer.
Lawless left aside the traditional shock-rock style the band was famous for, and adopted a much more emotional approach in this album. The outcome is fabulous. Each song charged with emotion, the blend of his unique vocals with guitar solos by Bob Kulick guitar solos often cause fans to cry. The album’s main song, “The Idol,” is truly the essence of Lawless’ maturity as a musician and a songwriter, encompassing emotion and feeling few musicians managed to attain.
To my mind, “The Crimson Idol is one of those works that defy categorization. You just can’t label it, you can’t pin it to a certain genre or assign it to any group. I guess this is what makes a truly important piece of art: labeling it would be mistreating it and failing to acknowledge the true quality of the work.
“The Crimson Idol” is a rare album that can bridge the gap between metal and non-metal fans. You don’t need to be an avid metal head to enjoy this album; it manages to appeal to everyone without sacrificing musical quality. This fact and the balance between old-school rock and experimentation that Blackie Lawless managed to achieve in ““The Crimson Idol” makes me consider it one of the most underrated albums in the history of rock music.
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