A Devil’s Dozen – Danzig

It’s a safe bet that hordes of metal fans were first introduced to Glenn Danzig’s golden pipes via Metallica, as early photos of the group always seemed to find at least one member sporting a Misfits t-shirt. Those who chose to investigate discovered The Misfits’ violent, yet catchy horror-punk had a great deal of crossover appeal. Glenn made even further inroads with his next band, Samhain which carried the Misfits horror-punk sound into even darker realms that bordered on metal.

In 1987, Glenn finally took the plunge into full-on heavy metal, enlisting long-time Samhain bassist Eerie Von, latter-day Samhain guitarist John Christ and veteran punk drummer Chuck Biscuits to form the band that bears his surname.

Over the course of four albums with the original line-up, Danzig played a bare-bones brand of brooding, bluesy heavy metal that harkened back to the genre’s roots and stood out amongst the thrash and death metal that held sway at the time. With Glenn’s powerful and unique vocals, tight songs and tight performances, the band gradually built a devoted following and even managed, somehow, to score a big MTV hit with a “live” version of “Mother” from the groups Thrall/Demonsweatlive EP in 1993.

Following the somewhat uneven, but still worthwhile Danzig 4, everything turned to shit. Already wounded by the departure of Biscuits before 4’s release, Christ and Von followed suit after completing the album’s tour. Glenn then decided he wanted to be Trent Reznor, and the resulting album, Blackacidevil, recorded with a new lineup was primarily comprised of useless industrial bullshit. Glenn pulled his head out of his ass eventually, and, over the years since, has made some respectable music, but the magic of the original lineup has never been recaptured.

With the spirit of ’87-’94 in mind, we present to you a Devil’s Dozen of Danzig.

 • • • • •

THIRTEEN

[Danzig 6:66: Satans Child, 1999]

“It’s gonna be a bad-ass folk/blues song called ‘Thirteen,’” Glenn Danzig said when asked about writing a song for Johnny Cash’s American Recordings album. I don’t know why I remember that quote. Anyway, five years later, Danzig decided to offer up his vision of it on 6:66 Satan’s Child. Surprisingly, the whole thing works. Granted, the subdued goth-country clashes with the heavier sounds heard on the rest of the album. But, the lyrical theme of a hard living outlaw translates smoothly to the Danzig mold, painting a grim picture of a doombringer wandering a barren landscape.

[Dave Pirtle]

 • • • • •

LEFT HAND BLACK

[Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, 1992]

The first half of How the Gods Kill is a loaded with somber dirges. Sure, there’s some swagger brewing, but it’s a slow swell—even the relative burner, “Bodies,” is inflicted with a ghastly pallor. But mid-record, Biscuits and Christ really let things fly. As the tag-team partner to the rollicking “Dirty Black Summer,” “Left Hand Black” is III’s token brawler. This is the “yeah, we’re on steroids, so don’t fuck with us,” cut, and their trademark, bone-dry mix lends it the menace to match its bluster. III might be the most complete Danzig record, and this is the track that demands maximum volume.

[Jordan Campbell]

 • • • • •

MOTHER

[Danzig, 1988]

Alright, one of the last things the metal world needed was another person writing about “Mother,” easily Glenn’s biggest hit and one of the most massive crossover hits in heavy metal history. But away from all of the radio play, single re-releases, and maximum financial whoring, “Mother” is a great song. Scratch that. “Mother” is one of the brashest displays of rock and roll machismo, lay-down-the-gauntlet supremacy, and the-fight-is-won-before-it-begins confidence ever laid to tape. The riffs, the vocals, and the solos are all iconic, but it is the attitude that makes this an undeniable classic. Glenn isn’t going to take your daughter home tonight, because she is already waiting in his hot tub.

[Zach Duvall]

 • • • • •

SISTINAS

[Danzig III: How The Gods Kill, 1992]

Glenn Danzig has long been called the “Evil Elvis,” and nowhere is his Presley-influenced croon more front-and-center than on this Orbison-ian ballad from How The Gods Kill. Written during a break from tracking Chuck Biscuits’ drums, “Sistinas” is like nothing the band had recorded up to that point — built on muted guitar arpeggios, tremolo shimmers, and moody minor chords, it avoids entirely the blustery blues-metal of the earlier Danzig efforts, instead relying upon timpanis and strings to achieve its darkness. Subtle, sublime, surprising, and sorrowful, “Sistinas” is Danzig’s least characteristic and yet his most timeless tune.

[Andrew Edmunds]

 • • • • •

GOING DOWN TO DIE

[Danzig 4, 1994]

Despite his many missteps, Danzig’s funereal ballads always manage to resonate. 4 was the transitional record into his creative twilight, yet “Going Down to Die” was fighting mightily against the tide. A little burlier—and definitely more 90s—than any of his previous dirges, it’s an ode to a life cut short, but in retrospect, it’s a fitting end to Danzig’s prime. (A prime that most fail to properly quantify; ’78 to ‘93 is a hell of a run.) It’s an unintentional eulogy, delivered from a pedestal devoid of self-awareness, proving that Danzig’s greatest strengths would eventually become fatal weaknesses.

