Following the critical and commercial failure of Danzig 5: Blackacidevil, Danzig was returned to the underground. The 9 figure record deals were no longer out there, few promising bands were looking to open for the group, and the band members became as unstable as ever. There was a tour for Blackacidevil that even included a spot on the main stage at Ozzfest but after that Glenn Danzig was seldom heard from. He focused more time on his independent comic book company, Verotik, and found himself in court battling with the executives at American Recordings for the rights to the unreleased material from his days at that label. Eventually, Glenn would set his sights on recording the next Danzig record, the one that would become Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child and would be the first of many to be heralded as a “return to form” for the band.
When an album bombs as bad as Blackacidevil did, it makes sense for the artist to reexamine the approach taken on previous efforts compared with that one. For Danzig, this was simple enough. The early records were rooted in the blues and could best be described as hard rock or heavy metal. Yes, there were things about each album that separated them from one another but the core was mostly the same. For Danzig 5, that core was loosely interpreted. And while it could be argued the foundation was mostly the same, the layers on top certainly were not which helps define Blackacidevil as an industrial record with some techno and metal elements thrown in. A confident producer would explain that to Glenn and would push him away from that approach as it clearly just didn’t work. It would be one thing if the album was conceptually brilliant, but commercially misunderstood, but that really wasn’t the case. The problem is, Glenn was no longer working with a big producer, and is a very prideful man. For awhile, he insisted that Blackacidevil was his favorite record and spent more time defending it than he has anything else he has done. Regardless, even he had to admit the best way to promote a new record was as a back to basics kind of thing. The problem was, that wouldn’t really describe Satan’s Child too well.
More than three years elapsed between Danzig 5 and Danzig 6, so when Satan’s Child arrived in the fall of 1999 the core fan base that had stuck with Danzig was eager to get a listen. This was before mp3 had really exploded so most fans, myself included, were mostly left in the dark until the album was released. Before release, Danzig’s new label E-Magine, a young label hoping to better utilize the internet as a legitimate means of distribution, released the album’s first single online, “Five Finger Crawl,” as well as a snippet of “Unspeakable.” It’s actually a bit confusing which one truly was the first single. “Five Finger Crawl” was made into a video and some metal-oriented radio stations were playing it while others received CD singles of “Unspeakable.” Either way, “Five Finger Crawl” was my introduction to Danzig 6 and I mostly enjoyed it. This was the era where nu-metal was dominating the heavy music scene. Drop D tuning was in fashion to add a pervasive heavy-ness to most records. Danzig opted to tune even lower, to C, for this record. And while Danzig 6 is not an industrial record, it does contain more effects than the previous 4 albums. There’s an eeriness to “Five Finger Crawl,” accentuated by Glenn’s whispering vocal delivery, particularly the line “You leave me cold.”
The mood of the track is still decidedly Danzig, in the end. The thing that had fans talking though were the vocals. Glenn whispers throughout much of “Five Finger Crawl” before hitting a shouting chorus. On that chorus, his vocals sound deep and slightly hoarse. This had fans worried about what kind of shape Glenn’s vocal chords were in. The song alleviates some of those fears to a degree with the close, where an unfiltered Danzig wails the “You leave me cold,” line, but there’s still a hint of hoarseness on there as well. We would find out during the press tour of the album, that Glenn opted to record his vocals digitally this time, and offered up the excuse that he augmented his vocals to sound the way he hears them when he sings to himself. The result is a deeper Glenn on this record, but he also uses a whisper track on many songs which create a hoarse quality. The whisper track is cool when used a bit conservatively, but it probably is overused on this record. With most things Danzig though, the truth often lies somewhere in the middle. He may have chosen to record his vocals in a certain way, but perhaps he also did that to help mask the fact that they just weren’t what they used to be. The tour would confirm as much. The good news is that later records would show improvement, but unfortunately Danzig 6 marks a low point for vocals on a Danzig record.
That is not to say the vocals do not have any shining moments here. On the contrary, I already mentioned the close of “Five Finger Crawl” as being exceptional, but songs like “Lilin” and “Cold Eternal” showcase Glenn’s vocals just as well. There are low moments though, such as the thunderous “Apokalips,” a decent enough song, but one where Glenn’s vocals border on annoying as he has a shrill quality to his shouts. Overall, the vocals are not a make or break thing for the record, and perhaps actually end up being the album’s best feature, because unfortunately it ends up lacking in several others.
For one, the structure of the songs are perhaps too basic. There are really no memorable guitar riffs and very few guitar solos to liven things up. Josh Lazie’s bass is audible, but not spectacular. Joey Castillo’s drumming is solid, if not a bit restrained. He’s capable of so much more. I assume Glenn thought little of session guitarist Jeff Chambers, which helps explain why the guitars come across as an afterthought at times. Or perhaps creatively he was just in a funk. The band recorded over 20 tracks for this album which tells me that Glenn was really indecisive with this one and was probably at some-what of a crossroads with his band. I should take the time to point out that the slide guitar on “Cold Eternal” is a nice touch and does add some nice texture to that track.
If the approach musically was a bit boring, then it makes sense that the finished songs are as well. There are some nice tracks here that I have already mentioned. One I didn’t was the closer “Thirteen,” the song Glenn penned for Johnny Cash in the early 90’s and finally recorded himself. It would later show up in the hit film “The Hangover.” It’s a simple but cool little track and it’s lyrics suit the public persona of Glenn Danzig. Sadly, the lyrics on that one represent the album’s peak in that department, for in some instances they’re just bad. “Cult W/Out a Name” is a decent enough rocker, but the lyrics there are just embarrassing. Some, such as “I am teeth of fire/taste a thousand shames” annoy because they don’t make sense, but others annoy me because they’re just stupid “I am street designed.” “Belly of the Beast” is one where the ending of each line rhymes with the next, just for the sake of doing so. Again, if the music accompanying these lyrics was more interesting they could be overlooked, but here they’re hard to ignore.
Thankfully, most of the tracks are absent the industrial fuzz that permeated Blackacidevil, but not all. “East Indian Devil (Kali’s Song)” is a track that could have fit on Blackacidevil, which isn’t a good thing. The vocals are heavily distorted, and there’s little melody to the song structure. It’s one I am happy with skipping over.
In the end, was Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child a return to form for the band? Only in the sense that it left behind most of the industrial elements of Danzig 5. This is still a rather weak output when compared with the rest of the Danzig catalogue. It’s an okay listen, but there’s just few standout tracks. It’s no surprise that this album is hardly ever featured in the live set these days, and future releases would improve upon it.
- Five Finger Crawl
- Cold Eternal
March 13th, 2018 at 11:01 pm
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