Category Archives: Danzig

Danzig Sings Elvis

danigelvisWhen it came time to make my 666th post on The Nostalgia Spot, I could not think of a more fitting subject than something Danzig related. I even delayed this post by a few days to make it work, but this is an occasion you only get to mark once so pardon my lateness.

Every time a new Danzig record comes around for the past ten years I’ve wondered if more will follow. The music industry has changed and it’s not as lucrative as it once was for many artists. Combine that with Glenn Danzig’s advancing age and there’s a natural curiosity about when he’ll call it quits. I don’t think career musicians necessarily ever stop, but I could definitely see a day come when Danzig no longer felt the need to deal with the usual hassle it is to record, master, and distribute a new collection of songs. And I think some of that wariness has already settled in since Danzig has just released its second covers record in five years.

Danzig Sings Elvis follows in the footsteps of 2015’s Skeletons only this time the focus is placed entirely on the works of Elvis Presley. Elvis is probably one of the most covered artists in history, so it’s fair to wonder if the world needs more Elvis covers, let alone an entire album of them by one artist. True to himself though, Glenn Danzig is making another album for Glenn Danzig. He has done what he wants when he wants. I’m sure there have been moments over the years where he has had to compromise here and there, but for the most part Danzig has always created the art he wants to create. That’s true of the music and also true of the comics and now films he’s done.

When Danzig released Skeletons in 2015, it included a cover of “Let Yourself Go,” a song made famous by Elvis. During the press for the record, Danzig mentioned he had recorded a number of Elvis tracks and decided they would be best served as a stand-alone release. It was originally floated as an EP, but over the years has grown to comprise 14 tracks. Now it’s common knowledge that Elvis wrote very little of the songs he’s famous for, so it should be noted this is a collection of covers done in the style of Elvis Presley and it’s his version that is influencing Danzig here. And like Skeletons, a lot of the songs here are lesser celebrated works. If you were expecting Danzig to cover “Jailhouse Rock” or “Burning Love” then you might be disappointed, though if you’re a Danzig fan you shouldn’t be surprised.

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Danzig has made his affection for Elvis known for awhile especially in how he setup the Legacy TV Taping to resemble the Elvis comeback special.

Covers records are in general a tough thing to review and critique. So much of one’s enjoyment of a cover is dependent upon familiarity and expectation. If you love and are familiar with a popular version of a song and are presented with another take, you probably won’t like it as much as the version you already adore and may not even have a use for it. There are always exceptions, but they are few. And if you aren’t familiar with the source material, you still may not like the cover if it’s from an artist you like as chances are it’s different from what you’re used to. And then there are also the fanatics that are going to like a performance just because it’s from a familiar source. That’s not something unique to any fanbase as I encounter a great deal of Danzig fans that adore anything Danzig puts out. Just like there are a bunch of Metallica fans that insist their covers of Misfits songs are better than the originals.

Artists seem to turn to covers when they’re getting on in years. It even dawned on me as I was writing this that Glenn Danzig is around the same age Johnny Cash was when he started doing his covers albums with Rick Rubin which included the Glenn Danzig song “Thirteen.” The dedicated covers record where an artist covers just one other artist feels like a rarity. They can come with mixed emotions too as it can feel like one artist making money largely off of the work of another, even though that’s all factored into how royalties are paid out. One of the more distasteful examples was the Jorne Lande record that was entirely covers of Dio songs, which felt like it had been held back and primed for release to coincide with the singer’s death. It was something even Ronnie James Dio’s widow Wendy refused to comment on, though it was obvious she wasn’t pleased. With a record devoted strictly to Elvis songs, there’s no such baggage. It’s one artist basically covering a covers specialist, but it is still a bit of a hard sell. It’s obvious that Glenn Danzig likes Elvis and wanted to record his own versions of the songs he either likes best or just feels he has something to add to. It’s a bit of a financial gamble as Danzig is betting on his fanbase also liking Elvis to some degree. And while my own grandfather once said “Everyone likes Elvis,” when my grandmother asked if I didn’t mind them putting on one of his records, I think it’s likely the vast majority of Danzig fans are casual Elvis fans at best and likely are unfamiliar with the deep cuts presented here.

None of those concerns likely matter to Glenn Danzig though as we’ve firmly established this isn’t necessarily a record for Danzig fans. And what should be concerning to fans or anyone that listens to this record is simply the question of “Is it any good?” Skeletons is definitely one of the lesser Danzig albums, and since it is a covers record it was always going to be. The album suffers from a lack of spark as many of the covers were pretty straight forward, which was a bit unexpected. When Danzig released The Lost Tracks of Danzig in 2007, the artist had this to say in the liner notes when talking about the T Rex cover included on that set:

[…]my feeling on covers is unless you are bringing a new dimension to it, why bother? The original will always be better.

Worse than the feeling of redundancy was the uneven production on Skeletons in which some songs just sounded terrible. There were a handful of gems, for sure, but my enthusiasm towards that record (or lack thereof) certainly resulted in low expectations for Danzig Sings Elvis. In some respect, I suppose I should have had more reason to be optimistic since Elvis possessed a vocal style appropriate for Danzig to imitate. Danzig has already covered “Trouble” multiple times and the band’s take on “Let Yourself Go” was one of the better tracks from Skeletons.

I should state upfront that I am not a fan of Elvis. I do mostly agree with my grandfather’s sentiment and confess there are a number of Elvis tracks I’m fine with, though I can’t say any of them feel ripe for a Danzig cover. Of the many Elvis songs I have heard over the years, I think the only one Danzig picked that I would have selected too is “One Night.” The only other song I can think of that I would have liked to hear Danzig attempt is perhaps “Suspicious Minds” as it’s stylistically similar to “You and Me (Less Than Zero),” which already is basically a cover of “To Sir With Love.” As such, if I weren’t such a dedicated Danzig fan there’s no way I would have ever bought this record, let alone the multiple versions I indeed ended up purchasing.

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Drummer Joey Castillo returned to record drums on “Fever.”

The song selection here definitely trends towards Elvis’ softer side and not his rock n’ roll energy. In a vacuum, this is a style that suits Danzig as evidenced by songs like “Sistinas” and “Blood and Tears.” My concern when I saw this list though was that it might be too much. Danzig isn’t the most convincing vocalist when he tries to portray vulnerability. It works in small doses when the rest of the songs surrounded those moments contain his usual dose of dominance. For the band to essentially reverse that mix feels like a hard sell. I suppose it’s true to an Elvis release in which it sounds more like a collection of singles as opposed to a cohesive album, but that’s also not a format Danzig is known for. The one silver lining was the thought that maybe these quieter and simple tunes would help hide any production missteps. Skeletons didn’t sound great, but at least the questionable production on that one seemed to matter least on the closing ballad “Crying in the Rain.” That was as optimistic as I would allow myself to get though, since banking on just an overall improvement in the production values was a fool’s errand since that’s something that’s plagued Danzig releases for over a decade at this point.

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The inspiration for the album cover art.

Before we dig into the music presented on this album, we should probably talk about the technical bits. The album cover with Glenn Danzig and the repeating “Elvis” (in case you were confused what artist he was covering) are a clear homage to the Elvis single for “Witchcraft.” Change the text and swap out The King for Danzig and there you have it. The personnel for the record is obviously Glenn Danzig on vocals, but he also plays drums on most of the tracks and guitar and bass where needed. Guitarist Tommy Victor is on-hand for some of the leads and returning Danzig drummer Joey Castillo played on “Fever.”

Ever since Glenn Danzig hooked up with label Cleopatra Records his material has been pretty easy to get ahold of. Considering the state of the world at release, you can’t walk into a store and buy this thing, but you have multiple options online. One can order directly from Cleopatra or via the Danzig storefront on eBay which also sells signed copies from time to time. Cleopatra also has a presence on bandcamp.com and you can order there as well. All bandcamp orders also feature a digital download so you get instant access. The album is also available on Amazon and probably several other online record stores. Two formats of the album are available:  CD and vinyl. If you’re ordering vinyl, you also get your pick of color between black, green, or pink with a special leopard print recently going up for pre-order. The artwork is the same on both. The vinyl is a gatefold release with some liner notes form Danzig on the inside. He talks about his love of Elvis and gives some thoughts on why he chose the specific songs here which is a nice touch. The CD is a cardboard sleeve with an inner sleeve to protect the actual disc. It too is a gatefold shape though so it basically looks like a mini version of the LP. If speed is important, and if you want the artist to get as much of the profits as possible, ordering directly from Cleopatra is probably best, though the album generally costs the same no matter where it’s ordered from. Cleopatra also ships media mail so nothing is particularly quick. I ordered both a vinyl (pink) and CD copy, one from bandcamp and one from Amazon. The CD from Amazon took the longest to arrive, while the vinyl came from Cleopatra directly. It was packaged fairly well, but one corner still got dinged. It’s the risk you take when ordering vinyl through the mail though.

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Interior of CD release with big brother behind it.

Leading up to the release, Danzig released a pair of singles digitally. First was “Always On My Mind” which was over four years ago and wasn’t technically a single release. Glenn Danzig just played it on the radio and posted it to YouTube (since deleted, likely because Cleopatra uploaded it as well). The second, “One Night,” was in the last month or so. “Always on My Mind” is a perfectly suitable cover of a much covered song. The production isn’t great, but it also doesn’t need to be and surprisingly it’s one of the tracks I like most on the finished record. “One Night” is a song I would have liked to hear Danzig perform 30 years ago. Unfortunately, it might be the worst song on the album. I guess if you like the single then that’s good news to you. The song makes liberal use of slapback echo on the vocals, which is totally fine for covering Elvis, but here it’s way overdone. The tempo of the vocals further distorts it, and the end result is more annoying than pleasant. Danzig’s vocals are also wooden and bored. I’m not sure what he was going for. The instrumentation backing it, a weakness of the record in general, is even more bland than the vocals. “One Night,” and a lot of Elvis ballads, are heavily dependent on the vocal track so when it doesn’t land there usually isn’t much left to pick up the slack.

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Before this COVID stuff cancelled basically all gatherings, Danzig was scheduled to perform a few dedicated Elvis shows. He best do them right and show up in proper Elvis attire.

That single left my expectations all but cratered for the final release, but upon receiving it I was at least relieved to find it isn’t as bad as expected. I wouldn’t call Danzig Sings Elvis a great record, but it’s not a train-wreck. Most of these songs are slow, quiet, ballads so the album is an easy listening experience that totals roughly 39 minutes. The only real up-tempo numbers are “Baby Let’s Play House” and “When It Rains It Really Pours.” “Baby Let’s Play House” might be the only song that sounds obviously “Elvis” to those fans who are not familiar with The King. Danzig really goes for that rock-a-billy sound as he did many years ago on “American Nightmare.” It straddles the line between authentic and parody, and while it breaks up some of the monotony of the record, I’m left feeling glad Danzig didn’t go for more songs that sound like this. “When It Rains It Really Pours” has Glenn singing through a scowl. It’s interesting, but over in a blip as the song doesn’t even hit the 2 minute mark.

