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Danzig: Thrall-Demonsweatlive +

Danzig: Thrall-Demonsweatlive (1993)

Last weekend I posted my final review for the Danzig LP’s, but that doesn’t mean I’m done with Danzig!  Far from it, as there’s still a few more items that require attention.  If you’ve been keeping track, I’ve posted a review for all nine studio albums plus a summary of the soundtrack only songs that have seen release over the last 20+ years.  That still leaves the EP’s, The Lost Tracks compilation, and the Black Aria releases; all to be addressed in good time.  This post will take a look at live releases and the EP’s, specifically Thrall-Demonsweatlive.

It might surprise you to know that the two best selling Danzig releases (and the only two to reach gold status) are the 1988 self-titled album and the 1993 EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive.  This is, of course, due to the popularity of the “Mother” track which saw a re-release for radio and MTV when Thrall hit stores.  “Mother” was originally released as a single for the first album, but it struggled to find airplay on mainstream rock radio stations.  It had an even harder time finding an audience with MTV and the network determined the video was “too Satanic” and refused to play it without some editing done.  Danzig balked at censoring the video, so the label instead released a home video (simply titled “Danzig”) that contained all of the music videos shot for the first album as well as some behind the scenes interviews with the band.

Side B of the picture disc release.

In between Danzig III and Danzig IV, Glenn Danzig approached the label about doing an EP.  The label wasn’t too keen on the idea, but according to Glenn he was able to to get them to agree to put one out after pointing out how well Alice in Chains had done with the Jar of Flies EP.  Once the agreement was in place, the band hit the studio in between tours to record a couple of original tracks and one cover.  The two originals ended up being “It’s Coming Down” and “The Violet Fire.”  Joining them for the Thrall portion of the release was a cover of the Elvis tune “Trouble.”  The band had been working on this cover ever since the Samhain days but had never found an appropriate place to release it.  Those three tracks comprised what was called the “Thrall” portion of the release, and were paired up with four live tracks that made up the “Demonsweatlive” part of the album.  These four tracks were all taken from the band’s Halloween gig at Irvine Meadows in 1992, they are:  “Snakes of Christ”, “Am I Demon”, “Sistinas”, and “Mother.”  There’s also one hidden track on most releases, a slightly remixed version of “Mother” often referred to as “Mother ’93.”  To my ears, it doesn’t sound any different than the original version.  It was this version of the song that was made into a new music video featuring nothing but live shots which found an audience on MTV.

The studio tracks on this release are pretty solid, with “It’s Coming Down” becoming a staple of most live setlists ever since.  I personally prefer “The Violet Fire” for its more groove-oriented pacing.  The live tracks are all pretty ferocious and played faster than they were on the albums.  Glenn almost growls the lyrics for most of them, with the exception of “Sistinas” which features his signature croon.  I know a lot of people who prefer the live version of “Sistinas” to the album version, to me, both are excellent.  The live version of “Mother” is superior to the album version as it captures a different kind of energy that really lends itself well to the rebellious lyrics.

Danzig: Live on the Black Hand Side (2001)

The rest of the setlist from the Irvine Meadows show would pop up here and there one track at a time on various singles.  The majority of it would be released on 2001’s Live on the Black Hand Side.  Live on the Black Hand Side is Danzig’s only other live release and the band’s only full-length live album.  It’s a two disc set that captures the band’s peak in the mid 90’s as well as the Satan’s Child tour from 2000.  Disc 1 is split between the Irvine show and a Seattle show from the 4p tour.  The track-listing is like a greatest hits album, and the first disc is a nice piece to own.  Disc 2, on the other hand, is a disaster.  The audio quality, perhaps because the shows took place in smaller venues, is garbage.  The track-list is pretty solid, though there are a couple clunkers, but the quality ruins it.  Glenn’s vocals are often hard to make out and the band sounds thin.  Live on the Black Hand Side can be a tough album to track down these days, but is only worth doing so for the hardcore.

