In 1985, a time when hair metal and the excess of the Sunset Strip was just beginning to hit its peak, W.A.S.P. delivered their second full length, The Last Command. For this outing, the outside influences began to seep in, with ballads and melodic sensibilities that set the songs apart from the rawer sound of the band’s debut. That doesn’t mean it’s any less of an album; in fact it’s my favorite in W.A.S.P.’s discography. It’s heavy and catchy, and has this rough and rowdy mentality to it that all combined for a truly amazing album.
“Wild Child” kicks things off with a free-spirited biker getting some extracurricular activities from an otherwise entangled woman. The combination of Chris Holmes and Randy Piper on guitars makes for an expansive-sounding opening — a real, wind-in-your-hair kind of feeling. The song is, for the most part, a laid-back rocker that kicks into high gear for the incredibly catchy and memorable chorus sections. This album was the last to feature Piper, a founding member of the band.
Later, “Ballcrusher” and “Jack Action” fit perfectly with the band’s rowdy vibe, both rocking equally hard with bluesy driven riffs and downright infectious hooks. Then-new drummer Steve Riley makes these songs all the more violent sounding with his kick-snare-cymbal attack. The downtrodden “Widowmaker” is possibly my favorite ballad of the ’80s; the lyrical content transcends any hair metal tune of the time and Blackie pushes his pipes to new levels. And of course the solo towards the end of the song — with both guitars playing off one another — is a stroke of genius. Don’t worry, though — the high-octane side comes back right away with “Blind in Texas,” and all of the gang choruses and melodic hooks that were an instant hit when this album was released.
“Cries in the Night” is another excellent tune and exemplifies what I’ve always enjoyed about W.A.S.P.’s ballads: how extremely darkly they come across. This one actually has a hint of doom interwoven in between the searing solos and slower paced drums. Blackie’s vocal range tends toward the lower register, accentuating his signature growl sound — reminiscent of a less extreme and melodic version of later, more aggressive avenues of metal.
The album closes with the straight ahead, hard-driving trio of “The Last Command,” “Running Wild in the Streets,” and the raunchy “Sex Drive” — all solid tunes on their own, but truly excellent in combination with each other. In particular, “Running…” has never gotten the credit it deserves; admittedly it wasn’t an immediate favorite, but each successive listen endeared it more and more to me.
Unfortunately after the band’s third full-length, Inside the Electric Circus, they started to lose me, and I haven’t really been able to connect to anything they’ve done since. That doesn’t at all diminish the awesomeness of The Last Command, though. Take a listen below and find yourself a new-old favorite: