Review Summary: It shouldn't work but it does, a Glam Metal rock opera telling the story of the highs and low of stardom.
The Crimson Idol (1992)
Blackie Lawless: Vocals, Guitars, Bass Guitars, Keyboards.
Bob Kulick: Lead Guitars
Frankie Banali and Stet Howland : Drums
It's 1992. Motley Crue have been forgotten, Def Leppard are yet to release an album as strong as their early works, and grunge bands such as Nirvana are leading the way in terms or record sales. Its' out with the glam and in with the grunge as many hard partying and good time loving 80's bands hold on for dear life only to be forgotten. By this time, W.A.S.P was as good as dead. Vocalist, Guitarist and songwriter Blackie Lawless was the only remaining member, it looked like it was time to put the guitar into storage and move on. However he didn't do that, instead he was now free to pursue his own creative ambitions and ultimately make the album he has always wanted to make.
That album was the Crimson Idol, and this is its story...
The introductory track 'The Titanic Overture' simply sets the mood of the album. A soft acoustic guitar along with some soft vocals shortly lead into a raging electric guitars and drum assault for the remainder of the song. Apart from the beginning and the end, the song is simply an instrumental and after several listens it is apparent that the music is from other songs on the album. The song then leads into the albums first real track ' The Invisible Boy'.
Being a concept album, the album tells a story from start to finish. The plot is basically the ups and downs of being a rock star. The first few tracks deal with the lead character Jonathan and his childhood and feelings of isolation which in turn leads to him running away from home at age 16. Jonathan then dreams of being a rock star and finally getting signed and touring the world, ultimately becoming the rock god he has always dreamed of, or as he calls himself 'The Crimson Idol'. This newfound lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll has its perks for a while but ultimately leading Jonathan back to his original feelings of emptiness and abandonment leading him to yell out for "Love to set him free"
Whilst the subject matter of this record isn't the most uplifting concept in the world, the way Blackie constructed the songs and themes to reoccur is truly miles ahead of his other "write one hit single, loads of filler" hard rockin' peers of the late 1980's. Every song on here has a purpose and most have a memorable chorus. 'Murders In The New Morgue' (arguably the best song here) has a chorus that Motley Crue would wish they had written, and songs like 'I Am One' has a catchy chant and chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on an Iron Maiden album. It is this sense of catchy hooks as well as moving the plot forwards that makes The Crimson Idol such an enjoyable listen, and finding the reoccurring themes, verses, lyrics that pop up all around the album only adds the amount of time this album will stay in your stereo.
Not all the songs are your typical fist in the air, guitars up to 11 rock out. In fact the album is far from that. Most songs have a short acoustic interlude, and there is always the typical ballad that makes an appearance of two, worth mentioning in the second last song 'Hold On to my Heart'. On first listen it appears to be you typical power cheese ballad, but in conjunction with the plot it’s a really soothing and heartfelt song to lead us into the finale. The final song 'The Great Misconceptions of me' brings the album to a close with a bang. Think Broadway musical with lots of hair. We get a soft ballad with Blackie declaring "I don't wanna be the crimson Idol!" before the songs explodes bringing with it all the themes from previous songs. You will hear most of the albums chorus's, some reoccurring lyrics and familiar riffs but the way it's all constructed makes it very effective and the album couldn't end a better way.
No album is perfect, and this is no exception. Considering this was recorded in 1992, one would think it would sound better than it does. The drums have a very nice sound to them; however the guitars just don't have the punch required. You can definitely hear it, but you can't really make out many of the riffs, it’s almost like it's there just because it has to be. With a little bit more work, and some look into their guitar set up the guitars really could have shined and been the centre point of the album that they should've been. It's also worth mentioning Blackie's voice, whilst I personally enjoy it, many people will think it seems a bit dated and not too original. the best way to describe it would be a mix of Bruce Dickinson and Dio, but nowhere near as powerful. The only other negative I can think of is that it's all down to matter of opinion. Some people may enjoy finding the reoccurring themes and chorus's, others may think the song writing is lacking because of the constant repetition.
In short, the album is a must hear for fans of the genre. Fans of much heavier music won't find much to enjoy here, and fans of much more complex concept albums may find this album a bore. I do recommend you all give it a listen though because every song has a good hook, and some lyrics are quite witty and memorable. I have included some recommended tracks below, however I must stress that the album becomes much more enjoyable after multiple listens once you see how all the songs link with each other and the song structures really shine through.
-The Invisible Boy
- Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
-I Am One
Hold On To My Heart