Tag 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

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.

golden skull

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Glenn Danzig Album Ranking

danzig-trump-travel-ban-planned-parenthoodThis entry marks post number 400 for The Nostalgia Spot. This blog is in its 7th year so I don’t really know if 400 posts is a lot or a little, but it feels like a lot to me. Over the past 399 entries we’ve covered a lot – video games, comics, movies, television, toys, music, and other odds and ends. One repeated topic of conversation has been the music of Glenn Danzig, mostly his work with the band Danzig. Danzig is a very nostalgic subject for me personally as that was the music of my teen years. I still enjoy Danzig, or else I wouldn’t have reviewed every album on this blog, and I’m presently looking forward to catching Glenn Danzig with The Misfits this May in New Jersey.

As a celebration of 400 posts, please excuse me as I indulge myself in my Glenn Danzig fandom. If you care not for the music of Glenn Danzig then feel free to bypass this one, because it’s going to be a long one. Glenn Danzig has been making music since the 70s under the three-headed monster that is The Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig with a couple of Glenn Danzig releases mixed in. That’s a lot of music, and I’ve always wanted to go through it and rank it, just because. This is the Ultimate Glenn Danzig Album Ranking! I’m listing out all of the LPs released by Danzig along with a couple of EPs and one compilation. If I were to rank the actual releases it would get a bit muddier, as The Misfits struggled early on to get their material to market. Most of their songs were probably first experienced by many listeners via the compilations released after the band’s demise:  Legacy of Brutality, Misfits (Collection I), and Collection II. Their pseudo first LP was supposed to be what ended up being called Static Age, which was finally released in 1996. When the band couldn’t find a label that would distribute it, they basically cut it up into various singles and self-released. In some ways, the only true LP released by the band is the classic Walk Among Us. To keep this some-what tidy, I’m ranking the most recognizable releases and their most common edition, so in the case of The Misfits, just Static Age, Walk Among Us, and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling (that last one is also a little messy, but we’ll get to that in due time). On the Samhain and Danzig front, things are simpler and straight-forward. Because the Danzig EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive is so popular, I felt I needed to include it. The Sacrifice EP? Not so much. I’m also going to include the compilation The Lost Tracks of Danzig for the simple reason that it’s awesome and contains a ton of unique content, even if it isn’t a true album in the classic sense. I’ll also include the covers record, Skeletons, since it was a Danzig release. In total, I’m ranking 22 distinct releases so let’s get to it because it’s going to take awhile. *Updated to 23 in 2020 to include Danzig Sings Elvis

ca297e5a51101975771660992b96a2a7.600x600x123. Black Aria II – Glenn Danzig (2006)

Something possessed Glenn Danzig to make an album of classical music. Released in 1992, the first Black Aria was surprisingly good. Loosely based on Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, it was a quiet release that proved hard to track down in short time since it was distributed by Danzig’s Plan 9 label in some-what limited quantities. It was a cult hit, in some respects, and the die-hard Danzig fanbase always hoped for a return to the genre by Danzig. It finally happened in 2006, but where Black Aria had succeeded as a classical piece, Black Aria II sounded more like a collection of haunted house music. You know the kind – the cheap, moody, carnival attraction stuff. There’s really nothing redeemable about Black Aria II. No standout tracks, no killer artwork (unless you like topless, skull-faced nuns) or interesting message. It feels like the result of an artist feeling like he had to release something to follow-up on his earlier surprise success, but it just proves that maybe the classical spark was just a one-time deal.

folder22. 5: Blackacidevil Danzig (1996)

If you’re a longtime fan of Danzig, then you probably expected to see this one here. Blackacidevil has its share of apologists and I’ve even encountered folks who claim it’s their favorite Danzig album. They are entitled to their opinion, though I think they’re crazy. Blackacidevil is Danzig’s infamous dive into the industrial metal genre of music. Freed from his contract with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label, Glenn Danzig either fired or had his bandmates quit leaving him all alone as the sole creative voice in the studio to do as he pleased. Armed with a nine-figure record deal, he must have felt bulletproof. While Danzig was always the creative force behind everything with his name on it, it’s not hard to imagine that longtime bandmates were able to have some influence over the sound of those prior records, even if it was minor. Just their presence and their strengths and weaknesses probably dictated some of the musical direction. And Rubin certainly had a voice with the earliest Danzig material, though no one disputes his diminished role on the final two albums produced under his label. Even so, if this was something Danzig had to get out of his system then good for him. It’s not that industrial music is inherently bad, it’s just that Danzig makes bad industrial music. Most of the tracks are just noise with no hooks or interesting production values. Danzig’s voice is buried under a thick layer of fuzz on most tracks and songs like “Power of Darkness” and “Sacrifice” rely on the cheesiest tropes within that genre to create a melody. Still, it’s not all terrible as “Come to Silver” and “Ashes” are pretty good on their own and I still maintain there’s a good song to be found, somewhere, in “See All You Were.”

danzigskeletonscoverpreview21. SkeletonsDanzig (2015)

When an artist is getting older and likely getting tired of producing music, it seems like the covers record becomes a more tantalizing thing to produce. It seems like that’s how a great many result, while many others also come about usually as a way of fulfilling an album quota in a record contract that one or both parties would like to see concluded. Skeletons is definitely the former, as Glenn Danzig talked for years about doing a covers record because he simply wanted to provide his own take on some classic and not so classic tunes. Danzig had done a handful of covers over the years, often with the finished product sounding quite different from the original recording. For Skeletons though, most of the covers ended up being fairly conventional. Few lyrics were altered and there were no major genre shifts or anything. This is a fairly disposable release that’s quite fine on its own, but certainly not remarkable. The production values, as has often been the case with modern Danzig releases, drag it down some. There’s at least one gem, a cover of “Crying in the Rain” which closes out the album and is a quiet showcase for Danzig’s vocals. “Devil’s Angels” is also a neat track since it sounds like something The Misfits could have recorded once upon a time.

danigelvis20. Danzig Sings ElvisDanzig (2020)

New for 2020 is the Danzig Sings Elvis LP, the second collection of covers from Danzig. It’s somewhat noteworthy that it’s considered a Danzig release as opposed to a Glenn Danzig release as it only consists of Glenn Danzig and guitarist Tommy Victor, with one notable exception in Joey Castillo who returned to the group to drum on “Fever.” Danzig Sings Elvis was a tough one to rank. I knew it wasn’t the absolute worst thing Glenn Danzig put his name on, but it’s also not threatening the top 10. Mostly, I wasn’t sure where to rank it in relation to Skeletons, but I settled on this spot for mainly one reason. And that reason is Danzig Sings Elvis works better as an actual album than Skeletons. While “Crying in the Rain” and “Devil’s Angels” are probably better than anything here, the actual arrangement and production quality is far more uneven on Skeletons. Danzig Sings Elvis is a perfectly respectable tribute to The King and it makes for an easy listening experience. Which is also why I rank it ahead of an album like Blackacidevil which has three tracks I like very much, and then a bunch I’d mostly rather never hear again.

R-832512-1396463739-7772.jpeg19. Final Descent – Samhain (1990)

Samhain is definitely the least popular of Glenn Danzig’s bands, and Final Descent is probably its least popular record. That’s in part due to the fact that it was released after the formation of Danzig and after that band had started releasing albums. What comprised of Final Descent in 1990 was essentially tracks that weren’t good enough to become Danzig songs. When the band was signed to Rubin’s Def American label, they were working on an album to be called Samhain Grim, but would shift focus to making the debut Danzig LP. The original release only contained 5 new tracks, one of which was just an instrumental intro for the album, and the second half of the album was essentially the Unholy Passion EP. When the album was re-released for the Samhain Box Set the Unholy Passions tracks were replaced with Samhain versions of Danzig songs “Twist of Cain” and “Possession” as well as an early cover of “Trouble” and a faster version of “Lords of the Left Hand.” Those additional tracks are basically novelties. They sound like demos and the re-worked versions that would appear on the first Danzig album are better. The other tracks also have a feeling of being unfinished. They’re more like ideas that were worked into songs and made releasable, but of the four, only “Descent” is particularly good. Actually, it’s so good that I wish the various Samhain performances that have taken place over the years had opened with it. Ultimately, this album is more interesting for being a missing link or sorts between Samhain and the first Danzig album. A fun listen in that context, but not one you’ll probably revisit often.

earth-adR-8627479-1465438070-2758.jpeg18. Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling – The Misfits (1983)

Following the lack of success by Walk Among Us, The Misfits found themselves back to self-releasing albums. Danzig was also growing bored of the punk genre while thrash was taking over the underground scene and proved to be an attractive genre for Danzig. The problem though is that the band lacked the talent to play proper thrash. Earth A.D. is basically just a really fast punk record with a raw sound. As an emotion, it can be quite seductive especially on a young mind, but as a melody it’s lacking. Several of the songs, particularly the Wolfs Blood portion comprising the second half, just end up being banal nonsense about demons and hellhounds. Of the original 9 tracks, I only consider 3 as being worthwhile:  “Earth A.D.,” “Death Comes Ripping,” and “Bloodfeast.” “Bloodfeast” is also easily the best of the bunch and oddly enough it’s also the “least thrash” of them too being a slow tempo, sinister sort of track. When it came time to re-release the album in the 90s, Caroline Records added the Die, Die My Darling tracks as well which definitely adds some length to the album and some better songs at that. Even with those added tracks, this one is still my least favorite of the Misfits albums and by a wide margin.