The slower tracks probably suit Danzig’s vocals more in this day and age. Most are fine, and while I feared it might be too much hearing Danzig go for so much melancholy I’ll say my fears there went unrealized. It’s interesting to hear Danzig croon and even go for the occasional falsetto like he does on “Pocket Full of Rainbows.” The only one that approached “One Night” in terms of dubiousness is probably “Love Me” where the vocals don’t complement the song much at all. The production is inconsistent from song to song, but with the quiet stuff it doesn’t matter as much. The guitar is often “just there,” and I don’t even notice much bass at all, save for “Fever” and “Baby Lets Play House.” Pretty much all of the guitar work is electric too, in case you were expecting more acoustic stuff on an Elvis covers record. Danzig did not bring in backing vocalists, which is probably for the better. There’s some parts where he recorded his own backing vocals, such as “Loving Arms,” and they’re kept fairly low in the mix. Basically, nothing stands up to challenge Danzig’s voice on any track.

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If you want this record, at least you have options. And if it’s anything like other recent Danzig releases, you can expect a picture disc and maybe a swirled vinyl to follow.

The prevailing thought I keep coming back to when I listen to this record is, “does this need to exist?” And the answer should be an obvious “No.” That’s not a slam against it, it’s just the reality of any Elvis cover. Though it is disappointing that Danzig really didn’t find any place to add his own spin to any of these tracks, unless you count mediocre instrumentals as spin. The press release I saw from the label hyped up “Fever” as featuring some Danzig touch to it, but it’s just a straight cover. It’s not nearly as interesting as the many covers of that song that exist, and it’s a song I’ve never liked anyways so I don’t fault Danzig for not being able to make me like it any more. Perhaps more than any Danzig record before it, this is a record for Glenn Danzig. He’s covering one of his idols and I suspect he’s pretty happy with how it turned out so good for him. And I mean that sincerely. As a testament to that notion, 12 of the album’s 14 tracks are streaming for free right now on YouTube so anyone can go check it out. For myself as a Danzig fan, I’m not sure if there’s anything on this record I’ll feel compelled to return to. With Skeletons, there’s at least a track or two I might toss onto a hypothetical Danzig playlist (I say hypothetical because I’m an album man – fuck playlists), and I don’t know if I can say the same for any song on this record. The slow tempo and almost mournful performance on some tracks makes it an okay rainy day listen. Diehard Elvis fans will probably be more dismissive than I, while diehard Danzig fans will probably think it’s okay, which I guess makes it like every other covers record to come before it.

 

Top Tracks

  • Lonely Blue Boy
  • Pocket Full of Rainbows
  • Always On My Mind

Verotika (2019)

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Verotika (2019)

Say what you will about the various art Glenn Danzig has released to the public, but the man should be admired for doing what he wants with said art. At a young age, Danzig decided he wanted to be a musician and for over 40 years he’s been committed to that industry. Along the way he’s taken risks, both creatively and commercially, and some have worked out well financially and some have not. Always though, he’s stayed true to his own vision and rarely does it feel like he’s ever compromised that vision.

In the mid-90s, Danzig decided he had other pursuits he wanted to undertake. He launched his own comic book publishing company and named it Verotik. Verotik specialized in horror and hyper sexualized stories that the main publishers in the world of comics would never touch. Around the same time, he also started poking around the world of Hollywood eventually taking a small role in the film The Prophecy II in which he was almost comically dispatched of in a few seconds of screen time. It was also around this time he was boasting about being sought for the role of Wolverine in a future X-Men film, though how serious such overtures were at the time are unknown.

For who knows how long, Danzig has wanted to climb into the director’s chair and oversee the creation of his own film. In 2019, that dream came true. And true to Danzig’s musical legacy, his film is undoubtedly uncompromised and the film Glenn Danzig wanted to make. Verotika is a horror anthology film based on properties launched by Danzig’s comic line. Some of the stories are more or less taken right from the page and adapted for the big screen. In creating the film, Danzig formed a partnership with Cleopatra Entertainment in what looks to be a multi-film deal. The movie was released in June of 2019 in very limited amounts, basically just special screenings attended by Danzig himself in high profile markets like LA and New York.

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Glenn Danzig steps off the stage and into the director’s chair and appears to be pretty happy with the end result.

Verotika was never screened in a city near me so I never had to make the perhaps difficult decision of whether or not to attend. The film has been nearly universally panned by critics with the often repeated comparison being that this is The Room of horror films. That doesn’t mean all of the reviews have been necessarily negative. Some expressed that film is not good, but it’s charmingly bad in ways that some of the most awesomely bad movies are. The film is low budget and full of the sex and violence that appeals to Danzig. The cast is populated by trained actors and actresses as well as veterans of the adult film industry, so I think anyone familiar with Danzig’s work likely has a good idea of what kind of experience they’re in for.

As a longtime fan of Glenn Danzig’s music, I felt like I basically owed it to myself to watch this film. I love the music of Danzig, but my fandom has largely ended there. What little of Verotik I thumbed through rarely appealed to me. Danzig’s directorial efforts with his music videos are mostly bad, and I basically assumed that I am going to dislike this film. Maybe I’ll be able to laugh at it, but I don’t know. I’m not the type of person that enjoys watching bad movies typically. At least with Verotika I’m signing up for an anthology that totals just 90 minutes, so it’s not a huge investment of time and there is a built in mechanism to reset my attention span. And even though I have in some ways dreaded viewing this film, I know my curiosity is too much to ignore so when the film went up for pre-order on Amazon I placed my order and waited.

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Fans of the Verotik comics will likely get a thrill out of seeing these characters come to life on the big screen. Here we have Morella played by Kayden Kross.

Verotika arrived and alongside it came an unexpected surprise. The physical release for the film is the standard Blu Ray and DVD combo, but it also includes a CD soundtrack as well which is pretty cool. It’s not a particularly great soundtrack, and the only Danzig track is the previously released “Eyes Ripping Fire,” but it’s still a nice gesture. The soundtrack is also available separately on vinyl, for interested parties. I settled into watch this one, and since it is an anthology film, it presents nice opportunities for breaks during the feature. There are three segments and they are:  The Albino Spider of Dajette, Change of Face, and Drukija:  Contessa of Blood. There’s a framing device in-between them all hosted by Morella (Kayden Kross) in a Vampira-like role as she introduces the macabre to come while some hapless girl (Noelle Ann Mabry, with possibly the best performance of the entire film) is tortured.

Women being victimized by other women seems to be the name of the game in this film. All three stories feature that in some capacity, though in the first segment the woman, Dajette (Ashley Wisdom), is inadvertently harming women. I was prepared for a lot of things when I sat down to watch this. I knew there would be gore, I expected plenty of nude women, and I also anticipated some unintentional comedy on account of the fact that this is a relatively low budget film. What I did not anticipate was boredom. Yes, Verotika is a bad movie, but as far as awesomely bad is concerned I’m not sure I’d classify this as such. There’s a lot of bad acting, and what’s not helping the actors out is the need to utilize accents in two of the three segments. The script is poor and at times laughable, but not gratuitously so. It’s a just a lot of wooden scenes surrounded by poor lighting, hollow audio, and irrational editing. There’s even a shot where a corpse blinks and it’s confusing how something like that makes it into the final cut of any film.

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Dajette and the spider that haunts her.

The three stories ask very little of the audience. Only the first felt the least bit ambitious as it concerns a woman, who when sleeps unleashes some sort of spider-demon on the populace. The spider wants to mate and kill in that order, and our protagonist needs to come up with a way to stop it. The segment relies way too much on actress Ashley Wisdom who is not up to task. The spider (Scotch Hopkins) does better, but the script gives him little to work with. He’s also burdened by some ambitious prosthetics that really aren’t all that bad, but could have been helped out with better lighting choices.

That segment might actually be the most narratively sound as the other two leave a lot to be desired. “Change of Face” follows the not very mysterious Mystery Girl (Rachel Alig) as she goes around cutting the faces off of young women and then masquerading as a stripper during the night. A detective pursues her, but is laughably played by Sean Kanan and hard to take serious. This segment features the most padding as on three occasions it resorts to extended segments of strippers performing their routine in a rather mundane fashion. Verotika would actually disappoint in the titillation department if stumbled upon at two AM on Cinemax.

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Verotika is not particularly gory, but it does bring the blood by the tub-full.

The third segment is even more droll as it casts Alice Tate (who performs quite well under the circumstances) as Drukija, an Elizabeth Bathory type who poaches young girls from a village to bathe in their blood. She one-ups the countess by also feasting on the heart of a young girl. The story has no pay-off and is more of a fetish as we watch Drukija murder several young women. It takes place in a medieval setting so the costumes are a bit interesting and her ceremonial bathing apparatus is certainly a sight to see, but it offers little else.

Verotika is neither sexy, nor particularly gory. There is a lot of blood in some scenes, but the most gratuitous probably occurs during the film’s opening minutes. The film is not thought-provoking and it isn’t interested in exploring much of anything. And at 90 minutes it overstays its welcome by a lot. It’s hard to even pick which segment is the superior one. The concept of the spider is the most complex, while the “Change of Face” segment is the most procedurally ambitious as it attempts to present a murder-mystery thriller, but it really just exposes the weakness of the talent on hand. I guess the third is the best by default since it’s at least visually interesting and presents a decent premise. It just doesn’t move beyond its premise and could easily have been half as long. Or better yet, it could have just been a music video.

Glenn Danzig not only wrote and directed this picture, but he also provided the score. If you’re familiar with his Black Aria albums then it should sound mostly familiar. There are a few moments where I liked what I was hearing, but for the most part it’s forgettable. The licensed tracks are largely reserved for the stripper scenes, and in that respect they work fine. They’re not particularly sexy, but it’s not like Danzig was going to pay Rick Rubin to utilize “She Rides.”

Obviously I did not enjoy my time with Verotika. That doesn’t change what I started off with though. This is a film made by Glenn Danzig for Glenn Danzig. He’s gone around the country and personally shown this film to audiences and he appears to be quite proud of it. I can only assume that this is the film he wanted to make. And that is great. I wish I could put myself in position to pursue my own art in such a fashion, so even though I didn’t enjoy it I still applaud the man for the film he created. There’s just no way I’m going to seek out his next film.


The Saga of Crystar – Crystal Warrior #8

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The Saga of Crystar – Crystal Warrior #8 July 1984

There’s been a hole in my Danzig collection for quite some time. It was a hole that was easy to fill and actually quite cheap considering most Danzig records fetch well over $100 these days, but an important piece was missing. And that piece is not what one would necessarily expect, but I would assume most Danzig fans have this item in their collection, and that item is a copy of Marvel’s Crystar Crystal Warrior.

The eighth issue is the lone issue any Danzig fan likely cares about. No, Glenn Danzig did not write this particular comic like he would many under his own Verotik banner, nor did he illustrate it. He actually had no involvement with it what-so-ever. It seems unlikely this particular comic would hold much appeal for what Glenn Danzig seems to enjoy in a comic, though there are some demons present. There was one piece of artwork associated with this issue though that he seemed to like, and it’s staring anyone who picks this issue up right in the face.

danzig logoYes, that green demonic skull at the base of the cover should look familiar to anyone who is a fan of either Danzig or Samhain. Put that image in white and it’s what most recognize as the logo for those respective bands. That particular skull was present on the cover of Samhain’s debut LP Initium, which debuted a mere month or two after this issue, and it really came to life on the third LP, November-Coming-Fire. It was split in half in 1988 when the first Danzig record debuted so that half of it could occupy the record’s cover and the other half the back. Since then, it’s been featured on numerous t-shirts, posters, and promotional fliers. Interestingly, the image never again appeared so brazenly on the cover of another Danzig record. A waxy, red, version does appear on the cover of Danzig 7 and it was on the more recent covers record as well, albeit as a sticker on the cellophane.

