To be released on March 25, 2016 (Mighty Music)
Before I give out what will be one negative album review, I want to make a point that Chris Holmes has played guitar on some of my favorite albums of all-time. W.A.S.P.‘s self-titled debut album, The Last Command and The Headless Children are simply absolutely brilliant albums that I still really enjoy more than 25 to 30 years later. W.A.S.P.‘s Inside The Electric Circus is in my eyes a very underrated album and contains some amazing tracks. Holmes was a part of all four of those albums and for that reason alone, I will always be interested to hear whatever he comes up hoping that the “magic” will come back one more time. I have to think that it’s on the strength of those albums and some of the other subsequent W.A.S.P. albums that Holmes was a part of that the giant of a man has a record label behind him and still a lot of interest despite the mostly mediocre songs that he has come up with on his own.
Holmes‘ new album CHP is actually a regurgitation of the “best” of his two prior solo albums given that the ten tracks on CHP consist of four songs from 2012’s Nothing To Lose, six tracks from 2015’s Shitting Bricks and two live tracks. I have never heard those two solo albums in their entirety — I never felt compelled to — but I did see and hear the videos in support of those albums. The first video for the song “They All Lie And Cheat” that Holmes released with him handling the lead vocals was so bad that it appears that Holmes has pulled the video, which is now no longer available for viewing on YouTube. The next track to get the video treatment was “Way To Be” which was a lot better than “They All Lie And Cheat” but still a subpar song to listen to. “Let It Roar” from the Shitting Bricks album showed promise and seemed to have Holmes adopting a lot of the old W.A.S.P. sounds. “Born Work Die” wasn’t bad either with what sounded like a slide guitar. Even “Get With It” wasn’t bad with some decent melodies and strong guitar tones and sounds.
However, the one common denominator with all five of the songs featured on those videos is that Holmes simply can’t sing. Not only can he not sing, he is a horrible singer at best. It’s simply painful to hear him sing… With CHP, I was hoping that despite Holmes‘ vocals, there would be a few tracks worth listening to. From the first few seconds on “Loser” which opens CHP, I quickly realized that (a) Holmes‘ best songs had likely been featured in video format already; and, (b) Holmes‘ “singing” would make the album very painful to listen to. Holmes‘ lyrics aren’t the most sophisticated either… Despite my overwhelming urge to stop listening to “Loser” and not venture any further with CHP, I soldiered on. The guitar intro and melodies on “They All Lie And Cheat” are quite nice until Holmes opens his mouth. From then on, its downhill real fast and the song never recovers. Although “Way To Be” is a subpar song, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air after the first two horrible tracks. The song actually shines simply because it is following “Loser” and “They All Lie And Cheat” and since Holmes‘ singing is kept to a minimum. “Down In The Hole” goes back into painful territory — terrible “singing” and excessive use of what sounds like a slide guitar. After the first four tracks representing the album Nothing To Lose now over, it’s time to hear the tracks from Shitting Bricks that have made their way onto CHP.
“Shitting Bricks” is first and actually a half decent rocker. Holmes‘ “singing” definitely benefits from a faster paced rocker. “Get With It”, “Let It Roar” and “Born Work Die” are next and all are pretty good as previously mentioned. “502” again ventures into painful listening territory with way too much going on including sirens, some policeman voice talking and some subpar “singing” from Holmes. The ending of the song isn’t bad though and the guitar sounds remind me of early W.A.S.P. circa 1985-1989. “TFMF” is more of the same from Holmes — terrible singing and decent guitar playing. The one smart move was including two live tracks at the end because “Shitting Bricks” and “Let It Roar” sound pretty good live and Holmes‘ voice seems tolerable live.
Even though Holmes has delivered for the most part, one awful and at times unlistenable (mostly due to his “vocals”) album, or “the best of” from two presumably and likely awful albums, I would still go see him play live hoping to hear a few W.A.S.P. classics and because after all, it’s Chris “Fucking” Holmes. I suppose that I am still hoping that the “magic” will somehow reappear. That being said, with W.A.S,P.‘s frontman Blackie Lawless still coming up with some good to great albums, it strongly appears that Lawless and not Holmes was the key architect behind all those great W.A.S.P. albums. Not all is lost for Holmes as simply abstaining from handling the lead vocals might result in a pretty good album from the iconic guitarist.
02. They All Lie And Cheat
03. Way To Be
04. Down In The Hole
05. Shitting Bricks
06. Get With It
07. Let It Roar
08. Born Work Die
11. Shitting Bricks (live)
12. Let it Roar (live)
Chris Holmes – lead vocals, guitars
Phil Taylor – drums (1, 2, 3, 4)
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, February 2016