danzig-666-satans-child-51c1c45fb9aaa17. 6:66 Satan’s ChildDanzig (1999)

After Danzig crashed and burned with Hollywood Records, he turned his sights towards rehabilitating his image while also trying to help get a new label off the ground. E-Magine Music sunk a lot into Danzig, but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to keep that label around for very long. During its brief existence, E-Magine would release this album as well as reissues of Blackacidevil, Black Aria, and Sacrifice. The label also re-released all of the Samhain albums, plus a live one, and the Samhain Box Set. Satan’s Child, though, was the only original album released by Danzig on the label and it’s okay. As a return to form, it’s lacking. While it’s true most of the industrial elements of Blackacidevil have been stripped away, there’s still some odd production choices and the overall writing on the record feels almost as uninspired as the previous album. This is just a very by the numbers sort of record and it feels like Danzig was having a hard time coming up with worthwhile song topics often resorting to annoying rhyme schemes in many of the lyrics. Supposedly over 20 tracks were recorded in some form, which speaks to the indecisive nature of Danzig during this period. Not surprisingly, virtually none of the album’s songs have become classics or concert staples. Only the closer, “Thirteen,” has enjoyed any sort of a life after this album and that’s mostly due to its appearance in the film The Hangover. Worst of all, Satan’s Child features probably the worst vocals of any Danzig record. They sound hoarse, and this was apparently the moment when decades of touring finally caught up with Glenn. The explanation at the time was that this was the approach he chose and the result of recording the vocals digitally, but just listening to any interview from the same era seems to portray that as bunk since even Glenn’s speaking voice had grown rather hoarse. The album is ranked as highly as it is though because, in the end, it’s a fairly easy listen. There aren’t many high points, but there also aren’t many lows. A mostly forgettable release.

51OlIqMJJrL16. Thrall-DemonsweatliveDanzig (1993)

As Danzig’s albums kept performing better and better, the band gained a little more pull with the label and was able to convince them to put out an EP, supposedly by referencing how well Jar of Flies had performed for Alice in Chains. It ended up being the right move, as Thrall would become the band’s first gold record and the success of the single for “Mother” helped drive sales for the first Danzig album, eventually getting that to platinum status. As an EP, the release was split into two parts. The Thrall portion contained two original songs, plus a cover Elvis’s “Trouble.” The remaining four tracks were live recordings of “Snakes of Christ,” “Am I Demon?”, “Sistinas,” and “Mother.” The album also contained a remastered studio recording of “Mother” as a bonus track and a new single would be released for it with a repackaged music video. The song became a hit, and Danzig was suddenly tasting popularity for the first time. In some ways, it’s the most important Danzig release, if you consider financial success the greatest measure of importance. By itself, it’s merely good. The two original songs, “It’s Coming Down” and “The Violet Fire,” are surprisingly good. They’re the rare tracks that legitimately sound like they didn’t quite fit on the three prior Danzig releases without being poor songs. The live portion captures the raw ferocity of Danzig, though an over-reliance on Danzig’s Cookie Monster voice does drag them down some. It’s interestingly dated as a result, but a fun head-banging release.

5139115. Black Aria – Glenn Danzig (1992)

In 1992, most Danzig fans were focused on the upcoming Danzig III so when Glenn Danzig quietly released Black Aria on his old Plan 9 label few knew what to make of it. It’s cover, illustrated by artist Michael William Kaluta, depicted an angel stabbing a demon in the back which appeared to be a pretty literal interpretation of the album’s subject matter considering it boasted tracks such as “Battle for Heaven” and “Overture of the Rebel Angels.” It was released in few numbers on both CD, in long-box form, and on vinyl LP, and would go out of print. Since it was so limited, it became a rather talked about album in the Danzig community with the few who owned a copy proclaiming its brilliance while also maintaining its mystery, to a point. Just what was this thing? The liner notes by Danzig himself were both a warning and a beckoning as he welcomed fans to join him on this journey into a genre he had never touched before and few would have expected him to ever explore. For all intents and purposes, Black Aria is a classical album arranged in a modern fashion where just about everything is likely originating from a keyboard. It’s very atmospheric, and the first six tracks are inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost. The remaining three are also based in mythology and some of them were actually familiar to fans who had picked up copies of the Danzig home videos (some of these tracks have even shown up during video packages set to music by the likes of ESPN, of all places). Danzig would also often use some of this music as an intro to the live show, and “Overture of the Rebel Angels” became a concert mainstay in that fashion. In truth, Black Aria is a fun curiosity item. It’s brief, totaling less than 24 minutes, but it’s very digestible and is a perfectly fine representation of the genre. Of course, I’m hardly an expert on music and what acumen I have is certainly not in the classical genre, but for what it’s worth I find this record to be a nice listen. Since the Plan 9 release went out of print, the album has been re-released twice on CD. The E-Magine release in 2000 was basically just a re-release while the Evilive reissue in 2006 was remastered and delivered in a digipack, a more suitable format for the excellent artwork.

danzig-circle-of-snakes-50014. Circle of Snakes Danzig (2004)

Come 2004 I believe Glenn Danzig was getting a little fatigued once more. Satan’s Child had featured a tour spanning two legs, plus a few European dates before the album’s release. Danzig 7 followed in 2002 and also featured a heavy touring schedule, and just two years later came Circle of Snakes. Circle of Snakes is even more of a back-to-basics record than Danzig 6 or 7. Structurally, it’s reminiscent of the very first Danzig record though the emphasis on down-tuned guitars and the muddy production give it a distinct, albeit not great, sound. And after Danzig sounded pretty good on Danzig 7, Circle of Snakes presents a more uneven performance. How much of that is tied into the production is unknown, but really for the first time on a Danzig record the vocals sound like they’re too low in the mix in some places and it’s something that will plague future releases as well. The band also had a new lineup, and former Prong axeman and one-time touring guitarist Tommy Victor joined full-time on lead guitar bringing a new emphasis on pinch harmonics that had not been seen since Danzig III. Circle of Snakes has a few awful tracks such as “My Darkness” and “HellMask” – they’re fast, muddy, and lacking in melody or inspiration. Some tracks, like “Skull Forrest” and “SkinCarver,” are almost there, but are missing a certain ingredient to push them over the top. It’s not a total loss though. The first single, “1000 Devils Reign,” features some of Danzig’s best vocals in years as he utilizes a playful croon for the verse that builds to a perfectly suitable, simple chorus. “NetherBound” is another meandering track with a strong melody while “Black Angel, White Angel” is a great closer that employs crescendo to build to a catchy, rapid-fire styled chorus. It’s a song that doesn’t compare to anything else in the Danzig catalogue and is the best song from Circle of Snakes.

Cover_of_Black_Laden_Crown_(2017)_by_Danzig13. Black Laden CrownDanzig (2017)

Coming in at number 13 is the most recent Danzig release as of this writing: Black Laden Crown. Black Laden Crown is stylistically pretty similar to 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. Both are lo-fi, old school, heavy metal records with a touch of blues and a slew of pinch harmonics from guitarist Tommy Victor. It also possesses the subpar production values of that previous record and it further drives home the point that maybe Glenn Danzig isn’t a great producer, or at least he certainly isn’t in 2017. It also could just be the result of trying to record and release an album on the cheap, since there isn’t a ton of money in music anymore. Whatever the reason, Black Laden Crown fails to put the vocals in the spotlight where they should be on a Danzig release, and the album suffers in places as a result. There’s very much an emphasis on doom metal with almost all of the tracks bringing a more mid-tempo approach with the typical dark imagery in the lyrics. Interestingly, it’s when the album tries to speed things up it falters in its most obvious spot with the single “Devil on Hwy 9,” just a mostly dumb track about driving really fast with some of the worst vocal production to ever appear on a Danzig record, which is a shame because the track sounds so promising at the start. The track that immediately precedes it, “Eyes Ripping Fire,” practically begs for some of that speed but it never comes. Aside from those two missteps, and actually “Eyes Ripping Fire” is an okay track, the album really doesn’t have a bad song. The problem is that it doesn’t really have any standout ones either. It’s an album that really lacks hooks, and even a song like “Skulls & Daises” that manages to be somewhat catchy is really let down by its absence of a true chorus. The title track serves as a great intro. It’s doom, kind of cheesy, but it sounds authentic. It explodes during the latter half, but it never goes anywhere and the vocals never return after that moment. It feels like a real missed opportunity because that track was setup to be an all-time classic Danzig number. Perhaps the best song is “Last Ride,” an almost neo-blues/metal song that is really successful at creating a Danzig mythos, but once more, it’s kind of let down by a lackluster chorus and poor vocal production. Still, I think it offers an interesting template for future Danzig songs that kind of straddle a country/metal vibe, a sort of American Recordings era Johnny Cash, but with a heavy bottom-end. Hopefully this isn’t the last Danzig record and we get something more in that style somewhere down the line, but at age 62, who knows how many albums Glenn Danzig has left in him?

