Surprise, surprise, Blacky Lawless and Co. are having fun again. Blackie has been around with his band for over twenty three years now, and however bumpy his ride has been, he has lost none of his charm. So “Dominator” is a new album, what do we get? Well no surprises but a little more maturity, better production values, a couple of superb stand out tracks that could easily be Dio era Sabbath and some filler.
Kicking off with a straightforward rocker in “Mercy”, the album keeps gaining momentum song after song. “Long, Long Way to Go” starts with a simple riff that holds Blackie's tremendously melodic vocal refrains throughout its course, enhanced with a great solo half way through. “Take Me Up” builds slowly into a brooding melody, and “The Burning Man” takes the listener back quite a few years. Now, Blackie sounds great as usual. His voice never seems to lose its edge, and I got to hand that to him. Where most others become softer and weaker over the years, he still manages to maintain that nasty edge that has become his trademark.
Yet it is the centrepiece of the album that offers the biggest surprise. “Heaven's Hung in Black” is probably the best ballad that this band has ever written, and one of the best rock ballads you probably have ever heard. However exaggerated this sounds, it's true. The song deals with the thoughts of an injured and dying soldier, and it is emotionally, lyrically and musically very powerful. It is also structured in such a way that keeps the audience fully immersed something that is not easy for a seven minute long ballad. This is due in no small part to Doug Blair's amazing riffing, which continually changes in the course of the song and offers plenty to keep you coming back again and again.
The rest of the album is not quite as interesting as the first half, but it can still stand proudly. The quality of the first half is so high that from a point on it really doesn't matter what the last few songs sound like. The closing track encapsulates perfectly what W.A.S.P. do best, quality riff, great chorus and neat solo building to a tight and fast paced finish. Great track, more of those please.
All in all, “Dominator” is an album any artist would be proud of, let alone one that has nothing else to prove. It is supremely melodic, well executed and concise, has one of the best ballads ever written, and it also has something most other bands don't: a fucking awesome vocalist! I guess what bothers me the most about this record is the thought of how good it could have been, had they managed to emphasize the more interesting bits, and skimmed away the obvious filler material. But I guess this is what it has come to over the years, even though it's hard to accept for a long term fan.
2. Long, Long Way to Go
3. Take Me Up
4. The Burning Man
5. Heaven's Hung in Black
6. Heaven's Blessed
8. Heaven's Hung in Black (Reprise)
9. Deal With the Devil