Is The Headless Children the most underrated metal album of all time? Yes almost certainly. The Headless Children is a classic (if not a definitive example of 1980’s Heavy Metal), but a record that never gained the respect that it deserved despite containing some of metals greatest and innovative moments.
The Headless Children is the finest hour of Blackie Lawless and WASP. A record of incredible riffs, solos, melody and surprising lyrical content and meaning. WASP’S 1992 Crimson Idol is also a great album but an album that piggy backed on the new maturing musical direction of its predecessor. For Crimson Idol is a record of ego, self introspection, and indulgence, whilst in comparison, The Headless Children is a record of energy, talent and impact. The moment when Blackie Lawless decided that he had something interesting to say. The moment when WASP graduated from being a “ Hammer House of Horror” version of Spinal Tap. The moment when WASP, a band ( who were favourite targets of the book burning brown shirts of Tipper Gore’s PMRC) spawned into one of metals finest bands. The Headless Children was when WASP , Rock and Roll jesters became true Metal Gods.
And lets not forget to mention.. “Chris Holmes Lead Guitar”.
Chris Holmes swimming pool appearance on the decline of Western Civilisation part two is infamous. It is scary, because retrospectively amongst all the heavy rocking folk having a great time, Chris Holmes did not look like he was a great time. He looked like a man trying to have a good time. It is the “Chewbacca in the Rye” reputation that distracts from the skill of guitar playing of Chris Holmes. On The Headless Children. Holmes is at his very best. The big riffs of The Heretic and the Headless Children, the solo at the end of The Headless Children, the intro to Forever Free, and the rhythm guitar at the end of Thunder head. Awesome proper heavy metal guitar. Unique and simply overlooked by the pretentious music press of the time. Chris Holmes is one of metals greatest.
However since I started writing this review we at the Find My Band Dungeon Bar were honoured with an exclusive interview with Chris Holmes. Two interesting Chris Holmes facts. 1 He was not paid for his creativity on the Headless Children which given his input is a monster of a fact, and 2, Chris Holmes believes that the best of Chris Holmes is yet to come on the forthcoming release. “ Shitting Bricks”… A record that no doubt one of the punters here in the bar will buy and we look forward to hearing with some anticipation.
Released in April 1989 The Headless Children is the fourth studio album by WASP. The album was initially a slow seller but (according to Blackie Lawless) is today the most successful album the band produced in terms of units sold. The drumming duties for the album were handled by former Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali, and the record featured two of the band’s most highly acclaimed songs, the classic Heavy Metal power ballad “Forever Free” and a cover of the Who’s “The Real Me”
The album starts with the “The Heretic” . Its fast, its heavy, it very metal. The 7 minutes of pure musical ethereal rock and roll fly past. The track contains a fantastic solo which is a sign of things to come, and this track leaves the listener in no doubt that WASP have matured , changed direction and that new direction is sign posted “MORE HEAVY”
Track two is the successful single the Real Me, and then we have track three. The title track. WOW. The main riff fools the listener to believing that this is a slower paced track, which it is, until the solos start and then everything gets very interesting. This is Chris Holmes at his very best. This solo is fast, it is heavy and it’s creative. But this is not twiddly twiddly random shredding. The notes work and combined with the pounding sound of double bass drums of the rhythm section deliver something unique. A wall of sound. A metal wall of sound.
Thunderhead the next track is another classic that starts with a soft piano based melody and ends with a “free form guitar exploration”. With a big sing-along of a chorus this track again demonstrated the bands new found musical creativity. Thunderhead is WASPS “Suicide Solution”. Like the classic from the Blizzard of Ozz, it’s a song about a pretty serious subject that ends the first side and sets everything up very nicely for side two.
Side two starts with the single Mean Man. Apparently a Biographical song about Chris Holmes. The album version contains a few too many expletives for radio play so a more accessible “radio friendly” version was also produced. Track 6 is The Neutron Bomber a very catchy song written about Ronald Reagan the late President of the USA, and then a change in vibe. A slow down, a time to mellow. The acoustic Mephisto Waltz, and the classic Power Ballard “Forever Free”.
“Forever Free” is one of the 80’s greats. Released at the end of the decade before all changed in the 90’s, Forever Free is one of 80’s metals last roses in bloom. That classic combination of slow guitar acoustic intro, rising to a full on heavy metal crescendo.
Time for chillaxing has now long past, and the upbeat tribute to Harley-Davidson “Maneater follows”. The album ends with “Rebel in the FDG”. Another pacing full on metal classic but a track to end an album as opposed to start. If you know what I mean. More encore than overture.
I am not sure why this album is so underrated. Looking back 1989 was the era of Guns and Roses. Maiden were having a year off and in the UK the metal audience was becoming fragmented. With Punters caught between the UK thrash scene and the soulless, hopeless, talentless UK glam bands with their endless number of Poison clones.
I suspect that despite the relatively high media profile many people simply missed this record. Reviews of this album were not as good as they should have been. People heard (and enjoyed) the singles but decided not to take the punt on the LP. A MASSIVE MISTAKE and a mistake that in the world of streaming and I Tunes when you can easily try before you buy would not happen .
If you’re going to buy one WASP album then this is it. If you don’t own it, pay for it and download it….My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen we present. THE HEADLESS CHILDREN