Samhain November Coming Fire12. III: November-Coming-Fire – Samhain (1986)

Samhain’s third release, and second LP, is often cited as the band’s best. Obviously by how I’m ranking it here, I disagree, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily down on the record. November-Coming-Fire is essentially a tale of two halfs. There’s the first half which expands upon the Samhain formula of gothic punk/metal with tracks that are equal parts ferocious and melodious, and then there’s the second half which has some experimental elements (mostly just with “Human Pony Girl”), but is mostly a poor man’s Misfits release from the band’s waning years. It’s not quite so black and white, as the track “November’s Fire” is pretty damn good and I prefer the Samhain version of “Halloween II” to the Misfits version, but there’s enough empty tracks that keep me from coming back to this album as much as I would like to (plus, as good as it is, who really wanted the band to revisit “Halloween II”?). “Birthright” and “Unbridled” are some of the worst sounding songs in the entire Glenn Danzig catalog and they really don’t do anything well. “Kiss of Steel” is one of the weirdest, as it’s just about getting into a nasty car wreck and feels out of place while “Human Pony Girl” is Danzig’s latest attempt (in ’86) at injecting some eroticism into his music and it comes off kind of silly. It’s a song that’s basically just about fucking bareback. Those are the low points though, and the high points are pretty rocking. “Diabolos ’86” is a fun instrumental that bleeds perfectly into the fist-pumping “In My Grip.” “To Walk the Night” and “Let the Day Begin” also play-off of one another not just thematically, but by contrast with “To Walk the Night” being the slowest track on the album and “Let the Day Begin” one of its fastest. Both might represent the peek of Samhain, which is basically this album’s legacy. It contains some of the best songs Samhain ever recorded, and also contains the worst, and at a mere 28 and a half minutes it’s hard for an album to overcome multiple poor tracks.

R-378935-1348186498-6221.jpeg11. 7:77 I LuciferiDanzig (2002)

I Luciferi was Danzig’s second attempt at a comeback album following the debacle that was Blackacidevil. It succeeds at doing so more than its predecessor, though it likely didn’t win over many of the fans that had checked out following Danzig IV. For the band’s only release on Spitfire Records, Danzig kept the C-tuned guitars for the most part and stripped away even more of the industrial elements from those past albums and presented a fairly modern metal release for 2002. The opener, a Celtic sort of instrumental titled “Unendlich,” sets an eerie mood that serves the second track, “Black Mass,” extraordinarily well. Perhaps too well, as the Sabbath-sounding “Black Mass” is such an excellent opener that the rest of the album struggles to match. It doesn’t help that what follows is “Wicked Pussycat,” a song that sounds as dumb as its title. It’s one of the most nu-metal sounding tracks Danzig recorded during this era with its rap-rock chorus and bouncy riffs evoking some very bad imagery. “God of Light” brings an interesting, off-tempo drum pattern, but nothing around it complements it making for just an annoying song. Thankfully, things pick up after that. While “Liberskull” does feature another bouncy, nu-metal guitar riff it at least balances things out with a catchy chorus. The album mostly meanders from there, before picking things up in the second half. “Naked Witch” has a great structure and features some nice work by returning drummer Joey Castillo while “The Coldest Sun” uses an incredibly odd sounding verse to magnify what might just be Danzig’s catchiest chorus of all time. The closing track, “Without Light, I Am” is an evil version of “Let it be Captured” from Danzig IV, and if you’re familiar with that song then that probably sounds awesome to you. The album succeeds in bringing back the guitar, which was de-emphasised on Danzig 6, and newcomer Todd Youth handles himself well on all of the leads and solos. Danzig 7 was an album I listened to non-stop during the summer of ’02, which also happened to be the year I graduated from high school so it’s a pretty nostalgic piece for me. Even stripping away some of that, this album is still one I enjoy basically because it does what Black Laden Crown failed to do in 2017 – it brings the hooks! It’s catchy, and while the filler is marred with poor production and cartoonish imagery, the high points are good enough to elevate this one to rest just outside the top 10. And this album could have been so much better as we’ll talk about when we get to The Lost Tracks of Danzig.

220px-Samhain_Passion10. Unholy Passion – Samhain (1985)

This one is probably the shortest release on our list, coming in at just over 17 minutes, Unholy Passion is a true EP, but based on the numbering of its follow-up, this was considered to be Samhain II. What it lacks in content it makes up for in quality. This is a great little album that really doesn’t have a bad track. If it has a lesser track, it’s probably “Moribund” which is what I would call a very conventional Samhain song. It’s catchy, simple, but doesn’t stand out. Meanwhile, “Unholy Passion” is one of the band’s best. It has some silly lyrics, but the layering effect on the vocals casts an eerie pall over it and kind of obscures them for the better. “I Am Misery” is a rollicking song with a sinister edge and a great closer for the album. And in keeping with tradition, there’s also a Misfits cover on this album, just as there was on Initium and as there is on November-Coming-Fire. This time it’s a cover of “All Hell Breaks Loose,” now retitled simply as “All Hell,” and it adds a new dimension to the Misfits classic that arguably improves upon it. This album is so good that I sometimes think it’s my favorite Samhain release, but in the end, it is just too short to rank it any higher. It was originally released on vinyl with just five tracks. Later, it was included with Final Descent and an extra track was added, “Misery Tomb,” which is essentially just the background noise and samples from “I Am Misery” isolated as a lone track. It’s dumb, but since it was added later as a filler I don’t consider it a strike against the record. When this one was re-released by E-Magine on CD it kept “Misery Tomb,” but at least it’s easy to skip. These later releases also featured overdubbed guitars and are remixed slightly, so the only way to hear these songs as they were originally released is to track down one of the vinyl releases. And if you’re a big baby like me, that might not even work as I have a copy, but I’m too scared to put a needle on it because my turntable is kind of junky.

2737669. Deth Red SabaothDanzig (2010)

Just inside the top 10 feels like the perfect spot for perhaps the true Danzig comeback record – 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. After a long hiatus, it was nice to finally have a new release from Danzig. This one had been in production off and on for a number of years as Danzig basically just rented a studio space when the mood struck and he had a song to work on. It’s hard to know just when each piece of each track was recorded and how old some were, but despite that the production from song to song is pretty even and so are the vocals, so it’s not as if it sounds like listening to the Lost Tracks compilation which did literally span decades. Perhaps feeling nostalgic himself, Danzig elected to record this album via analog as opposed to digital. This means everything was recorded and tracked on tape before eventually being dumped onto a computer for actual mastering. The stated intent of doing so was to achieve a thicker sound, which makes some sense since this is a release that loves the low-end. It even seemed like there would be a minor analog revolution when the Foo Fighters elected to do the same not long after this on their album Wasting Light (I don’t think their decision to do so had anything to do with this release though), but aside from those two instances I haven’t heard of many more. Deth Red Sabaoth still features some disappointing production elements. The vocal levels are sometimes uneven from song to song and there’s a tendency for the drums to take over in places. When Danzig is singing the low parts, such as on the lead single “On A Wicked Night,” the vocal production sounds good, but then the song kicks it into a higher gear and they sound strained, fuzzy, and wooden. There’s definitely a lack of warmth on this release, though I think some of that is intentional, and how much is due to the analog approach as opposed to just sloppy production is unknown to an amateur music critic such as myself. The production is really the only major criticism I have for this release though. As a collection of songs, Deth Red Sabaoth pretty much kicks ass. The opener, “Hammer of the Gods,” is one of Danzig’s best heavy songs he’s ever recorded. It has a fast, mosh-pit personality and is a natural show opener (though the band still insists on using the boring “Skin Carver”). “Black Candy” features actual drumming by Glenn Danzig and he doesn’t embarrass himself. It’s a heavy, thumping song that works in spite of its silly sounding title. “Death Red Moon” is perhaps my favorite song of the bunch. It kind of rips off the old “Mother” riff, but it has a nice, actually gentle melody that courses through the song and just makes for an enjoyable listen. With better vocal production, and perhaps one more hook, this would have rivaled for the top spot on this list. What we have though is pretty damn good though and is easily the best Danzig record post original lineup.

danzig-180417e0-c57b-438b-b499-e0062a80bee48. DanzigDanzig (1988)

The debut for the band Danzig is basically Samhain Rick Rubin-style and with better musicians. Eerie Von was still the bassist, but Rubin’s sort of dislike of the bass means he’ll be seldom heard. The drums were now manned by the incredible Chuck Biscuits and on guitar was the relatively unknown John Christ who had apparently been trying to join the band for some time. Christ brought a very professional, technical sound to the band and for the first time Glenn Danzig would not be held back in his song writing by the personnel around him, nor by financials with Def American now picking up the tab for production. Rubin’s approach to Samhain, now simply Danzig, is basically the same approach he uses for every rock act (and some country ones) he produces. He strips away basically everything, uses the drums to fill the song out, and emphasizes the guitar and vocals. It’s a very simple approach. The production is clear, but bare, with only one or two guitar tracks per song and little in the way of flourish. There’s a blues undercurrent as well with Danzig’s rich vocals up front. The album is also noticeably slow when compared with past albums and the live versions of the songs present here. The album has a nice, sustained groove to it. If every Danzig album had undertaken this approach it probably would have felt boring after a few releases, but since this is really the only one it makes it stand out. The collection of songs are also now considered classics:  “Twist of Cain,” “Am I Demon,” “Not of This World,” “Soul on Fire,” “Mother,” – all great Danzig songs. There’s little in the way of filler, though the cover of Booker T. & the M.G.’s “The Hunter” was probably intended as such, but it ends up being a really fun track thanks to the lively guitar work by Christ. Danzig would go on to become the band’s lone platinum record, though that would take several years and would require a boost from the re-release of “Mother” in 1993. This is a foundational record for Danzig and a killer debut. It established the uncompromising vision of the band, it’s relentlessness, and a piece of it can be found on virtually every album to follow it. It’s simply put, the album you start with when you want to jump into the Danzig catalogue.