Perhaps this isn’t particularly surprising since much of The Misfits was lifted from another source. The Misfits Fiend is simply The Crimson Ghost, a mostly forgotten film serial. The font the band often used was lifted from Famous Monsters of Filmland and many of the songs are basically ripped from horror comics or films. Lifting this image from a current Marvel publication was a bit more bold on the part of Danzig. It was from a failing comic and toyline, but it was current. And with how much financial problems Marvel would run into not long after, it’s actually pretty amazing there was never a lawsuit (that we know of). The creator of the image, artist Michael Golden, has never received recognition (or money) from the band or any of Danzig’s labels over the years for his contribution. Since the image was made for Marvel, it’s likely Marvel retained sole ownership of it and Golden may have had little to fallback on in terms of legal options. He has somewhat needled the band at conventions by selling t-shirts of the skull with the name Golden replacing Danzig. Numerous fans who have met him have had him sign their copy of the first Danzig LP so if he’s angry about the whole thing he doesn’t seem interested in directing it at fans of the band.

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Turn-about is fair play.

As for Marvel, it’s surprising the publisher has never gone after Danzig for some of that t-shirt money. By now more than 35 years later, the publisher probably forfeited any claim it could make at this point. Crystar is a long forgotten brand no longer associated with Marvel. I suppose they could republish the works in a trade as a way to strengthen a case, but is it really worth the trouble? It might be hard to even prove how much money the logo has made for Danzig making it hard to settle on a number. And it would be hard to prove damages at this late stage too. Back in 89 when Danzig was selling a shirt featuring the famed skull strangling Jesus would have been the right moment to claim such damages were being felt by the association of the two brands, but again, such claims don’t hold much weight over 30 years later.

Perhaps you are wondering at this point just what is Crystar Crystal Warrior? It seems important to note that the cover features that as a title, but the series is more commonly known as The Saga of Crystar – Crystal Warrior. The comic was apparently created by Marvel in response to Masters of the Universe. Marvel partnered with Remco, mostly known in the 80s for its WWF figures, to create a toyline with a companion comic, much like Mattel had done with He-Man. He-Man though was a success and scored an animated series while Crystar floundered for 11 issues and did not receive more than one line of action figures.

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Not all that hard to see why this thing failed.

The Saga of Crystar tells the story of Crystar, The Crystal Warrior, who is the leader of the Forces of Order. They are opposed by The Forces of Chaos (it practically writes itself) who are led by Moltar, the leader of the lava men that comprise The Forces of Chaos and brother to Crystar himself. Not many credits seem to have retained regarding the creation of the series, perhaps because few actually wanted to be associated with such a cynical cash grab. This particular issue, titled Anniversary, was written b Jo Duffy with pencils by Ricardo Villamonte. Dave Simons handled the inking, Janice Chiang lettering, Andy Yanchus coloring, with Ralph Macchio as editor alongside editor-in-chief Jim Shooter. And of course, Michael Golden handled the cover.

Issue 8 basically occurs right in the thick of everything. It’s almost entirely a flashback to events that preceded the start of the series. Crystar and his people apparently were flesh and blood at one point, though he was peculiarly always named Crystar. They apparently became crystal to defeat the Forces of Chaos, who were able to enlist Crystar’s brother and turn him into a lava man. My guess is Moltar had affection for Crystar’s fiancé or something to help cause the rift.

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I was expecting something pretty terrible, but this is actually fine. Artwork is good, story is more developed than expected, though also not terribly interesting.

The issue begins with Crystar and his people seeking to forge an alliance with another faction. He’s a bit solemn though and his people wonder what’s up, prompting Crystar to tell a story about why today is so special. Apparently long ago, he and his brother were taking a break from war to visit their uncle who was hosting a party of sorts. When a sea monster threatens the coastal lands, the brothers head out to stop it. Finding it too difficult, they return to the village and regroup. A woman by the name of Ranilla has studied some scroll with a solution for their problem. She was recently wed to one of Crystar’s current (and future) allies, Koth, and they have a little chat that foreshadows Koth’s death.

It’s a fake-out! The men return to battle the sea monster armed with the knowledge that dislodging a crystal in its chest should kill it. A creepy wizard guy has been spying on them though, and he commands the demons of chaos to attack. It’s a chaotic scene, but during it Ranilla is killed instead of Koth. One of Crystar and his brother’s allies, Hyeth, comes to their rescue and takes out the monster when Crystar fails. He too dies when a straggler spears him from behind, and the issue ends with Moltar in the current day explaining to some of his minions that on this day he refuses to take up arms against his brother in memory of Hyeth’s heroic sacrifice.

It’s all very maudlin and actually quite slow. I was not prepared to read a story about hunky men wearing little more than bathing suits waxing poetic about unrequited love. The artwork is fine and the characters bare more than a striking resemblance to that of the more famous Atlanteans from Marvel. Crystar is definitely designed to resemble He-Man as the two basically have the same haircut and it’s even more apparent when he’s depicted as a human. If I were to compare the two, this property was definitely not as shallow as Masters of the Universe, but it also lacks the fun personalities found there. Apparently the series did cross-over into the broader Marvel Universe with Dr. Strange and even Nightcrawler making appearances, but it’s pretty crazy to imagine this occupying the same space as Marvel’s more famous titles. I suppose if you’re one of the few fans of Crystar still around, start petitioning Disney to include him in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

michael golden

Michael Golden

As for the character’s legacy, it’s basically just as the origin of the Danzig skull. Some toy and hobby enthusiasts likely remember the toys, but they were fairly unremarkable, though they did feature dragons which is always cool in my book. For me, this is a long-sought piece for my Danzig collection that I kept putting off for no particular reason. I think I always wanted to just run into it in a comic shop for ten cents or something, but nothing can really hide in this day and age. Virtually every eBay auction mentions Danzig in the title so it’s no longer a well kept secret. It is a cool-looking skull though, so for whatever it’s worth, thanks Michael Golden!

 


Samhain – The Ultimate Song Ranking

samhain headerIt had to happen, no? After ranking all of the songs puts out by the Glenn Danzig-fronted Misfits last Halloween to ranking every song put out by Danzig in celebration of the band’s 30th anniversary, only Samhain remained. The middle child of Glenn Danzig’s bands, Samhain has always been the most overlooked and least appreciated. This is largely due to the band only really existing for about 3 years, barely giving it time to develop its own sound. Predictably, the band sounds like a mash-up of The Misfits and early Danzig as this was basically Glenn Danzig going solo.

As a result of Samhain existing for such a brief period, the volume of songs with the Samhain branding total far fewer than the other two bands. The band had 36 recordings including instrumentals and oddities like “Initium.” Since it’s such a low total relative to the other bands I am forgoing any sort of rules with this ranking. All songs are being ranked individually. The only recordings not considered are the live versions from Samhain’s lone live album. This means I am including covers (most of which are Glenn Danzig covering himself anyway), and there’s even two versions of one song. All of the Samhain releases are long out of print, but I’m sure there are other means of hearing these songs if you don’t want to pay after-market rates. So let’s get down to it and celebrate the festival of Samhain by ranking the works of Samhain:

36. Misery Tomb (Unholy Passion) – Let’s start with the dubious one, the worst Samhain track. This one comes with an asterisk as it’s not really a song and more a collection of noises. Not on the original release of Unholy Passion, “Misery Tomb” is just the vocal wails and effects from that EP’s closing track “I Am Misery” isolated all by itself. It would have made more sense as a CD hidden track which is usually the realm for oddities such as this, but instead it was stuck among the regular songs.

35. Unbridled (November-Coming-Fire) – Given what I said about the first entry, “Unbridled” can be considered my true pick for worst Samhain song. Most of that is due to the terrible production on the track. The vocals are buried in the mix and the sound is so low it sounds way out of place among the better mastered tracks. The music accompanying it does have a playful malevolence to it that is kind of interesting, but the limitations of the band keep it from progressing into anything worthwhile making this track feel incomplete.

initium

Initium was the band’s debut album, and some would say its best.

34. Initium (Initium) – Most of what I said about “Misery Tomb” applies to “Initium.” The only difference is this one is an intro to the band’s first album, and judged on that merit, it’s effective. As a piece of music, it’s just some wind effects with Glenn speaking over it. The lyrics are pretty campy, but it’s fine for what it is.

33. Birthright (November-Coming-Fire) – “Birthright” is the misstep of side 1 on Samhain III. While the other tracks prioritize melody over intensity, this one mostly forgoes that. Like “Unbridled” the production on the vocals also leaves something to be desired. Perhaps if it had a hook in its chorus it would have worked out better.

32. Night Chill (Final Descent) – The instrumental intro for Samhain’s posthumous LP, Final Descent, feels a bit weak compared with the intro on the prior album, but by itself it’s suitable. As its name implies, it’s more a chilling piece of music and it possesses a spooky vibe, for lack of a better term. In short, it accomplishes what it needs to.

31. Macabre (Initium) – This is a track that is distinct for its lack of melody. The beat is rather mischievous, with that malevolent Samhain guitar tone, but the vocals feel isolated. It’s just Glenn screaming nonsense. The imagery is violent, and the song basically has no hooks, but one gets the impression that it’s not supposed to. Raw and intense, you probably either like that about it or you don’t.

30. Lords of the Left Hand (Final Descent) – This one sounds more like a Danzig song. It’s a slow tempo number with an apocalyptic vibe. It could have been snuck onto the first Danzig record without feeling too out of place. This is the original version, and it’s a song I’ve never had particularly strong feelings for. If Final Descent were a true full-length LP this would have been fine as filler, but when forced to stand out it feels a bit lacking.

samhain band

There’s not a lot of Samhain band shots out there, since the band existed for such a short time.

29. Kiss of Steel (November-Coming-Fire) – Bizarre given the subject matter, “Kiss of Steel” is that old school up-tempo punk song with the Samhain bells and whistles. It’s a song about car wrecks, so it’s violent and fits in with the rest of the album given that aspect, though it still seems like a mundane subject for Samhain. It’s brief and relentless though and does possess plenty of hooks.

28. Trouble (Final Descent) – Glenn Danzig and the band’s first attempt at an Elvis cover, this one was originally released on the version of Final Descent included with the Samhain Box Set. It’s similar to what the band Danzig would record, but with less polish. The vocal track sounds like it was done in one take which gives it a raw authenticity. There’s swagger here, perhaps more so than the Danzig version. It’s pretty cool to hear, and even though it lacks some of that Samhain goth vibe, it mostly sounds like what you would expect given what the Danzig version turned out like.

27. Moribund (Unholy Passion) – If you missed the goth texture on the previous song, then you’ll be pleased to know it’s captured here. “Moribund” is sort of Samhain by the numbers. It’s got a bit of a punk thing going on, there’s some added keyboard effects, and it’s fairly catchy. It’s just a little boring compared to the better songs that follow this mold and it’s probably harmed by the fact that its chorus is just the song’s title repeated over and over.