[Jordan Campbell]

 • • • • •

SNAKES OF CHRIST

[Danzig II: Lucifuge, 1990]

Following hot on the fading feedback of “Long Way Back From Hell”, “Snakes of Christ” cruises in on a archetypical Danzig riff: dead-simple, sinister and catchy as Hell. While the track’s lyrics are as aggressively blasphemous as any Glenn has written, the song is, initially, almost laid-back. The verses feature only a few spare chords and some suitably serpentine fills courtesy of John Christ, over which Glenn mostly croons, only occasionally letting some grit slip in. As the song progresses, however, without dramatically altering the songs structure, the mood darkens considerably: Chuck Biscuits begins dropping sledgehammer beats, the band kicks into a lower key for the guitar solo, and Glenn gradually ups the aggression of his delivery to where he practically screams the climactic final chorus “Crawling, All Evil, Yeaaah!” Fuck yeah.

[Jeremy Morse]

 • • • • •

DIRTY BLACK SUMMER

[Danzig III: How the God’s Kill, 1992]

As a teenager discovering metal in the summer of 1992, Danzig’s “Dirty Black Summer” was an interesting revelation. The band seemed evil, yet approachable. The song was dark, yet catchy. The video was minimalistic, but eye-catching. Headbanger’s Ball even did an “End Your Dirty Black Summer with Danzig” contest and special which featured Riki and one lucky winner touring a German castle with a completely disinterested Glenn and Eerie Von. That dark, emotional detachment combined with the notion of blackening what should be one of the best parts of growing up resonated with one who himself was just entering his own age of disenchantment.

[Dave Pirtle]

 • • • • •

AM I DEMON

[Danzig, 1988]

“Mother” and “Twist-o Cain-o” get the praise, but “Am I Demon?” is the gristle of the first record; Direct and to the point, like a blackjack to the cranium. Christ’s intro riff leaping out of his guitar like he’s trying to murder it. And then Biscuits, the hammer of the Devil, sat way up high on his throne, laying a single-kick beating to keep the ghouls marching in lockstep. Meanwhile, Glenn yowls some of his most poetic lines (seasoned schemes of slimy curs offering up their flu has a nice ring to it) since the Misfits days as he challenges the listener to question his lineage, because their life depends on it. It’s the perfect side-ending thud-rocker, and the perfect counterpoint to “Mother” as you flip the record over.

[Kyle Harcött]

 • • • • •

LONG WAY BACK FROM HELL

[Danzig II: Lucifuge, 1990]

Glenn’s status of being Elvis-on-steroids has long been established, but perhaps no song displays that characteristic better than Lucifuge’s “Long Way Back From Hell.” The melody of the bouncing, swaggeriffic chorus would fit in perfectly as a beach ballad in one of Presley’s horrific movies if slowed down about 30 BPM. But beyond this overdone comparison, the track boasts a seriously economical set of riffs and drum patterns, and display’s Danzig’s vocal range at full strength. I’m sure one could also look for some voodoo/slavery meanings in the lyrics, but let’s be honest, like every Danzig tune, it’s just about being a badass.

[Zach Duvall]

 • • • • •

TWIST OF CAIN

[Danzig, 1988]

Fans who thought the name change from Samhain to Danzig was merely cosmetic were in for a rude awakening once they heard the lead track from the eponymous debut. Any shred of Misfits left in their noisy, gothic death-rock was completely wiped out in favor of a more pristine, blues-based heavy metal sound. The biblical story of Cain and Abel gets a macabre spin with the titular character presented as a twisted fellow discovering his blood thirst. For Glenn’s part, the change allowed him to unleash the full power the “Evil Elvis” – and all the rock n’ roll bravado that went with it. Also in the mix are backing vocals by noted Misfits fan James Hetfield – not that you’d really notice.

[Dave Pirtle]

 • • • • •

TIRED OF BEING ALIVE

[Danzig II: Lucifuge, 1990]

Lucifuge is easily Danzig’s finest record, filled with classic blues-metal darkness, and the world-weary “Tired Of Being Alive” is among the best of those. From the crashing-chord intro through the swinging main riff, “Tired” exudes pure antisocial arena-rock swagger — “Don’t care if’n you die … don’t feel, don’t need to / your world ain’t nothing to me,” Glenn intones in the verse, before soaring into one of Lucifuge’s best choruses: “And I’m tired of the bleeding light / don’t try to feed me / all of your lies.” It’s another “wolf among sheep” anti-religion screed, wrapped in bluesy menace — in other words, it’s classic Danzig.

[Andrew Edmunds]

 • • • • •

HER BLACK WINGS

[Danzig II: Lucifuge, 1990]

The ominous pules of the opening riff of “Her Black Wings” lets you know the “Her” in question is bad news, before Glenn Danzig even opens his mouth. This ode to the ultimate femme fatale is smoldering in the verses, as Christ plays jarring licks over the main riff, and Glenn serves notice that all the condoms in the world can’t save you; with this unholy temptress there is no safe sex. Yet, there is a sense of blissful surrender in the chorus that makes one think that a night under those black wings might just be worth death, damnation or both.

[Jeremy Morse]

 • • • • •

HOW THE GODS KILL

[Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, 1992]

Metalheads love to argue: Lucifuge was the last “great” Danzig album. Or How The Gods Kill was where it got interesting. If you’re on the right side, you know that this song was one of the reasons why III is one of Danzig’s best. First half of the song is sombre, clean guitar and Danzig’s croon-poetry setting the mood, but when the fucker launches at the halfway point (another infamous Biscuits one-two punch on the floor toms), it kicks off one of the most potent tracks in the Danzig catalog. Sparse and heavy, simple and brutally effective, “How the Gods Kill” will forever remain one of the most potent songs in Danzig’s arsenal.

[Kyle Harcött]

 • • • • •

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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