R-1232120-1202445868.jpeg7. Initium – Samhain (1984)

Samhain’s debut LP is also the band’s greatest triumph. In some ways, it’s really the only essential Samhain album and it alone almost sounds like a bridge between The Misfits and Danzig, though subsequent releases like November-Coming-Fire due add to that aspect of the band. Initium feels like the album Glenn Danzig wanted to make with The Misfits near the end, but could not. Either due to the musicians around him and their abilities or just fatigue with dealing with everything about that act. A clean break is probably what he needed and Samhain certainly represented where he wanted to go. After flirting with thrash in the latter days of The Misfits, Initium dials back that element in favor of a more traditional punk sound. The additions of keyboards and production elements such as chimes give Initium its distinct sound resulting in most critics attaching the goth label to the band. Some of the songs do sound like they could have been done by The Misfits. “All Murder All Guts All Fun” has the speed and brutality of some of the slasher-inspired Misfits songs while “Horror Biz” is a cover of The Misfits classic “Horror Business” with a new drum pattern and a more “rock & roll” approach to the vocals by Glenn Danzig. The second half of the album is its most interesting section. It sounds like if The Misfits had taken the song “Bloodfeast” and made an album around that track, as opposed to it being the oddball song on Earth AD.  Both “The Shift” and “The Howl” have this slow, tribal quality to them and they work better at creating a creepy, horror vibe than the more cartoonish tracks about literal blood and guts. “Archangel” is definitely the best of the bunch though. Slow, but catchy, with a touch of an ethereal quality to the vocals, it’s a haunting tune that slowly builds and builds without ever truly exploding. The kind of track that you immediately want more of when it concludes. Initium was originally released on LP, CD, and cassette. A CD/cassette reissue in 1986 added the Unholy Passion tracks, and if we were just judging physical releases by Samhain then that version is basically the ultimate Samhain album. Even ranking it as originally released, Initium is still an easy pick for me as best Samhain album. It’s the only one from the band I really come back to each year, only opting for the other albums once I grow bored of this one.

R-9717941-1485266729-5387.jpeg6. The Lost Tracks of Danzig Danzig (2007)

The best Danzig album post the Def American era is definitely Deth Red Sabaoth, but the best release is probably The Lost Tracks of Danzig. Finally released in 2007, The Lost Tracks had been brought up and discussed by Danzig going as far as the late 90’s. During the promotion for the Samhain Box Set in 2000 Glenn Danzig had discussed his desire to put out a collection of unreleased Danzig songs in packaging in the shape of an inverted cross. The Lost Tracks may not have featured such a design, but it did come in a pretty cool package of its own. Basically evoking the old CD long box, it displayed both discs on digipack release one above the other allowing for the front cover to feature an extra large piece of art with a long booklet glued to the inside. The booklet contained liner notes on most of the tracks, often simply giving Glenn’s opinion on the song and a little explanation for why it was never released. Some of the stories are neat and required further explaining in interviews, such as the surprisingly brutal “Satan’s Crucifiction” which was recorded as a joke song to scare the Def American execs hoping for a new single to capitalize on the popularity of “Mother” that wasn’t “satanic.” Album outtakes are often crappy, after all they’re not released for a reason, but Danzig has always approached each album by recording many more songs than what is needed and picking the ones that best fit the album’s mood. This means sometimes really worthwhile tracks are left behind because they don’t fit in. Sure, there are some filler duds like “White Devil Rise” and “You Should Be Dying”, but there’s also 26 tracks so the sheer amount of content helps to drown the lesser songs out. There’s a ton of material here that I think should have made an actual album, and I’m kind of sad they’re trapped on this release. “Pain is Like an Animal” has some balls to it that would have made it really stand out on the first Danzig record. Perhaps it was too fast, and if included on Danzig III maybe it felt redundant with “Godless.” “Angel of the 7th Dawn” and “Cold, Cold Rain” have the misfortune of being omitted from one of the band’s best albums, Danzig II, but I think both could have made that seminal release even better. What’s really interesting is how strong the second disc is which is comprised mostly of material from Danzig V through Circle of Snakes. I think most longtime fans were probably more interested in the material cut from the early days, but the songs left off of the modern releases are also pretty damn good. It’s kind of crazy that Danzig couldn’t make better use of “Dying Seraph” and “Bound by Blood,” though in the case of the latter he did openly lament in more than one interview at the time how it was going to crush him to leave that song off of Danzig 7. “Crawl Across Your Killing Floor” was finished with Todd Youth on guitar sometime after Danzig 6 was finished, so that one missing a release isn’t hard to figure out. Perhaps it could have been re-worked to fit on Danzig 7 down the road, but at least it was released here because it’s an awesome song and kind of a precursor to something like “Black Hell” and “Last Ride.” This is an awesome release though and part of the fun of listening to it is playing producer and re-arranging the actual albums with material from this one. What do you include? What would you cut from what was actually released? Like an actual album, it has plenty of variety between fast and slow, loud and quiet, and the only jarring aspect to it is the differing production techniques and a repeat song like “When Death Had No Name.” I feel like I go to this one as often as I do the actual Danzig records when I want to listen to Danzig which is why I couldn’t ignore it for this list of Glenn Danzig releases. Track this sucker down if you’re a Danzig fan and slept on it, you will not be disappointed.

R-420437-1369856673-5716.jpeg5. Walk Among Us – The Misfits (1982)

In some ways, Walk Among Us is the only true LP released by The Misfits and it took a lot to get it released. It was basically recorded twice, since once they finally found a label willing to release it the label wanted them to re-do it. The work paid off though as this is the most recognizable release by The Misfits and basically the go-to record of choice for anyone looking to experience the band’s brand of horror-punk. It’s a collection of roughly 25 minutes of some catchy punk music that’s easily digested in spite of the ghoulish imagery. Some of the band’s all-time classic tracks are present here such as “Skulls” and “I Turned Into A Martian,” songs basically guaranteed to be played whether it’s Jerry Only’s Misfits or Glenn Danzig doing songs with his band, or as the now sort-of together Original Misfits. The only song on this album I don’t really care for is “Nike-A-Go-Go,” but even that one is undeniably catchy. This isn’t my favorite Misfits LP, as we’ll get to that one shortly, but it’s definitely the one I would recommend first to anyone looking to get into The Misfits.

Danzig_III_How_the_Gods_Kill4. III: How the Gods KillDanzig (1992)

After two albums in which producer Rick Rubin exerted his influence on the band, he stepped back paving for the way for Glenn Danzig to self-produce the next record:  Danzig III – How the Gods Kill. The result is an album that sounds like what Samhain was moving towards, especially now that the band had some real money to finance their work. That’s not a dismiss of the first two Danzig records, just an acknowledgement that they sound a little out of place and are pretty unique. Danzig III injects some of that goth sound from Samhain as well as plenty of Sabbath. A lot of these tracks would have felt right at home on Final Descent, and would have obviously made that release much better since it was pretty far back on this list. It opens with the aggressive drumming of Chuck Biscuits on the track “Godless,” which comes to a screeching halt where Danzig wails his lines slowly and soulfully. There’s this pinging noise that sounds like a hammer hitting a railroad spike, or maybe driving a nail into a cross. The song picks back up and things get rolling from there. It’s one of the best intros on any Danzig album, and maybe the best song on the album. “Anything” is almost bizarre as the second track as it’s oddly sweet with its message, something not common to Glenn Danzig music. “Left Hand Black” and “Heart of the Devil” double-down on the evil imagery of the band, while a couple of Sabbath knock-offs conclude the album in “Do You Wear The Mark?” and “When the Dying Calls.” The title track is a thunderous Danzig ballad full of the pinch harmonics the band seems to really love these days. The only downers to this record is some uneven production at times, perhaps because of the Rubin absence, and Danzig’s over-reliance on the debuting “Cookie Monster” vocals. I’ll never understand what drove him to mess around with that sound so much. It works in some places, and in others it’s annoying (namely “Bodies”). The combination of dark and light aspects of this album though, and the focused approach, make this one the preferred Danzig album for many fans.