26. Lords of the Left Hand (2nd Version) (Final Descent) – Released with the Samhain Box Set, this version of “Lords of the Left Hand” is much faster. While the original is more methodical, this one is relentless and I think it suits the song’s subject matter better as a result. As a song not deemed worthy of release initially, there is an unfinished vibe to it, but the rawness of the recording is kind of charming as well.

final descent

Final Descent was the 1990 posthumous album from Samhain. It was the only Samhain album to not receive a vinyl release.

25. The Birthing (Final Descent) – Kind of a paradox, as a song called “The Birthing” is essentially all about “The End.” This one has a fun and unique song structure that makes it stand out. Glenn gives a great vocal performance, proving that he’s learned a thing or two since disbanding Samhain, making this one sound a bit more like a Danzig song as opposed to a Samhain one.

24. Death…In Its Arms (Final Descent) – A slow tempo jam kind-of song. It’s another Final Descent track that sounds more like an idea than a realized song. It also sounds halfway between Samhain and Danzig. What is here though is fine, and there’s a groove to this one that helps it stand out. There’s a vocal melody utilized by Glenn here that’s also unique to this song. In short, it doesn’t sound like anything that came before it, or since.

23. Human Pony Girl (November-Coming-Fire) – According to former bassist Eerie Von, when Glenn embarked on writing for Samhain he deliberately wanted to bring in more sexual themes to his lyrics. He had some growing pains and some of the stuff sounds forced or corny, but come Samhain III he seemed more confident. “Human Pony Girl” is one such song and if you like songs about Glenn bare-backing some woman then this one is for you. It’s kind of menacing, and Glenn’s delivery hints at violence without overtly stating anything truly violent. It’s a bit odd as a closer for the album, but I’ve met some female fans who really dig this one.

samhain metallica

The boys of Metallica were fans of the band. James Hetfield would end up singing on the Danzig version of “Possession.”

22. Possession (Final Descent) – Another early version of a song that would appear on the first Danzig record, “Possession” is a rough, slightly faster, version of what ended up being released. It’s not unlike “Twist of Cain” in that regard, which is still to come on our list. The lo-fi recording gives the song a gritty quality that I think suits it rather well though I still prefer the Danzig version.

21. He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named (Initium) – Like “Moribund,” this is another Samhain by the numbers kind of track. It adds this “whoa” track that would probably sound rather funny if isolated from the song, but works with it and gives the song its own flair. It’s a catchy track and Glenn’s vocal delivery rises in intensity throughout the song giving it a satisfying climax. While “Moribund” felt like perfectly fine filler, this one is elevated above that rank.

20. Halloween II (November-Coming-Fire) – Our first Samhain version of a Misfits song. Samhain was actually pretty adept at taking what was old and making it better. “Halloween II” from The Misfits was a moody kind of track, more of a gimmick than true song, but Samhain adds more guitar and a new groove that really pulls everything together. Glenn went for more of a chant quality with the original recording, but here there’s a distinct vocal melody and he practically shouts the verse at the listener. It gives the song a new dimension, a new intensity, and ultimately makes this my preferred version of the song.

19. Diabolos ’88 (November-Coming-Fire) – Samhain’s best instrumental song, “Diablos ’88” is the lead-off track to Samhain III and it’s really punky and fun. It has a lot of Samhain’s trademarked added texture effects with chimes and chants. It’s very up-tempo and probably could have worked as a song with lyrics if Glenn had so desired, but even as an instrumental, it’s pretty damn great.

18. Twist of Cain (Final Descent) – The other soon-to-be Danzig track included on the Final Descent re-issue, “Twist of Cain” has the impossible task of living up to one of Danzig’s most classic tunes. Naturally, it can’t match that band’s rendition, but it is pretty cool to hear in this unrefined, raw, form. Glenn practically growls the chorus and sounds more menacing here than he will with Danzig. All these years later, it would be kind of cool to see if the band could pull-off a similar live version of this song after years of playing it the Danzig way as I think this version would work really well in that setting.

17. The Shift (Initium) – “The Shift” is a slow, brooding, track that’s over before it can really get going, but what it does accomplish in its brief run time is pretty cool. Like a lot of the songs from this album “The Shift” feels like a horror film made song. It’s overshadowed a bit by the songs that follow it on Initium, but shouldn’t be overlooked because of that.

unholy passion

The Unholy Passion EP was the band’s second release. Start to finish, it might be the band’s tightest release.

16. The Hungry End (Unholy Passion) – This one kicks off with an unsettling, frantic, yet simple, guitar riff. As Glenn comes into the picture he’s screaming about a baby in a meat slicer, his voice straining above the piercing sounds of the guitar. There’s a rawness to the vocal delivery, as if it was done in a single take, and the song relents when it gets to a fairly melodious and tastefully delivered chorus. It’s a really neat, and unique, song amongst the Samhain catalog and it really drives home how, even though the band wasn’t really much more talented than The Misfits, Glenn was better at utilizing what this band could do to craft its songs.

15. Black Dream (Initium) – “Black Dream” is a fairly no-frills punk track, an early example of Glenn Danzig trying to incorporate some sex into his lyrics. It doesn’t quite reach the mark in that regard, but what is here is a very catchy punk song that could have come from The Misfits had Glenn chosen to do so. The only thing that makes it sound like a Samhain song is the minimal use of keys to accentuate some of the bass during the chorus.

14. November’s Fire (November-Coming-Fire) – Raise your hand if you sometimes forget this song is called “November’s Fire” and not “November-Coming-Fire” like the album and chorus would lead you to believe. I know I do. It’s obviously not important, and I think it’s still safe to consider this the title track of Samhain III despite the slight difference in naming. This one follows “Halloween II” on the album and logically seems to be about the festival of Samhain as it references fires and the month of November. It’s catchy, with a fun guitar hook. The chorus has a gallop quality to it in the drumming which is pretty unique for Glenn Danzig songs. It can safely be considered one of the band’s signature songs.

13. Horror Biz (Initium) – A new take on The Misfits classic “Horror Business.” This one emphasizes the drumming of Steve Zing and utilizes a more deliberate vocal melody while somewhat downplaying the guitar in comparison with the original. The slightly improved production makes Glenn’s lyrics easier to decipher, including the final line of the song which is mostly unintelligible in the Misfits version. It’s also slightly slower, sacrificing some of that speed and intensity for a more refined groove. Unlike “Halloween II,” I don’t prefer this version to the original, but I do appreciate it. There’s room for two and that chorus will never not be fun to sing along to.

samhain iii

I’ve encountered many fans who consider Samhain’s third release, and last while together, the band’s best.

12. Mother of Mercy (November-Coming-Fire) – This one is perhaps the most famous Samhain song due to its inclusion in the Metallica version of Guitar Hero. It’s obviously a favorite of Hetfield’s and with good reason. It seems to be about giving one’s self up to an older dominatrix, or at least submitting to an older woman. It almost doesn’t matter, as like any good Misfits/Samhain song it really leans into some nice, catchy, hooks that render the song’s subject matter practically moot. This one was apparently also a favorite of Glenn’s as Danzig would keep it in its set list for a few years after Samhain’s demise. It’s not a particularly fast or slow song, but there’s something undeniably fun about that chorus, “We all want our time in Hell.”

11. All Murder, All Guts, All Fun (Initium) – This is another Samhain song that could have easily been a Misfits recording. It’s very punk in nature, uptempo, catchy, and the lyrics are deliberately offensive in order to garner attention (presumably). It’s also graphic, like a lot of Misfits stuff. To make it feel like Samhain has moved beyond The Misfits though there’s a bridge that would be atypical for a Misfits cut. And even though the song slows down for that bridge it still manages to remain catchy, in particular the “Do-you-do-you ree-ah-lize…” conjuring visions of the 50s in some respect. It’s a fun, juvenile, song though that’s rightfully played at every Samhain show.

10. I Am Misery (Unholy Passion) – Perhaps Samhain’s most ambitious song, this one gives up some of the catchy aspects of Samhain’s best, but incorporates perhaps Glenn’s best lyrics. The voice of the song is misery personified, and it’s rather effectual. It moves between being uptempo and mid and there’s plenty of layering and textures added. A great way to kick off Samhain’s Top 10.

9. Samhain (Initium) – The band’s title track, and the only Glenn Danzig band to have such a thing. It’s a great way to introduce the listener to what Samhain is all about. The lyrics are clearly inspired by the actual holiday. It’s very brief, but it works so well. It’s got enough attitude and atmosphere to make it sounds kind of dangerous. It feels minimalist, but it’s so catchy. And when it ends it leaves you wanting more which is the mark of a good song. ‘Tis the night to laugh at Death, indeed.

8. All Hell (Unholy Passion) – The last of The Misfits covers, “All Hell” is a new version of “All Hell Breaks Loose” and it basically kicks ass. Gun to my head, I probably would take this over The Misfits version, but I love both. Like “Horror Biz,” the drums are really emphasized here and the vocal melody is altered for a more deliberate delivery. The way the song is structured really suits this style and adds to the rising intensity the song tries to build up to. The better production also doesn’t hurt in separating it from its predecessor.

final descent CD

Early versions of Final Descent contained the Unholy Passion EP tacked-on the round things out. It wasn’t until the E-Magine reissue that the early Danzig demos were added.

7. Unholy Passion (Unholy Passion) – If someone asks me what Samhain sounds like relative to Glenn Danzig’s more popular bands, this is a song I would point them towards. It’s a mid-tempo track that starts off with a simple bass line and then gradually layers upon that before breaking into the full song. It has all of the atmosphere it needs which is why the EP from which its taken doesn’t need an instrumental lead-in, this accomplishes that task while also delivering a full-fledged and terrific song. There’s a distance in the vocals that adds a haunting quality to the song, and also covers up some goofy lyrics. And as the song states repeatedly; it’s unholy.

6. To Walk the Night (November-Coming-Fire) – This might be Samhain’s slowest song. I’ve never actually measured it, but it’s the closest to a traditional ballad the band recorded. It possesses a somber tone with an understated, but effective, vocal performance from Glenn Danzig. It’s easy listening, which makes it stand out. It’s a personal favorite of mine.

5. Descent (Final Descent) – Final Descent was basically an encore for Samhain. It’s not a bad release either, though I do rank it behind the other three Samhain releases. The songs are worth hearing, but the only one that ever struck me as special is “Descent.” It likely benefits from being recorded essentially by the band Danzig and it contains the best production of any Samhain track. Danzig’s vocals are awesome and intense, and I wish this song received more love from the band during the various reunions that have taken place over the years.

4. The Howl (Initium) – Another moody little horror cut, “The Howl” is a fan-favorite song. I love Glenn’s vocal performance, and the slow gallop of the drums thumps along driving the tempo. It’s a fun horror story, that probably predictable given the song’s title, turns into a series of howls to close it out. Seeing the band perform this one live covered in blood is about as “Samhain” as it gets.

3. In My Grip (November-Coming-Fire) – A power fantasy made song, Glenn Danzig has always had the ability to take what looks corny on paper and turn into something convincing in song. The nature of this song makes for an easy comparison to the Danzig song “Left Hand Black” since it contains similar themes. I love the uneasiness the verse’s guitar creates which leads to the explosive chorus. A great way to kick-off what many feel is the band’s best album.

danzig blood

Glenn Danzig’s affection for Samhain has led to multiple reunions over the years where he once again covers himself in blood to perform.