Danzig: Sacrifice (EP, 2000 E-Magine release)

The only other EP put out by Danzig is the Sacrifice EP.  It was originally released as a single that contained six tracks, all remixes of the of the song “Sacrifice.”  It was re-released in 2000 by E-Magine with additional tracks added; remixes of “Deep” and “Serpentia.”  The original version did have a limited vinyl pressing for you completists out there, while the re-release was CD only.  It’s a release for the hardcore only, as none of the remixes improve upon the original songs, and in the case of both “Deep” and “Serpentia,” the original song wasn’t that great to begin with.

Thrall-Demonsweatlive is a must own for Danzig fans.  The studio tracks are solid and the live ones entertaining.  It was released on CD and cassette initially, but also had a German picture disc release that can be hard to track down these days.  The front cover of all of the releases features artwork by Simon “Biz” Bisley who would go on to do a lot of illustrations for Danzig.  The reverse image of the picture disc features a bare-chested Glenn Danzig from Irvine Meadows, an image also included inside the CD booklet.  The booklet for Live on the Black Hand Side features dozens of live shots from throughout the band’s existence and is arguably the best thing about the release.  The front cover is atrocious though and very amateurish.  There’s not much noteworthy to say about the packaging for any of the Sacrifice releases, save for it does include that image of Glenn spreading his arms melded with the skull logo.

Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child

Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child (1999)

Following the critical and commercial failure of Danzig 5: Blackacidevil, Danzig was returned to the underground.  The 9 figure record deals were no longer out there, few promising bands were looking to open for the group, and the band members became as unstable as ever.  There was a tour for Blackacidevil that even included a spot on the main stage at Ozzfest but after that Glenn Danzig was seldom heard from.  He focused more time on his independent comic book company, Verotik, and found himself in court battling with the executives at American Recordings for the rights to the unreleased material from his days at that label.  Eventually, Glenn would set his sights on recording the next Danzig record, the one that would become Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child and would be the first of many to be heralded as a “return to form” for the band.

When an album bombs as bad as Blackacidevil did, it makes sense for the artist to reexamine the approach taken on previous efforts compared with that one.  For Danzig, this was simple enough.  The early records were rooted in the blues and could best be described as hard rock or heavy metal.  Yes, there were things about each album that separated them from one another but the core was mostly the same.  For Danzig 5, that core was loosely interpreted.  And while it could be argued the foundation was mostly the same, the layers on top certainly were not which helps define Blackacidevil as an industrial record with some techno and metal elements thrown in.  A confident producer would explain that to Glenn and would push him away from that approach as it clearly just didn’t work.  It would be one thing if the album was conceptually brilliant, but commercially misunderstood, but that really wasn’t the case.  The problem is, Glenn was no longer working with a big producer, and is a very prideful man.  For awhile, he insisted that Blackacidevil was his favorite record and spent more time defending it than he has anything else he has done.  Regardless, even he had to admit the best way to promote a new record was as a back to basics kind of thing.  The problem was, that wouldn’t really describe Satan’s Child too well.

More than three years elapsed between Danzig 5 and Danzig 6, so when Satan’s Child arrived in the fall of 1999 the core fan base that had stuck with Danzig was eager to get a listen.  This was before mp3 had really exploded so most fans, myself included, were mostly left in the dark until the album was released.  Before release, Danzig’s new label E-Magine, a young label hoping to better utilize the internet as a legitimate means of distribution, released the album’s first single online, “Five Finger Crawl,” as well as a snippet of “Unspeakable.”  It’s actually a bit confusing which one truly was the first single.  “Five Finger Crawl” was made into a video and some metal-oriented radio stations were playing it while others received CD singles of “Unspeakable.”  Either way, “Five Finger Crawl” was my introduction to Danzig 6 and I mostly enjoyed it.  This was the era where nu-metal was dominating the heavy music scene.  Drop D tuning was in fashion to add a pervasive heavy-ness to most records.  Danzig opted to tune even lower, to C, for this record.  And while Danzig 6 is not an industrial record, it does contain more effects than the previous 4 albums.  There’s an eeriness to “Five Finger Crawl,” accentuated by Glenn’s whispering vocal delivery, particularly the line “You leave me cold.”

The limited edition picture disc release, featuring the internet only cover of the CD version by Martin Emond.