Static+Age+Misfits+Lupinore+music+Toronto3. Static Age – The Misfits (1978/1996)

Trapped in limbo for nearly two decades with some recordings spread across various singles, Static Age was the debut for The Misfits that never was. The band self-financed the recording of the project when a bigger label wanted to start an offshoot called Blank Records. The only problem was Glenn Danzig had secured that trademark for his own band. Rather than sell it to the label, he exchanged it for studio time which is how this album got recorded. They were never able to find someone willing to distribute it though until long after the band’s demise when new found interest in The Misfits lead Caroline to release it first on The Misfits Box Set, and then finally as a stand-alone release with “In the Doorway” tacked onto the end. It’s a collection of more traditional punk material with only hints at the horror gimmick to come. As a result the songs sound more focused and more varied, but there’s plenty of punk attitude with lyrics that seem designed to just get attention, such as “Last Caress.” Maybe you don’t think of this as a true LP for the band, since it wasn’t released when recorded, and view it more as a compilation. Whatever your opinion, I think it’s hard to elevate any other Misfits recording over this one. There’s just too much great material. You have plenty of fast songs, mid-tempo ones, and even some slower stuff the band basically wouldn’t touch for the next few years. This is my personal go-to Misfits release. I love the dated quality of the recording, the clear production on the vocals, and the collection of songs here.

Danzig2na2. II: LucifugeDanzig (1990)

For many years, Danzig II: Lucifuge wasn’t just my favorite Danzig release, but my favorite album of all time. It’s a bit of an odd duck in the Glenn Danzig catalog as it’s really a blues-driven hard rock album. There’s a southern quality in place, and not just because he name-drops Louisiana in the opening song “Long Way Back From Hell,” which is yet another killer opening number (Danzig is really good at those). This album has some of Glenn Danzig’s best vocals and he was just in top shape for the recording of this one. No Cookie Monster stuff, no distortion, and crystal clear production. It’s his most Jim Morrison-like release. John Christ seems to have more room to work with and really cuts loose on “Tired of Being Alive,” another strong up-tempo number. “Devil’s Plaything,” “Blood & Tears,” and “Killer Wolf” number among my favorite Danzig tracks, with “Devil’s Plaything” probably my all-time favorite. The only track I don’t like very much is “777,” though I appreciate the interesting mix of electric and acoustic guitars. The closer, “Pain in the World,” is also a song I’ve just never been able to get into. If described to me it would sound like something that would really appeal to me, but it’s just never worked for me. Maybe I’m just spent by the awesomeness that precedes it by the time I get there, even though this isn’t what I would consider a long record. The only reason why it’s probably no longer my number 1 is fatigue – I’ve listened to this thing hundreds of times by now so maybe it’s just time to elevate something else until I inevitably get sick of it too.

hqdefault-321. Danzig IV (4P)Danzig (1994)

And here we are! It’s taken nearly 8000 words but we’ve arrived at number one and my favorite Glenn Danzig release – Danzig IV. Sometimes referred to as Danzig 4p, this is another record essentially produced by Glenn Danzig and Glenn Danzig alone. It was the last Danzig album released on American Recordings with the band’s original lineup. It was also the first released after the success of “Mother ’93” and really the only time in Glenn Danzig’s career where there was a commercial expectation placed upon his shoulders. As a response, Danzig did not compromise his vision even the slightest embarking on another exploration of the dark that Danzig so loves. Where the first three albums sounded like independent entities all their own, this one is a true follow-up to Danzig III and is sort of the ultimate Samhain album, but there’s so much new and refined at this point that it really is it’s own thing. Simply put, this is peak Glenn Danzig in terms of vocals. He demonstrates his range on this one with screamers, crooners, and wailers. “Going Down to Die” might be his overall best vocal performance, while “Let it be Captured” is his most impressive. There’s some hint to what would follow on Danzig V with the fuzzy, distorted chorus of “Cantspeak” and the mood music track “Sadistikal,” basically the album’s only dud, but also a song that feels less like a song and more like an intermission. “Dominion” and the previously mentioned “Cantspeak” are some of Danzig’s most vulnerable sounding tracks, coupled with “Sistinas” from Danzig III. It’s not all melancholy mood music though as “Brand New God” is the band’s most brutal. It’s a song Danzig would basically rip-off on the next album with “7th House” but without the bridge that gives “Brand New God” some much needed variety. “Bringer of Death” is another thumper while “I Don’t Mind the Pain” strikes the perfect balance of heavy music with melody – a real standout and an obvious pick for an album single. The guitar is inventive and at times experimental such as the back-masked lead on “Cantspeak,” which is just the riff from “Let it be Captured” played backwards. The drumming is varied and expressive and the bass is actually audible. This album is just Danzig to me – it has everything. I never seem to tire of it and I’m always in the mood for it. It doesn’t mean it’s an album I’m constantly listening to, but whenever the mood hits for some Danzig I usually settle on this one. I often get the sense that it’s the least popular of the original lineup era for the band, but for my money Glenn Danzig has never made a better album.

If you actually read every word in this thing, congratulations, but mostly thank you. I don’t know if I have another 400 posts in me, but I’m sure as Hell going to give it a try.

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The Misfits – Ultimate Song Ranking

Misfitsband1Happy Halloween! I don’t know about you, but for me Halloween is synonymous with The Misfits – the horror punk band out of New Jersey fronted by Glenn Danzig from approximately 1977-1983. It has been that way ever since I discovered the band when I was in middle school thanks to a revival in the band long after its demise that saw its familiar Crimson Ghost skull logo plastered on everything. Unknown to me at the time, this was due to a new legal settlement agreed upon by Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only that paved the way for Only to resurrect the band to record new music and release lots and lots of novelty items.

Truth be told, I do not hate the 90’s version of The Misfits that did not include Glenn Danzig. I also don’t like the music that band made, but I don’t begrudge Only and his brother Doyle for wanting to re-launch the band and take another stab at success. The original version of the band was never very popular outside of the punk scene, so it didn’t exactly enrich anyone attached to it. It’s popularity came far later and who wouldn’t want to try and ride that wave? Glenn Danzig had remained in music and made a name for himself with his band, Danzig, and didn’t need to attach The Misfits to his work, but Only probably did. And since he was a big part of the band back in the day he was entitled to do.

With that out of the way, let’s also acknowledge that the only version of The Misfits that matters to me is the one that included both Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only. That duo recorded over 50 songs during the short life cycle of the band, and recorded many more actual tracks as almost every song exists across multiple studio sessions. The band only released two LPs during its life – Walk Among Us and Earth A.D., with a third released well after the fact in Static Age, which would have been the band’s first had they been able to secure a record deal. Otherwise, songs were scattered across various singles or completely unreleased until the late 80s when Danzig was able to secure distribution via Caroline Records. Then came the compilations:  Legacy of Brutality, Misfits (referred to as Collection I from here on out), Collection II, and the box set. By the early to mid 90s the entire catalog of The Misfits was available on CD and in record stores a decade after the band’s demise. Almost every recording of every song could be found, thanks to the box set and its “Sessions” CD, and fans could pore through it all. What follows is a ranking of all of those individual songs, including the classics to the not so classics, as well as what release you can find them on the easiest. And where appropriate, I’ll mention what version of the song I think is best, since so many different versions exist. If you want all of the songs for yourself, the easiest way is to get the box set. If you’re not picky about condition or which version you want, its pretty affordable on eBay. If you just want my opinion on one album to get, I’d probably say Collection I is the best single release representation of the band. If you’re an LP purist, then get Walk Among Us.

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The Misfits re-formed with Glenn Danzig in 2016 for a pair of shows. They’re set for two more in 2017 with hopefully more to come.

55.  Rat Fink – The only cover recorded by The Misfits, it’s just a simple beat with Danzig spelling Rat Fink over and over. It’s a novelty song, but kind of fun to shout along to. Collection II

54.  Mephisto Waltz – In some respects, this isn’t even a Misfits song. Recorded by Glenn Danzig and Samhain/Danzig bassist Eerie Von for an eventual release on Collection II, there’s speculation this was supposed to be a Samhain song. It’s history is more interesting than the actual song as it’s really banal and yet another song where the chorus is just a bunch of “whoa’s.” It sounds like it was written, recorded, and mixed in about an hour.  Collection II

R-8627479-1465438070-2758.jpeg53.  Demonomania – For Earth A.D., The Misfits wanted to more resemble a thrash band than a punk band, even if they weren’t good enough musicians to play true thrash. It’s basically a minute of Danzig screaming some nonsensical lyrics about his father being a wolf and his mother a whore.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

52.  Return of the Fly – This is kind of a goofy song, and sort of a novelty one too. It almost has a ska beat to it, and Danzig just lists off the cast members from the actual film, Return of the Fly. Strangely catchy.  Static Age

51.  Hellhound – Similar to “Demonomania,” but with more substance. It’s still not really a good song, but has some fun time changes. We’re getting close to the better stuff now.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