2. Let the Day Being (November-Coming-Fire) – The companion track to “To Walk the Night,” which leads into this one on the album. “Let the Day Begin” is the polar opposite – uptempo, catchy, and a whole lot of fun. A reckoning is falling upon the world ushering in a new age with fire and fury that will spare no one. It’s uncompromising in its lyrics, which if perhaps given a higher profile would prove controversial, but since this is Samhain it gets to fly under the radar. The song is anchored by its chorus which is perhaps the catchiest one produced by Samhain. Just go and try to get it out of your head.

And the winner is…

Archangel (Initium) – The signature Samhain song, the best of the best. I wrestled with what should be number one since I primarily consider Samhain a punk band and punk bands tend to write fast songs. “Archangel” is not fast, and it’s the band’s longest song at that. Nothing else in the band’s catalogue really sounds like it, but it’s arguably the band’s most complete song. It’s a song that could not have been recorded by The Misfits, and likely wouldn’t sound like this if Danzig had recorded it too. It’s distinctly Samhain. It has an extra bass track that would necessitate Glenn to pick-up an axe himself for live performances, something he rarely ever does. The production is just lo-fi enough to give it a haunting quality and Glenn deftly maneuvers his voice through the song knowing when to croon and when to howl. The song is paced well and the outro it possesses is just another way it separates itself from the rest of the band’s catalogue. It’s a natural show closer, and ultimately my pick for Samhain’s best song.

 

There you have it, all of the Samhain songs ranked. It wasn’t the endeavor that ranking the Danzig songs was, but it was a lot of fun revisiting these songs I’ve listened to so many times during the course of my life. I hope your Happy Halloween has led into a Scintillating Samhain. And just because the holiday has passed doesn’t mean you can’t still listen to Samhain. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always in season.


Danzig – Lyrics of the Left Hand Vol. II

danziglyricsv2Consider this a book-end to the coverage of Danzig’s 30th anniversary from a couple of weeks back. During my write-up for that, a celebration of all of Danzig’s original songs, I made a comment about one entry in particular (“Halo Goddess Bone”) where I mentioned how it would be neat to know just what Glenn is saying. I openly hoped it would be included on the then upcoming Hidden Lyrics of the Left Hand Volume II, which was slated for release in August. Well, that volume is now available and wouldn’t you know, “Halo Goddess Bone” was indeed included.

Lyrics of the Left Hand Vol. II is the follow-up to Hidden Lyrics of the Left Hand, which arrived almost 10 years ago. It’s a Verotik issue, Glenn Danzig’s publishing company that typically specializes in erotic-horror type comics, and both are illustrated by Simon Bisley, who has been an artist in the comic’s industry for decades and has also made numerous contributions to Danzig releases over the years, most famously the cover for Thrall: Demonsweatlive. The impetus for the original release was simply to get a bunch of lyrics into the hands of the fans. During Danzig’s career with The Misfits, his releases seldom contained lyrics and the actual content of those songs has been debated amongst fans for years. Samhain only produced lyrics for its first and third releases, and even the band Danzig omitted lyrics from later releases as well as anything that was limited to an EP or single. 2007’s The Lost Tracks of Danzig only added to the amount of songs without lyrics, so there was plenty of material to fill a comic, if so desired. Danzig’s approach ended up being a bit less ambitious. He handpicked songs from all three bands and then had Bisley do a black and white illustration for each song. Basically, you open the soft-bound book and you have an image on the left and the words on the right.

Hidden Lyrics of the Left Hand may have been smaller in scope than fans wanted, but it was still appreciated. It wasn’t printed in huge numbers, nor was it so limited that fans had a hard time getting it and Verotik still prints small batches for release at concerts and to sell through its eBay store. The presiding feeling on that initial release was a thirst for more. Fans tend to want to know everything, and so long as there are no official lyrics for even a single song they’ll keep asking for it. A second volume seemed like a no-brainer, but it still took several years to happen, and it underwent a pretty significant change as well.

SimonBisley

Artist Simon Bisley has been a frequent collaborator with Danzig for decades.

I think I pre-ordered the new book back in April or May. At the time, it was titled Hidden Lyrics of the Left Hand Vol. II. I purchased it through an online comic book store that ended up pre-selling out and hasn’t bothered to restock the item or take further orders. By the time it was released, the title had changed to simply Lyrics of the Left Hand Vol. II, and that’s because this time out the book contains the lyrics for songs that were previously unavailable but also some that were. It’s a bit disappointing, as I don’t need another source for the lyrics to “Killer Wolf,” especially when there are so many songs still outstanding. The counter-argument to that is you’re getting a piece of art to go with those lyrics, but no disrespect to the work of Simon Bisley, I’m primarily interested in this for the lyrics. The full list of songs included is below:

  • Last Ride
  • Black Laden Crown
  • Devil on Hwy 9
  • But a Nightmare
  • Skull Forrest
  • 1,000 Devils Reign
  • i Luciferi
  • Black Mass
  • Halo Goddess Bone
  • Killer Wolf
  • Her Black Wings
  • Am I Demon
  • November’s Fire
  • I Am Misery
  • Archangel
  • Devilock
  • Bloodfeast
  • Braineaters
  • Halloween
  • London Dungeon
  • Who Killed Marilyn?
  • Come Back

The book begins with a little foreword by Glenn Danzig that summarizes how the book came to be. The text is gray on black and kind of fuzzy, but the font size is large enough that it’s not too hard to read. For the actual lyrics, the font is in white which is a much better choice. As for the lyrics themselves, it’s not surprising to see a lot of later day Danzig material since those booklets either skipped some songs or excluded them entirely (in the case of the most recent album). I noticed only a typo or two. The cover is cardstock and glossy and the black pages do have that tendency to acquire fingerprints, but all in all, it looks quite nice.

verotik samples

Verotik released a few promotional images ahead of the book’s release.

As for the actual illustrations, your enjoyment of them will likely vary from song to song. A lot are a duplicative of each other as several contain one, or all, of the following: breasts, demons, a Danzig caricature, skulls. The illustration for “Last Ride” is just the cover art for the single, and “November’s Fire” is basically a reinterpretation of the cover art to Samhain III. My least favorite might be “i Luciferi” which is just a Glenn caricature with a flaming hand – it’s a bit dull. “Halo Goddess Bone” is also just a feminine skeleton that also happens to have huge breasts, despite having no flesh anywhere else, which looks more silly than sexy. All of the illustrations are done in black and white, and some have more of a sketch quality than others. I personally like that look, but if you’re into full-color illustrations then you might be let down.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some that are pretty neat and it’s a shame they couldn’t be leveraged for a single release or something. “Devil on Hwy 9” is kind of funny in that it’s a demonic character just giving the finger to a cop. There’s a subtle, really nice, horizon in background of the image that almost gets lost. It’s the rare humorous image. The picture for “Halloween” is almost wickedly cute. It features a Bisley version of the Jack-o-lantern from the single cover with a burning, hanging, body in the foreground. Three little trick-or-treaters are looking on and one is a Misfits ghost, a Samhain ghost, and a little Danzig demon. “I Am Misery” doesn’t really fit with my interpretation of the lyrics at all, but the image is still pretty cool. It’s a girl (Death? Misery?) spreading open a cloak and inside are the faces of various killers and tyrants from history. “Who Killed Marilyn?” includes a depiction of the famous crime scene with the Kennedy brothers looking on. I don’t want to run through too many of them since the surprise is part of the enjoyment, but those ones stuck out the most. “1,000 Devils Reign” was also pretty damn cool and is probably the busiest of the Bisley illustrations.

With a release like this, you probably know if you’re going to get it or not at the moment you find out it exists. For hardcore fans of Glenn Danzig’s music, it’s practically essential. The MSRP is $24.95, though I found it for sale for $19.99. Getting it is a bit of challenge as I don’t know of many places selling it outside of Verotik’s eBay store. Their copies seem to go up for sale every other day and usually sell out. They’ve mostly been selling signed copies as well, which is cool if you want Danzig’s signature on your book, but less cool if you don’t want to pay an extra $15 for such a thing. I’m not sure if they put up unsigned copies for MSRP. Some of their proceeds do go to charity, so that’s pretty cool. Comparing this release with the first, which I never did a write-up on, I would say it’s of the same quality. I’m not sure which has the better illustrations, but they’re comparable. This one is less exciting since several of the songs have had their lyrics released in the past, but at least there are a few here that I personally have wanted lyrics to (in particular; “Halo…”, “Devilock,” and “I Am Misery”). If you’re a fan and want these lyrics, get it. If you never cared about the lyrics to the songs anyway, then I’m surprised you read this far.

 

 


The Ultimate Danzig Song Ranking – Conclusion

A-217411-1160871896.jpegWe have made it to the final 13, the best of the best that Danzig has written and recorded. This feature has totaled nearly 15,000 words as we’ve had to sort through 116 songs just to make it this far. Now considering we’re only covering 13 in this last post, I don’t think this one will run quite as long, but who knows? For these last batch of songs, it likely comes as no surprise that most of them come from Danzig’s first four albums. Those are often considered the best the band put out. That’s not to say what has followed has not been worthwhile, far from it, but it is what it is. And of these 13, we still actually have a cut from Danzig 7 to discuss and a few from The Lost Tracks of Danzig compilation, which really is a fantastic release for fans of old and newer Danzig. These songs, as well as the preceding dozens, were hard to rank. Even as I look over my final rankings, there’s an urge to tinker with it and move things around, but I suspect no amount of adjusting would ever truly satisfy me. Even my number 1 is a bit tenuous. Since it’s my ranking, I just went with my favorite song, so anyone else’s rankings could easily feature something else in its place. That’s what makes the whole exercise worth while though. Let’s get to it!

13. Black Mass (I Luciferi) – Danzig’s seventh studio album kicks off with the instrumental “Unendlich,” an eerie piece of music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Castlevania game. It takes us into the first real song of the album, “Black Mass,” a throwback to Danzig’s Black Sabbath roots and proof positive the man could still croon after decades in the music business. This song made quite a statement, as previous albums seemed to try and hide Danzig’s vocals at times and were often reluctant to make them the showcase. For Blackacidevil, that decision was a stylistic choice, but fans worried when Satan’s Child featured a hoarse sounding Danzig underneath some digital layering and wondered what the future held for the former velvet-voiced crooner. I’d like to think that “Black Mass” slayed those fears as an almost gentle sounding Glenn brings us into the song following the heavy riffing of guitarist Todd Youth. There’s an edge to his voice though, a mature sound, and even though we’re back into the comic book imagery of skulls and sacrifices, the band seems deadly serious. The song never rises too high in terms of volume, but it doesn’t have to. After dabbling with industrial elements, this is a song that would have been right at home on Danzig III or Danzig IV, and it’s the best song from the underrated Danzig 7:77 I Luciferi.

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The video for “Killer Wolf” is mostly Glenn posturing in front of things while the band and some random women just hang around an old shack. It ranks fairly high on the unintentional comedy scale.