The mood of the track is still decidedly Danzig, in the end.  The thing that had fans talking though were the vocals.  Glenn whispers throughout much of “Five Finger Crawl” before hitting a shouting chorus.  On that chorus, his vocals sound deep and slightly hoarse.  This had fans worried about what kind of shape Glenn’s vocal chords were in.  The song alleviates some of those fears to a degree with the close, where an unfiltered Danzig wails the “You leave me cold,” line, but there’s still a hint of hoarseness on there as well.  We would find out during the press tour of the album, that Glenn opted to record his vocals digitally this time, and offered up the excuse that he augmented his vocals to sound the way he hears them when he sings to himself.  The result is a deeper Glenn on this record, but he also uses a whisper track on many songs which create a hoarse quality.  The whisper track is cool when used a bit conservatively, but it probably is overused on this record.  With most things Danzig though, the truth often lies somewhere in the middle.  He may have chosen to record his vocals in a certain way, but perhaps he also did that to help mask the fact that they just weren’t what they used to be.  The tour would confirm as much.  The good news is that later records would show improvement, but unfortunately Danzig 6 marks a low point for vocals on a Danzig record.

That is not to say the vocals do not have any shining moments here.  On the contrary, I already mentioned the close of “Five Finger Crawl” as being exceptional, but songs like “Lilin” and “Cold Eternal” showcase Glenn’s vocals just as well.  There are low moments though, such as the thunderous “Apokalips,” a decent enough song, but one where Glenn’s vocals border on annoying as he has a shrill quality to his shouts.  Overall, the vocals are not a make or break thing for the record, and perhaps actually end up being the album’s best feature, because unfortunately it ends up lacking in several others.

For one, the structure of the songs are perhaps too basic.  There are really no memorable guitar riffs and very few guitar solos to liven things up.  Josh Lazie’s bass is audible, but not spectacular.  Joey Castillo’s drumming is solid, if not a bit restrained.  He’s capable of so much more.  I assume Glenn thought little of session guitarist Jeff Chambers, which helps explain why the guitars come across as an afterthought at times.  Or perhaps creatively he was just in a funk.  The band recorded over 20 tracks for this album which tells me that Glenn was really indecisive with this one and was probably at some-what of a crossroads with his band.  I should take the time to point out that the slide guitar on “Cold Eternal” is a nice touch and does add some nice texture to that track.

If the approach musically was a bit boring, then it makes sense that the finished songs are as well.  There are some nice tracks here that I have already mentioned.  One I didn’t was the closer “Thirteen,” the song Glenn penned for Johnny Cash in the early 90’s and finally recorded himself.  It would later show up in the hit film “The Hangover.”  It’s a simple but cool little track and it’s lyrics suit the public persona of Glenn Danzig.  Sadly, the lyrics on that one represent the album’s peak in that department, for in some instances they’re just bad.  “Cult W/Out a Name” is a decent enough rocker, but the lyrics there are just embarrassing.  Some, such as “I am teeth of fire/taste a thousand shames” annoy because they don’t make sense, but others annoy me because they’re just stupid “I am street designed.”  “Belly of the Beast” is one where the ending of each line rhymes with the next, just for the sake of doing so.  Again, if the music accompanying these lyrics was more interesting they could be overlooked, but here they’re hard to ignore.

The back of the picture disc, also the back cover of the CD version. Apparently Glenn was really into black and pink around this time. They had to kick Jeff Chambers out of the band to include more devil chicks.

Thankfully, most of the tracks are absent the industrial fuzz that permeated Blackacidevil, but not all.  “East Indian Devil (Kali’s Song)” is a track that could have fit on Blackacidevil, which isn’t a good thing.  The vocals are heavily distorted, and there’s little melody to the song structure.  It’s one I am happy with skipping over.

In the end, was Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child a return to form for the band?  Only in the sense that it left behind most of the industrial elements of Danzig 5.  This is still a rather weak output when compared with the rest of the Danzig catalogue.  It’s an okay listen, but there’s just few standout tracks.  It’s no surprise that this album is hardly ever featured in the live set these days, and future releases would improve upon it.

Top Tracks

  • Five Finger Crawl
  • Cold Eternal
  • Thirteen

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