50.  Queen Wasp – Almost the same structure as “Hellhound,” but Danzig screams and snarls his way through this song which gives it some nice personality. It still can’t shake the subject matter of a queen wasp, which is a bit strange. Hot stinger in your back, baby!  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

49.  Static Age – Interesting subject matter for The Misfits about TV taking over our lives. This was before the whole horror thing took over the band’s image. It’s fine, though a little slower than a lot of the stuff the band is best known for. I feel like it’s almost a really good song, but settles for mediocre.  Static Age

48.  Hate Breeders – This one is a long song by the band’s standards and kind of shows why the band normally sticks to shorter tracks as it’s just not interesting enough to justify its length. This one just kind of bores me.  Walk Among Us

47.  Spook City USA – For awhile, this one was only available on the Glenn Danzig solo release Who Killed Marilyn? The Misfits version was finally released with the box set, and it’s the one song exclusive to it. As a justification for buying that set, it’s not worth it. A very straight-forward punk track, the guitar work towards the end makes it a bit more interesting than some. Still, it’s no one’s favorite Misfits song.  The Misfits Box Set

46.  Hollywood Babylon – An interesting take on Hollywood culture, and one of those songs I remember being shocked at when reading the lyrics – “That’s what he’s saying?!” It’s a bit meandering, and kind of boring, but also not bad.  Static Age

45.  Halloween II – For some reason, this one has always been Glenn Danzig’s preferred Halloween track over its predecessor, even though it’s kind of a novelty song. The lyrics are in non-standard latin, meaning Danzig basically wrote the song in English and tried to just translate it himself. It’s effectively spooky, more so than “Halloween,” but also never a track I’m particularly excited to hear.  Collection II

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Released originally as a self-titled compilation, this one has come to be known as Collection I following the release of Collection II.

44.  Devilock – These rankings are probably revealing my lack of affection for the Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood compilation release. Some of those songs are great, and we’ll get to them, and some are bad. “Devilock” is in the middle, and we’re just now getting to the portion of this ranking where things are getting a little bit harder. It’s quick, frantic, and fun though the lo-fi recording makes it hard to figure out what Danzig is singing about.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood  

43.  Cough/Cool – The first recording for the band, “Cough/Cool” originally didn’t even feature a guitar, but electric piano. It possesses some punk imagery, but is almost unrecognizable as an actual punk song. It’s really atmospheric though, especially in its original form. That version can only be found on the original and really hard to acquire Cough/Cool 7″ and in the box set. An over-dubbed version by Danzig and Von is included on Collection II. In some respects, it’s better, but I think it lost some of its moodiness with the improved production values.  Box Set/Collection II

42.  Braineaters – This little closing number from Walk Among Us is another novelty song, in many respects, but it’s undeniably catchy and a lot of fun to sing along to, even if it is goofy. Like “Cough/Cool,” a re-tooled version by Danzig and Von is on Collection II. It’s faster and a bit more punk in spirit, though not necessarily any better or worse. This is also the only song The Misfits recorded a video clip for that you can find on YouTube with relative ease. Walk Among Us 

41.  Nike-A-Go-Go – This is a song about some female sex robot with missiles named Nike. Yeah, it’s a bit out there and the song really leans heavily on the “go-go” mechanic, which for me makes it kind of annoying. I might be ranking it too high.  Walk Among Us

40.  Wolf’s Blood – Originally a separate release, it and the Die Die My Darling tracks were incorporated into Earth A.D. for a meatier release. It’s a pretty vicious song, and a good representation for that era of the band. It’s brief, sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can, but also fun to scream along to.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

39.  Theme for a Jackal – A more grounded track about a man abusing the people in his life, it’s probably the most interesting Misfits song from a lyrical perspective. It also has piano throughout, a nice little callback to the band’s original construction, and it has a real 1950s murder/mystery vibe to it. A really cool track, just kind of odd as a Misfits song.  Static Age

38.  Some Kinda Hate – For a lot of my friends, this is one of the first songs we all learned on guitar. It has a really simple riff throughout, and it’s the first Misfits song to just lean on a collection of “whoa’s” for the chorus. It’s very straight-forward and a good representation for the early version of The Misfits.  Static Age

37.  She – The B-side on the Cough/Cool single, the original version, like the title track, featured no guitar. Unlike its sister song, the updated version with guitar is the superior one and can be found across a smattering of releases. The original is locked away on the box set. It’s an extremely quick song with no real chorus, but also an excellent track with some nice vocals by Danzig.  Static Age/Box Set

36.  TV Casualty – Another early era song about television, this one has some of the most descriptive lyrics of any Misfits song which includes a lot of fun references for the nostalgic types out there. Really punk in vibe, with the exception of the tempo which is very mid as opposed to fast. It’s always been one of my personal favorites.  Static Age

35.  Ghouls Night Out – This is one of those songs that feels like a half-baked idea. They maybe had the melody and general structure, and needed to make it fit the band’s horror image. It’s about zombies eating flesh and all that, but comes across a bit cartoony thanks to its campy chorus. It’s a fine sing-along track, it just feels a bit too silly for me.  Collection I

34.  Green Hell – This one was made famous thanks to a cover by Metallica. I always kind of wondered why they chose to cover this one as opposed to a better song, but “Green Hell” is one of the better thrash tracks from the band, and that would obviously make it appealing to a thrash band like Metallica. The subject matter is kind of weird, but it works.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

R-418484-1354432410-3156.jpeg33.  Night of the Living Dead – It feels really appropriate for The Misfit to do a song based on the B-movie classic Night of the Living Dead. I love Danzig’s lyrics in this one to describe the zombies, in particular the shredded wheat line. The only thing holding this track back is a solid chorus as it, once again, just settles for “whoa’s.” Walk Among Us

32.  Horror Hotel – Another campier horror track from The Misfits, this one works a bit better than “Ghouls Night Out” and has some fun lyrics. The chorus isn’t anything special, just “Horror hotel” shouted over and over, but it’s framed well and accentuated with the “It’s up to me,” line. Another good sing-along song.  Collection II

31.  Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight? – When I was in high school, I would challenge myself to remember Misfits lyrics when sitting in class and would write them on the inside cover of my notebooks. I’ve always been glad no teacher ever found one as if they did and saw the lyrics to this song I probably would have been forced to spend time with the guidance counselor, or worse. And post Columbine who knows what would have happened? This song is exactly as the title suggest and it’s pretty vicious, a sick sort of fantasy. It begins slowly before exploding after Danzig asks the question in the title for the first time. The subject matter is almost too familiar these days, what with all of the senseless mass shootings that go on, but it’s undeniably a signature song for the band and probably its darkest.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

30.  Vampira – A campy song about a horror TV host of the same name. This song also has numerous recordings spread throughout the band’s history, though the one on Walk Among Us is probably still my favorite. Tough to say. It’s a great little number though, simple but catchy, and some nice imagery in the lyrics.  Walk Among Us

29.  Children in Heat – Atypical topic, but hard to refute, “Children in Heat” is all about teenagers and their uncontrollable urge to mate. It’s very up-tempo and extremely catchy, and forever linked with “Teenagers from Mars,” which is only slightly better, because they were recorded in the same take and released together on the Horror Business single. For a time, this was one of my most favorite Misfits songs, and even though it no longer is I still love it. Which means we’re at the part of the list where I’m splitting hairs.  Collection II

28.  We Are 138 – If The Misfits have an anthem, it’s probably “We Are 138.” The song is mostly just that line, being repeated over and over with increasing intensity. It pauses for a true verse only for a moment, since the song is only 1:41 (why couldn’t they trim just 3 seconds?). It’s a violent mob song, though not as obviously violent as something like “Mommy…,” and an easy crowd pleaser for a live show.  Static Age

27.  Teenagers from Mars – This is one of Danzig’s best written Misfits songs from a lyrics perspective, just some really fun lines that work well together like “B-film born invasion.” I just wish the chorus was a little better as the verses are just so much more fun than it, it’s like the chorus is letting them down.  Collection I

26.  All Hell Breaks Loose – This a fun track where you can actually hear Only’s bass driving things along. It rises in intensity as it carries on, though it never gets too explosive. One of the few songs not represented on any compilation which adds to its appeal as it makes a Walk Among Us purchase a little more fun.  Walk Among Us

R-418551-1476119908-3164.jpeg25.  London Dungeon – This song is one of the few based on a real-life experience had by the band as they ran into some legal issues while touring the UK. It’s a pretty typical structure for a Misfits song, where a verse is delivered, then returned to with more intensity later on. The unique part of this song is its guitar and bass line which stands out among other Misfits tracks. There’s a 70s sort of groove to it that’s just not found on other Misfits songs.  Collection I

24.  Angelfuck – This song’s title is responsible for my mom refusing to buy me Misfits albums as gifts when I was a teen. Aside from its use of the F-word, it’s not a song that comes across as very sinister. It’s really catchy and representative of those early Misfits songs that probably would have had more mass appeal with better distribution, and in this case different lyrics. This is a great one though and a song I love, even if it doesn’t fit in with the horror stuff that followed.  Static Age