12. Killer Wolf (Lucifuge) – Another blues song with some swagger, “Killer Wolf” is the post “Mother” song of caution for you parents out there. There’s a dirty vagabond feel to the lyrics, a wandering prowler on the hunt for sin – an image Danzig is more than capable of wielding with some degree of authenticity. Danzig’s vocals shine as they howl out the chorus, the little vocal “twang” on the word “wolf” creates that southern atmosphere the album was looking for. It’s a mid-tempo song and the band provides the backing to Glenn’s vocals with precision. The song has a rolling feel to it that explodes in the end with a powerful closing minute. An early album stunner for the excellent second album.

 

11. Bound by Blood (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – The song Glenn Danzig couldn’t bring himself to include on Danzig 7. He expressed frustration in at least one interview pre-release for that album that he was going to have to leave this one out because it either didn’t quite fit with the rest of the songs on the album or because he wanted to keep the running time down. There was talk of doing a single release, or an EP, and this may have also been around the time he started floating the idea of a boxed set of unreleased songs. We may have the song now, but if I may say, Glenn – you should have included it on the album in the first place. “Bound by Blood” is surprisingly not a song about bondage, but by the literal bindings of blood that exist between family. The lyrics are heartfelt and sweet, and while the song begins like a ballad, it erupts with that famous Danzig bottom-end before long while Todd Youth does his best work for any Danzig song he’s been a part of. The song crashes along with Glenn’s howls, and if it has a weakness, it could in that it perhaps lasts a bit too long. Because the early portion of the song is so lovely sounding, it makes me wonder what an acoustic version would sound like. I don’t necessarily think it would be better, but I do think it could exist on its own. It’s great that we have The Lost Tracks of Danzig to enjoy this and other songs from it, but there is a part of me that listens to the Danzig 7 era tracks and wonder how much better that album could have been. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it’s a toss-up between that and Deth Red Sabaoth for best post original lineup album, but it could have been even better.

10. Let it be Captured (Danzig IV) – This one is perhaps the greatest showcase for Glenn Danzig’s vocal prowess, and lucky for him, it was recorded during the time when he was probably at his best. “Let it be Captured” is another ballad and it’s similar in subject matter to “Sistinas” off Danzig III. The voice of the song is offering an invitation to the song’s target. It’s sweet, and there’s no apparent sinister urges in this one and it meanders artfully through the early parts of the song before the rush of the outro strikes. It’s that outro where Danzig goes off relentlessly wailing the song’s title with a few additional lyrics thrown in here and there for variety. It’s awesome, the perfect song to listen to in the car alone when you want to sing at the top of your lungs. It’s the song I would put on for someone who doesn’t think Danzig can sign or lacks powerful pipes (admittedly, I’ve never really encountered anyone who thinks either). It’s perhaps self-indulgent, but that’s why songs like this only come along so often.

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Despite consisting of mostly stock live footage, the videos for “Twist of Cain” and “Am I Demon” still found it hard to receive airplay on MTV.

9. Twist of Cain (Danzig) – Thirty years ago legions of soon-to-be Danzig fans were introduced to the band via the opening notes of “Twist of Cain.” One of the band’s most popular tunes with its fans, “Twist of Cain” ushered in the new sound of the band following the disbanding of Samhain. It was almost entirely different when compared with what Glenn Danzig had output previously. The speed and lo-fi aspects of The Misfits were a thing of the past while the atmospheric elements of Samhain were replaced with a total tear-down of blues-based hard rock. Danzig’s vocals are commanding and strong, aggressive and fierce. A song of rebellion, a common theme of early Danzig, it snakes its way through various riffs and changes covering a lot of ground in its modest run time. It’s hard to imagine the first Danzig record starting any other way.

8. Pain is Like an Animal (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Of course, the first album could have started with this one. Not that I necessarily think it should have, but this track (supposedly left off from the first album, though the recording on the compilation sounds like a Danzig II or III era track) is one the best hard rock numbers the band ever recorded. It features some great guitar work by John Christ and some excellent percussion by Chuck Biscuits. Like a lot of early Danzig songs, those instruments are front and center with little semblance of Eerie Von’s bass. The vocals sound slightly lo-fi, perhaps because the song was never properly dressed-up for release, but they work with the primal nature of the song’s subject matter. It’s perhaps too up-tempo for the first Danzig album, maybe a song producer Rick Rubin wasn’t a fan of, but it’s hard to argue it couldn’t have made that album even better. Knock off the totally fine, but also just a cover, “The Hunter” for this one and I don’t think you lose anything. The only knock against that first album is it’s sometimes frustratingly restrained, which is made evident when those songs are played live, and this song would have given it another kick in the balls.

7. Cold Cold Rain (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – The crowned jewel of The Lost Tracks of Danzig is “Cold Cold Rain.” It debuted in the late 90s on Eerie Von’s telephone hotline as a little treat for Danzig fans. That low quality recording circulated online for years with fans wanting more, until finally The Lost Tracks of Danzig debuted in 2007. This one was culled from the Lucifuge sessions and it’s another very 50s sounding ballad with an excellent vocal performance by Glenn Danzig. It may have the 50s sound “Blood & Tears” went for, but it’s thicker and louder. Glenn claims in the liner notes that Rubin wasn’t a fan which is why it didn’t make the cut. I’m guessing it basically came down to this song vs “Blood & Tears” and they opted for the slightly more Danzig sounding track. The dry production of that song better fits the album, but it’s still amazing to think that this song could have been on what is an otherwise phenomenal album. It’s because that album is so good that I’m more just happy we now have this one, where as with Danzig 7 I mourn what could have been. Some think this song has been slowed down for release when compared with the old hotline recording. A slightly faster fan mix is on YouTube, and I’m honestly not sure which I prefer. I think it’s silly to try and infer too much from audio that was recorded off of a telephone in the 90s with an actual CD release from 2007, but it’s possible Glenn thought it sounded better a little slower when he revisited it. However you choose to listen to it, it’s one of the band’s best ballads and maybe the best one of them all.

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If you wanted to see the uncut video for “Mother” in a pre YouTube world you basically had to pick up the band’s home video. MTV didn’t like the whole chicken sacrifice thing.

6. Mother (Danzig) – It had to make the top 10. There are some diehards who will turn their nose up at this one because it’s the only song Danzig is really known for within the mainstream. Many bands are regarded as one-hit wonders with that one hit sometimes representing the best of the band, and sometimes not. With Danzig, it’s at least close and if the band was going to be known primarily for one song then “Mother” isn’t a bad one to be known for. It was a big crowd pleaser ever since it was introduced into the setlist, and obviously became the logical closing track after it became a hit upon re-release in 1993. It’s a simple number, with a three-chord progression that could have been lifted from Michael Jackson of all places, with an equally simple structure. The song’s rebellious lyrics impart a sense of danger and mystique and the chorus is the perfect payoff to the verse. John Christ has a suitable solo mid song, before a blistering one during the closing seconds. It’s another restrained Danzig 1 track, because live it’s played just a bit faster and Glenn’s lyrics are delivered with a bit more intensity. It’s understandable that longtime fans can be sick of it at this juncture, but it would be foolish to deny it’s not one of the best Danzig songs.

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The better single from Danzig IV.

5. I Don’t Mind the Pain (Danzig IV) – The better single from Danzig’s fourth album. It could have possibly rode some of that “Mother” momentum that “Cantspeak” otherwise squandered, but it’s also hard to argue this song fit fully into the mainstream rock sound of 94. “I Don’t Mind the Pain” comes in with a plucky, playful tempo with a vocal delivery from Danzig with a touch of softness. It rips into some drum-blasts and more machine-gun guitar ushering in some more malevolent sounding vocals. It all gives way to a pleasant chorus that’s almost poppy. It’s the changes and the approach that make this a challenging single, but with the album having more experimentation on it than any previous Danzig release it likely was never intended to be a bonafide commercial hit. The song’s combination of heaviness and catchiness are what make it the best of Danzig IV. A perfectly splendid vocal performance is the cherry on top, and you can even hear some of that thumping bass on this one too.

4. Tired of Being Alive (Lucifuge) – The title implies a suicidal voice for the song, but the approach is more angry and defiant. A little grumpy, it’s a very up-tempo track that feels quite fresh considering the mid-range of the first album and following the similarly paced “Snakes of Christ” and “Killer Wolf.” I was so excited when this one was brought back into the live show a few years back (now nearly ten years, actually) and it seems the rest of the crowd shared in my enthusiasm. It’s an easy song to bang your head to, and maybe if the title wasn’t so dangerous it could have been a choice for lead single. The song’s approach is rather clean, and there’s some great little flourishes from guitarist John Christ on the chorus. The vocals are layered upon during parts, which also adds some unique color considering the mostly bare bones production approach of Rick Rubin. There’s enough sizzle on top of what is otherwise a really catchy melody to elevate this song almost effortlessly into the spot it’s at on our countdown.

3. Evil Thing (Danzig) – We’re kicking off the top 3 with our last track from the debut album. “Evil Thing” closed that one out and it’s perhaps the most aggressive track on the whole album. It takes the premise of the song and runs with it demonstrating that this is a band you should be afraid of your kids listening to. In the early days of the PTC, this was an easy song to get behind. Glenn’s rapid-fire delivery on the verse feature some of the best lyrics he crafted on the album. The guitar is playful, yet evil, and the drumming is perfectly timed. The vocals are front and center erasing any doubt as to who this band belongs to. This song is what Danzig is all about:  aggression, rebellion, unfiltered. This might be the most “Danzig” song of them all and it’s kind of incredible to me that it ever was removed from the touring set list.

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This girl gets it.

2. Long Way Back From Hell (Lucifuge) – The song that ushered in the more bluesy second album, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate way to begin what many feel is the band’s best album. “Long Way Back From Hell” features a steady build-up leading to a dive-bomb guitar to kick things off. Danzig’s vocals bring everyone in, spinning a tale wrought from the bayou of warning – be sure you’re willing to come along for the ride with this band, because surely Hell awaits. It’s a tremendous statement following the slower debut album as “Long Way…” brings a speed and intensity that album was lacking in. It’s a song that’s easy to be spellbound by as it forces you to bang your head and thrust your fist along with it. It’s expertly paced, giving listeners a brief break midway before crashing back into the fray with an abrupt, but satisfying, conclusion. Before the final notes have finished reverberating, the riff for the next song comes into being and we’re off and running.

And now, the pick for the Ultimate Danzig song goes to…

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Glenn posing with a blond – it basically could be from any Danzig video, but it is from “Devil’s Plaything.”

Devil’s Plaything (Lucifuge) – The midway point of the now classic second album, “Devil’s Plaything” has all of the ingredients of a classic Danzig tune. It starts off quietly with some light guitar playing and Glenn’s majestic voice. Following a couple bars of that, it blasts into a big guitar riff with melodic, yet relentless, drum-work from Biscuits. The sonic wall backs off slightly to bring in Danzig’s commanding and demonstrative vocals. Another song of danger, the verse gives way to a shouting, no-frills, chorus that rolls along with the percussion. There’s a bridge that re-introduces the lighter guitar work on the song’s intro, before jumping back into the verse/chorus/outro mold to wind things down. If the song is missing anything, it’s a guitar solo during that bridge portion. It does feature the “Whoa-ohs” we know and love, something that’s more of a staple of The Misfits than Danzig, but also something that shows up plenty in this band. It’s authentic approach and structure, combined with the subject matter and vocal delivery, are what makes it the perfect Danzig song. It’s been my favorite for decades now, so I see little reason for a change at this point.

 

Well there you have it, 129 Danzig songs ranked in order of worst to best in celebration of the band’s 30th anniversary. Time will tell if the band will add to this list in any meaningful way. At the time of this writing, we know that a collection of Elvis covers has been recorded and mixed and is just sitting on a shelf somewhere waiting for release. I suspect Glenn is trying to figure out if it makes sense to do a physical release or a digital one to get those songs out there. Whether or not he ever does a proper Danzig album is up in the air. The man will probably keep writing and recording until the day he dies, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he gets so sick of the industry that he loses interest in doing full albums. I’ll be here ready and willing to update this ranking should he put out some new material. And since I’ve also tackled The Misfits and their library of songs, I suppose it would only make sense to do the same for Samhain some where down the road. Thanks for reading and listen to more Danzig!


The Ultimate Danzig Song Ranking – Part III

danzigWe’ve covered 80 songs by the band Danzig, but still have 49 to go! We’re well past the poor and mediocre and now well into the best songs the band ever recorded. The rankings already have become quite a chore as some of these songs are hard to separate from others, but it must be done!

49. I’m The One (Lucifuge) – Danzig’s ode to classic blues, “I’m The One” is basically just Glenn Danzig singing and John Christ playing an acoustic guitar while Glenn rattles off lyrics about being evil. It’s pure cheese, but the band takes it seriously and is able to pull it off (as long as you’re not watching the video to it in which Glenn wrestles what looks to be a heavily sedated alligator). It’s very different to the rest of the band’s catalogue so it might be a little polarizing, though I think the majority of fans enjoy it.

48. Warlok (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Another holdover from Blackacidevil that’s a lot better than most of the material on the album. It’s possible it was left off because the main riff is basically a fuzzy version of the “Mother” riff, though Glenn says the engineer he was working with at the time just couldn’t get the song to where he needed it. It’s pretty simple, but catchy and I enjoy the cadence Danzig utilizes for the verse. It’s not similar to his other songs in that respect.

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On a wicked night everything is red.

47. On A Wicked Night (Deth Red Sabaoth) – The lead single from 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth, “On A Wicked Night” was frequently dedicated to former Type O Negative vocalist Peter Steele at live shows (Danzig’s drummer, Johnny Kelly, was the drummer for that band) who passed away shortly before the album came out. It’s a slow one that picks up in intensity and has a big, loud, outro. It’s a frequently used formula, but one that seems to always work. The only negative about this track is the inconsistent production. The vocals sound great on the quiet parts, but when the song gets loud they get drowned out some. The song also almost overstays its welcome, since it doesn’t really have much of a chorus outside of the song’s title, but it knows when to call it quits.

46. Angel of the 7th Dawn (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Lucifuge is often cited as Danzig’s best album, so suggesting a change to that song’s tracklist feels like sacrilege, but “Angel of the 7th Dawn” has a good case. Even though I’m ranking it ahead of “I’m The One,” I wouldn’t bump that song for it since that track is pretty unique and has its own flavor. This one also isn’t a natural closing track, so I don’t know that I’d knock “Pain in the World” off for it either, but I’d happily give “777” the boot. This one is another rock track with a blues undercurrent, like much of the material from that album. It has a fun little story to it with enough, subtle, hooks. It’s somewhat similar structurally to “Killer Wolf,” so maybe that’s why it was left off. Even though it didn’t make the final album, the title of the song did get to live on as the name of the official fan club for the band, so at least it has that.

45. Last Ride (Black Laden Crown) – The last track we’re going to cover from Black Laden Crown is “Last Ride.” The most recent, and possibly last, album from Danzig managed to sneak a track into the top 50 which is pretty good. If Danzig wants to continue making more original music (there is another covers album of all Elvis songs ready to go) then I think “Last Ride” offers a pretty interesting path for the band. It’s a slow, atmospheric track that feels like it could have been a Johnny Cash song. It’s a voice that fits the current mood of the band which is fronted by a now 60 year old Glenn Danzig. Danzig stays in his range vocally while the band provides a nice backing to his more mature sounding vocals. There’s still metal elements present, so we’re not talking another twangy blues track here, and the ever present Danzig bottom-end is mostly intact as well. As an aside, every time I hear this one I can’t help but think it would make for a cool video package based around WWE’s The Undertaker character.

44. Heart of the Devil (How the Gods Kill) – Unapologetically corny, this song makes its outlandish lyrics work. Danzig wails out some impressive vocals that only touch upon that Cookie Monster voice I’ve been a little tough on. Glenn sings about being evil and he sounds more convincing than ever before. The sound is nice and thick, a testament to old analog recording, and it cracks and sizzle with every beat. There’s a violent, sexy undercurrent that the band has often tried to strive for, but doesn’t always hit the mark. Here it does.

43. See All You Were (Blackacidevil) – This one might have been the hardest track to rank for me. It contains a lot of the elements from Danzig 5 that a majority of fans hated:  the vocals are heavily distorted, the instrumentation is mostly electronic, and it’s pretty noisy. It also possesses melody, which a lot of the album decided was no longer cool, and even though it’s hard to hear there’s a great vocal performance here from Glenn. If only a master track was preserved that contained the vocals pre-distortion. I really think with a different direction this one could have potentially made the top 25, but it will have to settle for where it’s at. Probably a polarizing one, as I rarely see it ranked among Danzig 5‘s best, but it’s one I’ve always appreciated.

42. Son of the Morning Star (Danzig IV) – This is another one that goes with a quiet, slow lead-in that eventually explodes. It’s buoyed by an awesome riff on the chorus that’s one of the band’s better mosh pit songs. Or it would be if the band played this one live often, but it’s been relegated more to the filler ranks on Danzig IV. It’s another strong vocal performance from Glenn, which the album is full of.

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I said the music video was decent, but it’s still plenty outlandish.  

41. Ju Ju Bone (Deth Red Sabaoth) – It’s another song from Deth Red Sabaoth that features a silly sounding name, but like “Black Candy” it also rocks. It even has a decent music video, which is rather rare for a late era Danzig song. It features a throwback riff that could have worked on Lucifuge if the production and tone matched that album. It finds a groove and rides the wave through the song without straying too far from that. Danzig’s vocals rise in intensity to give it some variety and finish. It’s one of my favorites from that album.

40. Am I Demon (Danzig) – One of the band’s earliest headbangers, “Am I Demon” has been a concert staple for 30 years and likely will continue to be. It’s an easy song to get into, and especially live, it packs a punch. In sort of a throw-back to old Misfits songs, the lyrics sound like they’re ripped right from a horror comic as they paint a cartoonishly evil picture of the main character’s visions. If it has a weakness, it’s that it probably goes on a bit too long, but at least it’s able to maintain its intensity throughout.

39. Little Whip (Danzig IV) – Danzig’s ode to BDSM, “Little Whip” takes the start slow and get loud formula and puts it to good use. The song becomes downright relentless towards the end with blast beats and heavy riffs accompanied by Danzig’s howls. The song doesn’t really have a chorus, it’s just the bits I described, but it works because it sounds so ferocious. The band takes itself seriously and avoids straying into cartoonish territory with the lyrics. It’s a great track, though I feel like it gets overlooked on the album sometimes.

38. Anything (How the Gods Kill) – This is one of the odder Danzig tracks because it doesn’t follow the usual lyrical formula. We have no evil boastings, no mention of demons, or any violent imagery of any kind. It’s basically a sweet little love song, though with a hint of desperation. It’s wrapped up in a poppy sounding blanket of sound. There’s a slight rawness to the vocal production on the louder parts and a very clean guitar tone on the solo. It’s atypical Danzig, but it’s catchy. It’s not the type of song most would probably want the band to revisit again and again, but as something of a one-time deal it works.

37. Halo Goddess Bone (I Luciferi) – Some 16 years after the album’s release, I’m still not certain of what the lyrics are to this song. If it was featured in the lyrics book from a few years ago, I’ve forgotten, and if it wasn’t well then maybe it will be in volume 2 (which by the time this entry goes up it may have already been released). Regardless, this is a catchy number from Danzig 7. I don’t know what it’s about, I have no idea what the title refers to, but I do know it’s got some good hooks.

36. Left Hand Rise Above (Deth Red Sabaoth) – The closer to Deth Red Sabaoth, “Left Hand Rise Above” is very similar the closer off of Danzig 7, “Without Light, I Am.” Since it’s not from that album though, it has a simpler sound to the production and mix. The vocal production is dry, which adds a rawness to the song that gives it more gravitas. It’s a bit more believable, though perhaps less impressive overall (hence the ranking where it is), but it’s still a stellar way to close out an album.

35. 1,000 Devils Reign (Circle of Snakes) – It feels like it’s been awhile since we talked about a song off of Circle of Snakes. That album is fairly top-heavy, which actually makes it similar to Blackacidevil in some respects, even though I think it’s overall the superior album. “1,000 Devils Reign” was the lead single, though it didn’t receive an actual physical release nor did it receive a music video. It was a showcase track for all of those worrying that Glenn Danzig’s voice had deteriorated, and the very clean and simple verse was here to announce that Danzig’s trademarked croon was still very much alive. This one mostly maintains a mid-tempo approach. There’s a softness to Danzig’s croon that injects more melody into the track than is really there, and the wailing chorus is just enough to dress it up. It feels very understated, but it works so well. I wish more tracks from this album featured such an approach.

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Jerry Cantrell lent his talents to a few tracks on Danzig V, most prominently on “Come to Silver.”

34. Come to Silver (Blackacidevil) – When Danzig 5 dropped, most fans were turned off. The one consistent though was the near universal praise fans heaped on this track, “Come to Silver.” Originally written for Johnny Cash, it was either rejected by Cash or just didn’t get recorded for one reason or another. Possibly complicating things was Danzig’s departure from Cash’s label. Either way, it’s presented here by Danzig and features some impressive lead guitar work by Alice in Chains axeman Jerry Cantrell. It’s similar in approach to the previously covered “Thirteen,” but the subject matter is more grounded. And since this is Danzig 5, there’s also plenty of industrial elements at play. The vocals are only mildly distorted, which actually gives the song a sort of “cold” feel to it. The drum pattern sounds electronic and it’s coated in fuzz, but the guitar work helps to elevate this one. The industrial elements mostly work to add a barren mood to the song, and I actually prefer it to the stripped-down acoustic version present on The Lost Tracks of Danzig.

33. Brand New God (Danzig IV) – Probably the best song Danzig could open a show with. This one is near relentless speed metal, an uncompromising track that’s fairly unique for the band. Sure, the band would play fast and heavy at times, but not usually to this degree. “7th House” kind of tried to mimic this one, but it sacrificed all semblance of melody in the process and mostly missed the mark. “Brand New God” knows when to pause and give the listener a break, bringing in a melodic bridge before going right back into the heaviness. It’s a total red herring though as an album intro since the rest of Danzig IV is mostly slow and brooding, but what a way to start.