23.  Attitude – Another song made famous when a more famous band covered it, in this case Guns ‘N Roses. Though that cover isn’t as popular as it could have been, since Axl doesn’t sing on it. This song gets some heat for being misogynistic since it certainly sounds like the lyrics are directed at a woman and violence being directed at them is implied, “Inside your feeble brain there’s probably a whore/If you don’t shut your mouth you’re gonna feel the floor!” Now, a whore can be masculine, but it’s probably not intended to be. Anyways, I felt that should be mentioned and not ignored, but this song is incredibly catchy and probably the song that got me into The Misfits. I’m still a little ticked off that the then WWF never found a way to incorporate it into any of their Attitude Era stuff.  Static Age

22.  In the Doorway – This is the last Misfits song to get released. It was recorded during the Static Age sessions, but never released until the retail version of that album was put out in 1996. For some reason, Caroline even withheld it from the box set, making this the only song to not appear in that collection, which kind of ticks me off. Caroline was basically making money off the hardcore fans with that set, and then expected them to re-buy an album included in there just a year later so they could get the last song. They deserve a nice “Fuck you” for that one. This is a good song though, and really unique as it’s very somber and melancholy. I wouldn’t call it a love song or anything, but it’s certainly closer to that in mood than any other Misfits recording. It’s rather brief too, and one of the few Misfits songs that I actually wish was longer, and probably the best vocal performance for Glenn Danzig during his time with the band.  Static Age

21.  Violent World – Another song that didn’t make it to a compilation, “Violent World” is a straight-forward punk song that makes itself stand out through sheer catchiness. It has a sarcastic sort of chorus with Danzig imploring you to come along to a violent world with him, pitching it like some sort of amusement park. It’s a fun song that gets a little dark with some Nazi mentions, but a song worth getting Walk Among Us for.  Walk Among Us

220px-Misfits_-_Legacy_of_Brutality_cover20.  American Nightmare – A post break-up release, “American Nightmare” is made unique with its rock-a-billy song structure and Danzig doing his best Elvis impersonation. There’s a clapping track mixed in and it’s possibly the most fun song ever written about being a serial killer. About a decade or so ago, Glenn Danzig and Hank III performed this one live which was pretty cool. Last I checked, the performance could still be found on YouTube.  Legacy of Brutality

19.  Devil’s Whorehouse – This a is a great song and a good example of The Misfits being both campy and kind of sinister all in one. It’s basically a bondage/S&M song about a literal Devil’s whorehouse. It feels visceral, especially with the slapping sounds tacked on at the end.  Walk Among Us

18.  Come Back – The longest and one of the slowest Misfits songs, “Come Back” was one that didn’t click with me right away. I needed to hear it many times for it to grow on me and to appreciate it more. There’s a rawness to Danzig’s vocal performance, a sort of pain trapped inside as well as danger that isn’t present really anywhere else. There’s mystery, and desperation roars in at the end, and the song feels unsettling and real. It may not be a typical uptempo Misfits track about zombies or something, but it’s still pretty awesome.  Static Age

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“We Bite” and “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight” were included on the “Die, Die My Darling” single.

17.  We Bite – Everything “Come Back” is not. This one is pure speed with carnal lyrics. Reading the lyrics by themselves, the song feels a bit too campy and too silly, but combine them with the visceral delivery of the band and they take on new life. They almost sound authentic.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

16.  Death Comes Ripping – Seemingly one of Danzig’s favorite Misfits songs as he would, from time to time, perform it with his band Danzig. Some great drumming really drives this one and it’s a good song to get a crowd pumping. Also might be the only song I’ve ever heard that references testicle burning.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

15.  20 Eyes – The first Misfits song I ever saw performed by Danzig live was “20 Eyes” in 2005 when Doyle joined him onstage for a show in Boston. The opener to Walk Among Us, “20 Eyes” is a simple track that gets by with sheer catchiness. The song does just enough to keep it interesting for its short duration, and it’s just so damn effective at getting stuck in your head, even if it feels silly and campy.  Walk Among Us

14.  Halloween – The Misfits are so known for Halloween that it feels like this song is more important to the band’s reputation that it really is. It’s a good song. No – a great one, but also pretty conventional for the band. Danzig delivers the vocals with just the right amount of intensity, and the more pagan approach to the holiday helps at least make it feel a little scary. It was basically a song the band had to do, given its reputation, but I find it funny that when making out a Halloween playlist that this isn’t the first Misfits song I think of, or probably even the fifth.  Collection II

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The Misfits took their name from the motion picture of the same name, which was Marilyn Monroe’s final appearance in a film.

13.  Who Killed Marilyn? – Originally released by Glenn Danzig as a solo effort, the various versions recorded by The Misfits appeared in the box set and on Legacy of Brutality, though for that release it’s unknown how much was overdubbed by Danzig and how much of the band’s original performance is audible. I love this song though, as it hypothesizes on how Marilyn Monroe was murdered so it’s more grounded than other releases. It has a great chorus and a great structure to it. If you want to hear the original Glenn Danzig version you’ll have to track down the Plan 9 single release 7″. It was announced a few years ago the single was set for a re-release, but nothing has come of it. Legacy of Brutality

12.  Earth A.D. – The title track for the band’s second LP release, “Earth A.D.” takes that thrash approach and does so in a way the band is capable of handling. A post apocalyptic tale about a desolate and violent future, “Earth A.D.” is another one of those tracks that appears to be a favorite of Danzig’s as he’s performed it with his band over the years. It’s relatively fast, has some descriptive lyrics, and a good chorus to shout aloud. On earth as it is in Hell, baby!  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

11.  Bloodfeast – The rare slow and brooding sort of Misfits track, especially in the Earth A.D. era. “Bloodfeast” is creepy and sinister befitting of a modern horror movie villain. The song is all about inflicting terror and unease in the listener amid an orgy of blood and sacrifice. It’s a really moody and satisfying listen, I’m surprised Danzig doesn’t perform it more often.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

10.  Die, Die My Darling – Originally released as a single, this one was incorporated into later versions of Earth A.D. along with “Wolf’s Blood.” It’s name, like many Misfits songs, is taken from an old B-movie and was made popular in the late 90s by a Metallica cover. It’s one of the band’s signature songs these days, and a worthy song to kick off the top 10. It has a simple structure of introducing a verse/chorus that gets repeated multiple times with rising levels of intensity. With the lyrics being all about murdering someone, that increased intensity works really well to heighten the song’s impact.  The single version has been re-pressed and released numerous times, even in the 2000’s.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

R-418399-1205367481.jpeg9.  Bullet – Allegedly, this song got the band banned from Texas. Its lyrics describe the assassination of JFK in gruesome detail and place the blame on the state of Texas before turning into a Jackie-O fantasy in the end. It’s kind of strange, since Danzig would have been pretty young during that time, for him to have a fascination with Jackie-O, but it’s possible his lyrics were more of a reflection of society’s infatuation with her. More likely, the song, like other early Misfits recordings, is designed to get attention by any means necessary. It’s fast and brutal, and if the lyrics were more horror infatuated it would have fit in just fine on Earth A.D. Since it was recorded with the other Static Age tracks, and first released as its own single that was more like an EP than a single, it feels ahead of its time in some respects.  Static Age

8.  Spinal Remains – For a longtime the only version of this song available was the horrible sounding one on Legacy of Brutality. Thankfully, Static Age restored this one to its original glory as it’s another early era speed song. I love Danzig’s vocals on this one, especially on the pre-chorus lines. It’s got a great tempo and would make for an excellent inclusion on any future Misfits reunion set list. Static Age

7.  I Turned Into a Martian – This song seems to pop up a lot among fans as a favorite from the band. When I first heard it, the campy subject matter caused me to kind of dismiss it, but over time I’ve grown to appreciate it more. It possesses a very conventional song structure for a 60s radio hit, and doesn’t possess an overtly punk feel to it. The lyrics are fun, and the song is incredibly catchy. I kind of prefer the original “Plan 9” version of the song from the Sessions disc on the box set, but the original release from Walk Among Us is just fine too. The faster version from Collection I though causes the song to lose a little bit of its charm.  Walk Among Us

6.  Skulls – Perhaps the signature song of the band, “Skulls” is a short but great one that works well when played fast and when played just a bit slower as it was on Walk Among Us. It’s a silly concept, a guy infatuated with collecting skulls to the point of practically begging for them, but framed with enough slasher imagery to give it credibility. And who knew a song about hanging skulls on one’s wall could be so damn catchy? This was the encore song for the Danzig Legacy show I attended years ago, which speaks to its importance within the band’s catalog.  Walk Among Us

5.  Last Caress – We’re in the top five, and kicking things off is “Last Caress.” Like “Bullet,” this feels like a song that’s very much trying to get the listener’s attention by being overtly crass and offensive. The opening line is “I’ve got something to say/I killed your baby today” spoken clearly and dramatically enhanced by the rolling drums. Danzig then goes on to sing about raping your mother and reminding you he killed your baby, all the while he sings a chorus so catchy and benign sounding that it defies the viciousness of the verse. This is very much one of those songs that if you could ignore the lyrical content you would swear it’s beautiful. Even the title “Last Caress” implies some sort of tragic end to an otherwise beautiful relationship and it’s easy to romanticize the concept of a last caress. The finish to the song is the capper, and what makes it so memorable, and almost iconic.  Static Age