32. Blood & Tears (Lucifuge) – For as heavy and evil sounding as Danzig can be, the band is quite proficient when it comes to ballads. This is the band’s first, and in Glenn Danzig’s career before this really nothing sounded like it. The closest may have been “To Walk the Night,” while another track “In the Doorway” still had yet to be released. “Blood & Tears” has a real 50’s vibe to it, a little bit of Elvis with a little bit of The Everly Brothers. It was a real surprise the first time I heard it, and even though I was a hardcore metal kid, I loved it from the start. The main guitar lick is playful yet somber, and Glenn’s vocals give the song a morose feel and he’s able to resist the urge to take the song some place it’s not meant to go. There’s just enough power in his voice making this one of the band’s best attempts at a ballad.

31. Black Angel/White Angel (Circle of Snakes) – Our last song to rank from “Circle of Snakes” is also the album’s final track. “Black Angel/White Angel” is a fairly quick and dirty number, not the usual type of song for the band to go out on, but also not unprecedented. The lyrics are a warning, and the way the song builds underneath them help achieve a crescendo effect when the chorus comes blazing in. The guitar tone and bass are much lighter in tone on this one when compared with the rest of the album making it sound like it’s almost from another session. It’s some-what surprising it made the album over “Lady Lucifera” for that reason, though given where I ranked that one I’m obviously happy that wasn’t the case.

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John Christ and Eerie Von are the same person.

30. Her Black Wings (Lucifuge) – Another concert staple is “Her Black Wings.” The video is relatively tame so it featured some mild airplay on MTV, though this was well before the band’s popularity peaked. Everyone who knows Danzig knows the main riff of this one as it signals the oncoming arrival of this demonic woman who apparently has a pair of impressive wings. This song knows its strengths, and sticks with it, as that driving melody is what sustains the song. It’s what brings it in, and what takes it out. Danzig’s vocals sound great, and while the chorus may be a tad on the dull side, the whole thing still feels good when it all comes together.

29. Deth Red Moon (Deth Red Sabaoth) – Another track that perhaps borrows a little from “Mother,” this melodic little number serving as the mid-point of Deth Red Sabaoth is one of the standout tracks from that album. The vocals are soft and understated, similar to “1,000 Devils Reign,” with even the chorus being somewhat reminiscent of that song as well. A catchy verse with a Danzig wailing chorus is a pretty solid formula for a song. It’s almost too easy, which is perhaps why there’s usually only one or two songs per album that go with that formula.

28. Dying Seraph (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – What an omission this was from I Luciferi! This is a very quiet song with a big chorus. Apparently about a dying angel, there’s a mild jazz undercurrent to the verse that’s really different for a Danzig song. I can only assume it was left off of the album because Danzig felt it just didn’t fit with the rest of the material, but it would have been a real highlight on the album. There’s still another song from these sessions we have yet to get to that also should have been included. Other than maybe Lucifuge, I Luciferi was the album that probably had the best songs removed from it. Thank Satan we have The Lost Tracks of Danzig!

27. Left Hand Black (How the Gods Kill) – This is a rebellious hard rock track that probably should be a concert mainstay, but for some reason is not. It’s all about challenging the gods with a hand clad in black. Because of that imagery it naturally lends itself to comparisons with the Samhain track “Lords of the Left Hand,” but this one is so much better and sounds entirely different. It’s one of the faster and heavier tracks on How the Gods Kill (at least with the chorus) and it’s in a great position on the album. It would have also been a good lead track if it didn’t already have an excellent lead track in “Godless.”

26. Dominion (Danzig IV) – I think this one is intended as filler for Danzig IV, but it’s one of my favorites from that album and maybe the most overlooked gem of the entire Danzig catalogue. It’s fairly somber, but the chorus is damn effective and catchy. It has a similar mood to a lot of the first half of the album as the song’s voice is depressing and defeated, but there’s also a hidden power there as well. There’s also some nice guitar work by John Christ who was possibly taken out of his comfort zone on this album, but still manages to shine brightly (or darkly).

25. Without Light, I Am (I Luciferi) – Another big closer, I consider this the unofficial middle song of a three song trilogy beginning with “Let it be Captured” and ending with “Left Hand Rise Above.” This one has more bombast while still being an evil ballad of sorts. A nice riff brings in the chorus, which is a fairly straightforward shouting chorus that belies where the song is heading. This one is all about the outro, where Danzig wails the song’s title with ever increasing intensity My only complaint is that it just fades out and I wish there was more finality to the song.

24. Ashes (Blackacidevil) – The closing number to the original Danzig 5, this one is unlike most Danzig closers because it starts quiet and it stays quiet. The song only slightly teases that it might go somewhere else with Glenn’s voice rising ever so slightly at times. He also utilizes something closer to falsetto, and this is probably the highest we’ve ever heard Glenn go. It’s a real downer track, so how much you enjoy that mood will likely influence your enjoyment of it. There’s no vocal distortion at all, and the music is basically some electronic wind sounds, a very subtle electronic bass, and some piano. I think it’s unquestionably the best song on Blackacidevil and also its most interesting, even though the rest of the album sounds nothing like it.

23. Hammer of the Gods (Deth Red Sabaoth) – The polar opposite of our last entry, “Hammer of the Gods” is a heavy intro song that has no interest in compromise or “let-up” in it. As the title implies, it dabbles in Norse mythology which is not well-trod territory for Danzig and it’s a nice change of pace. This song really should have taken over as the concert opener, and yet it still plays second fiddle to “Skin Carver.” The world is unjust.

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A lot of blue in this one.

22. How the Gods Kill (How the Gods Kill) – Is this one not high enough? I’m not sure, but it’s the one I feel the most iffy about. It’s one of the band’s biggest crowd pleasers off of one of its most recognizable albums. I think I’ve listened to it so much that maybe I’m a little biased against it, but it basically takes the Danzig “big song” formula of slow, quiet intro, into big explosive middle section that goes back to the cool sounding opener to close things out. Also in the middle is a screeching section of pinch harmonics, which it seems some fans are a little down on in the modern Danzig releases, but don’t seem to hold against this track. It’s a truly classic Danzig cut and if you want to move it up on this list I won’t really fight you on it.

21. Bringer of Death (Danzig IV) – Sometimes it’s all about placement. I am an album guy, I don’t really listen to compilations, greatest hits, shuffle mode, or custom playlists. This track arrives after a series of slow to mid tempo songs with a depressing tone and brings back the Danzig swagger with an explosive sound. Machine gun fire leads into a similar machine-gun-like riff in which Danzig equates God with the Devil. The song pauses briefly for a bridge, before howling back into the speed metal of the first part. It’s a similar structure to “Brand New God,” and I personally love how the second half of the album starts off similar to the first. It’s a great listening experience for you album enthusiasts out there and a reason why Danzig IV is my overall favorite release from the band.

20. Soul on Fire (Danzig) – One of the best songs off of the debut album, “Soul on Fire” has a bit of a sexy swagger to it despite not overtly going for that with its lyrics. It has a deliberate pace and structure, but the play of the verse with the guitar solos and chorus compliment one another perfectly. There’s also an understated saxophone on the chorus which should feel out of place, but it’s timed just right. It’s also arguably the best vocal performance from Glenn on the first album, and the more I think about this one the more I am doubting myself for ranking it here and not higher. I have a feeling I’ll be rethinking all of the top 20 as we move along because these songs are just so hard to separate.

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Danzig getting political.

19. Cantspeak (Danzig IV) – The lead single for Danzig IV, this song had a lot riding on it since it was the follow-up to “Mother ’93” which had been a surprise hit for the band. The label sunk a ton of money into the music video which featured stop-motion effects and some primitive CG. The song itself though was an odd choice. It’s a slow, depressing number in which the song’s voice is essentially suicidal and is left practically comatose thanks to the state of current events. This was the 90s so depressing was certainly in, but this was depressing without a pop chorus. It felt more like the deep cut fans were supposed to gush about as a reason for buying the album instead of just consuming the singles. Perhaps “Dominion” would have made for a better single as that has more of a pop flourish to pair with its dark tone, but that wasn’t the case here. The song itself is really interesting though as the guitar is just the guitar recording for the song “Let it be Captured” played backwards. There’s also some vocal distortion on the chorus, and the song always feels like it’s building towards a crescendo that never truly comes.

18. Sistinas (How the Gods Kill) – The ballad of Danzig III, “Sistinas” is basically a love song, but it does have a slight darkness to it. It’s Danzig’s most Elvis sounding song and I’ve even had more than one person walk in on me listening to it and ask if it was an Elvis track. It’s simple, but pleasant, with a nice vocal performance. My favorite thing about this song though is that it was the favorite Danzig song of a friend of mine back in high school. This was a heavy-set kid with a limp, green mohawk more known for listening to crust punk, but he loved Danzig. He would sometimes sing this song aloud, off key, much to my amusement.

17. The Coldest Sun (I Luciferi) – One of the oddest, and best, songs from Danzig 7. It has a very heavy riff that brings the song in before turning into an odd industrial track with some weird vocal distortion. It then brings in a crunchy, heavy section, that gives way to a soaring, epic, chorus that showcases Danzig’s vocals. It is perhaps the best chorus he’s ever recorded. Without it, the song is probably mediocre, but instead it’s one of the best. It’s a chorus that I can’t get enough of, and the song wisely only gives you a taste of it so it doesn’t become diminished. I love it so much that it’s been my ringtone for the last 10 years.

16. Snakes of Christ (Lucifuge) – One of the band’s early “Jesus is just as bad as Satan” songs, “Snakes of Christ” owes a lot to Black Sabbath as it’s kind of groovy in its evil. A fist-thrusting, head banging tune, “Snakes of Christ” has long been a fan-favorite and concert mainstay for the band ever since its release. Years after its release Glenn Danzig would allege that Stone Temple Pilots ripped off this song with “Sex Type Thing,” which adds some additional notoriety to it.

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If you look closely, you can see Danzig advertised on the cover of Comix Zone.

15. Going Down to Die (Danzig IV) – A showcase for Glenn Danzig’s vocals, this song’s title also tells you all you need to know about the subject of the song. There’s some imagery of the River Styx and a feeling of fatigue as the voice of the song makes its way into the afterlife. I love how the song paces itself, with some drum crashes mid-verse and a big chorus. This song also features one of John Christ’s best guitar solos he contributed to the band as it’s sweeping and melodic while containing plenty of technical proficiency. If you happened to be a Sega Genesis gamer back in the mid-90s and purchased the game Comix Zone you received a sample CD with this song as the lead-off track. Aside from this song though, the rest of that disc was pretty bad.

14. Godless (How the Gods Kill) – Maybe the best album opener Danzig has recorded, though there are a lot of them and some still to come on this ranking. “Godless” packs a punch right from the start, but it slows things down as the vocals come in. The faster section returns and the song really cooks, to borrow a phrase from the 50s, before ending with a weird prayer of sorts. I love John Christ’s guitar work on this one and Chuck Biscuit’s drumming is what brings the whole thing together. Danzig’s vocals are also great, though a little low in the mix at times. It’s a great song though, and the rebellious subject matter made it one of my favorite songs when I was a teen, and some 20 years later, it still does it for me.

Since this is a Danzig list, it feels appropriate to cut this part off here and do a top 13 instead of a top 10. Plus we’re over 4,500 words as even though I try to be brief with my description of each track, I apparently still say too much. Check back on Tuesday, as we pause for Dragon Ball Z Movie Monday, when we’ll be wrapping this feature up with the best songs of Danzig!


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