4.  Hybrid Moments – Quite possibly the catchiest Misfits song, and that’s saying something. It’s an uptempo track that’s not brutally fast, by any means, and the vocals are prominent in the song and delivered in a soulful performance. This song, as well as many others from the same sessions, demonstrated that Glenn Danzig wasn’t a typical punk vocalist and was capable of a lot more. On any given day of the week, I might tell you “Hybrid Moments” is my favorite Misfits song, and that’s something I can probably say about all of the top six.  Static Age

3.  Astro Zombies – What sounds like a ridiculous concept for a song is made memorable with a great and unique performance amongst The Misfits catalog. “Astro Zombies” manages to appear like a traditional Misfits song in every way, but sounds unique enough to stand out. It even relies on a chorus of mostly “whoa’s” but pulls it off because the connecting tissue is so good. The lyrics appear silly at first blush, but the performance is delivered in such an authentic manner that you almost believe Danzig is going to destroy the world, with just a touch of his burning hand.  Walk Among Us

the-misfits-horror-business-sticker-s09412.  Horror Business – This song, more so than even “Skulls,” feels like it should be the band’s signature song. It’s subject matter, Hitchcock’s Psycho, is appropriate for the band despite the lack of zombies and just the title seems to be a succinct way to describe the band’s approach to song writing and its imagery. And like “Skulls,” it manages to take something violent like stabbing a person and turning it into an extremely catchy chorus. And since Psycho is so well known when compared with other inspirational sources of material for the band, it creates a comforting familiarity that lessens its edge. This easily could have been number one.  Collection I

1. Where Eagles Dare – I toyed with the idea of what I should do with the number one song on this list. Should it be a song that I think best represents the band and its horror image, or should I just go with my favorite song by the band? Now, deciding on a favorite song isn’t a simple endeavor either, but in the end since this is my list I decided that my personal preference should carry the most weight. “Where Eagles Dare” is the perfect Misfits song. It’s got build-up, a catchy rhythm, a really catchy chorus, and just enough obscenity to grab the listener’s attention like a good punk song should. This is one of those songs you can play in front of a conservative listener, watch them scoff at it, then catch them singing it to themself an hour later. The simple, but relatable chorus of “I ain’t no god-damned son of a bitch,” is so easy to get into it should be criminal. How Danzig could resist playing this one with his band over the years amazes me because it’s guaranteed to get a huge response from any crowd. It’s the best song out of a great bunch, and if I were attending a Misfits show tonight it would be the song I would want to hear most, which felt like a great way to decide on what number one should be.  Collection I

So that’s that. I hope you enjoyed reading over 5,000 words about Misfits songs, which collectively probably do not come close to amounting to 5,000 words. Watch out for candy apples with razor blades tonight and have a happy Halloween!


The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)

It seems to me that video game cartoons are much less popular today than they were when I was young.  Then again, I don’t have any kids so I’m not often watching children’s programming so I could be mistaken.  I’m sure Pokemon is still kicking around some network and Sonic may be running in syndication, but that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head.  When I was young there were several video game adaptations for the small screen.  Just going off the top of my head I can come up with Dragon Lair, Super Mario, Zelda, Captain N (not a strict adaptation of a game, but comprised almost entirely of characters from popular games), Sonic, Battletoads, Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat.  I’m almost positive I’m forgetting some but that’s still a pretty solid sample for comparison.  Maybe it’s because so many popular games these days seem to be of the M and T rated variety that we don’t see many cartoon adaptations.  Or maybe it’s because companies like Nintendo are still shell-shocked from less than stellar cartoons based on their properties.  If that is the case, then we can lay a lot of the blame on The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was, naturally, based on the video game Super Mario Bros. 3.  It was also the sequel of sorts to the more popular Super Maro Bros. Super Show which featured Mario cartoons that took place in a world based off of Super Mario Bros. 2 (the American version).  That show is mostly remembered for the live-action Mario and Luigi and the songs the welcomed viewers and saw them off (Do the Mario!).  The Super Mario Bros. 3 adaptation contained no live actors and no such songs.  The opening is simply a narrator talking over an animated sequence that sets up the series.  There’s no continuity from one episode to the next and each one runs a little over 10 minutes with 26 total episodes.  The retail release is three discs worth of content and I would be surprised if any of the discs is filled to near capacity.  Mario and Luigi had their voice actors recast to Walker Boone and Tony Rosato but the rest of the cast remains intact.  The animation style is also slightly different, most notably Mario is a little trimmer and the Koopa Troopa design from the previous show was scrapped.

The Koopa Kids are probably the best thing going in this show.

The Koopa Kids are probably the best thing going in this show.

The biggest changes from the previous show to this one occurred with the villains and the location.  Location wise, this is a more faithful depiction of the Mushroom Kingdom from the game complete with numerous warp pipes and floating blocks.  For the villains, King Koopa is still the antagonist but now he’s accompanied by his seven Koopa Kids.  The Koopalings resemble their video game counterparts in design but all have different names.  Allegedly, this was due to the series being developed before Nintendo had provided the names.  The characters, for the most part, have pretty stupid and unimaginative names.  Morton Koopa Jr. is now just called Big Mouth, because he has a (you guessed it) big mouth.  There’s a Bully Koopa, Cheatsy, and Wendy is now Kootie Pie.  It’s not very important what their names are but I’ll give credit to the writers for mostly giving each of the seven a distinct personality (with the exception of the twins Hip and Hop, who are basically the same).  The ones that end up standing out include Cheatsy, who’s cunning seems to surpass his father’s as he is often able to manipulate him (usually with flattery).  Cookie is the evil genius of the kids and is definitely the most insane.  And Kootie Pie, being Koopa’s only daughter, is not surprisingly a spoiled brat and her father is a slave to her whims.

Apparently the eyes are fully-functioning on the frog suit.  Does that mean Mario can see out of them?  I must know!

Apparently the eyes are fully-functioning on the frog suit. Does that mean Mario can see out of them? I must know!

The Koopa Kids are perhaps the only bright spot of this program.  Well, that and the power-ups.  Super Mario Bros. 3 is famous for its numerous power-ups and they’re all represented here, for the most part.  For some reason I get a giddy thrill from seeing them used in the show from the common raccoon tail to the absurd frog suit.  Even Koopa gets in on the action in the series finale which is certainly noteworthy.  The rest of the show though is comprised of tired writing and simple plots.  Not much has changed from the previous show and the majority of the episodes follow the same formula of the Mario Bros. having to foil one of Koopa’s attempts at taking over the Mushroom Kingdom.  There’s usually a chase sequence or montage set to a parody of a licensed song which had to be removed from the DVD release.  There is one exception in the episode “Recycled Koopa” which contains a song called “Trash City USA” (2:05 mark in video link).  It sounds suspiciously like the Glenn Danzig song “Spook City USA” and I wonder if it was intended by someone as a parody of that.  Since the song is so obscure it wouldn’t surprise me if it snuck past the legal team (at the time the episode was produced, the song only existed as a B side to the single “Who Killed Marlyn?” which was not exactly a wide release).  There’s also the requisite episode where things get turned around and Mario and Luigi have to be saved by the Princess and Toad.  There’s also a celebrity appearance by Milli Vanilli in one episode, “Kootie Pie Rocks.”  This may be the most hilarious episode in hindsight.

Koopa is backed, armed with an assortment of magic wands this time around.

Koopa is backed, armed with an assortment of magic wands this time around.

This series also establishes the existence of the home world of the Mario brothers as The Real World.  This means several episodes take place on earth and in places like New York and Venice.  There’s even one episode where each koopaling takes over a continent.  This labeling of this world as The Real World bugs the crap out of me.  This show isn’t like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with characters often breaking the fourth wall, instead that’s how the characters view this supposed real world.  What does that make the Mushroom Kingdom then?  The fake world?  I’m surprised the princess would stand for that!

Because of the short run-time, plots are often resolved quickly and haphazardly.  It’s clear the writers had little respect for children as the show is fairly thoughtless.  The animation isn’t anything to get excited over either.  For the most part, it’s fairly typical of its era but there are other shortcuts that bother me.  Most notably, whenever a character morphs into another form there’s no transition animation, it just happens, which is utter laziness.  Unfortunately, the transfers by Shout! Factory for the DVD release are atrocious.  Some episodes are okay while others drop out and look worse than what can be found on the internet.  Supposedly the master tapes for the series no longer exist, so I don’t know what the source was for the DVD, but clearly it sucked and no attempt was made for the episodes that are really bad.  The last two episodes on the set are especially bad and should have never been released in such a state.

I bought this set when I found it on sale and did so only for nostalgic purposes.  I liked the show enough when I was a kid but my memory of it wasn’t strong.  It didn’t last long as it was quickly replaced by a Super Mario World themed cartoon.  Even though the set was relatively cheap, it still wasn’t worth the purchase.  Don’t make the same mistake I did, just let this one pass, as your memories of the show are likely much better than the actual product.


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