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Danzig – Black Laden Crown


Danzig – Black Laden Crown (2017)

Anytime something new related to Danzig arrives at my doorstep I wonder if this it’s the last. Glenn Danzig, the venerable punk-metal icon, is in his sixties. He’s released around two-dozen records at this point and has already reached the point in his career where he forgoes touring in favor of festivals and gigs located close to his SoCal home. The gap in years has only widened between album releases, and he’s taken time to do more passion projects like a covers record and compilations. Danzig’s last studio album, Deth Red Sabaoth, came out in 2010. Before that was 2004’s Circle of Snakes. Now in 2017, we have the latest from metal’s favorite crooner:  Black Laden Crown.

By pretty much everyone’s standards, Danzig the band has long since past its peak. Some feel the band peaked with 1992’s How the Gods Kill, others (myself included) would consider 1994’s Danzig: 4P as the real high point. Following that album was when the original lineup was disbanded, Danzig left the Def American label, and the direction of the band was forever changed. That was really the end for the band as a popular one, with nostalgia really only bringing the band back into the spotlight (a trend many bands of the 80s and 90s have benefitted from). Creatively though, Danzig has still made worthwhile music, even if it wasn’t always on par with the early days. Deth Red Sabaoth was probably the band’s best effort since 1994 with the only black marks on it being the subpar production (a frequent bane of recent Danzig releases) and the lack of a truly standout track. It would have been a fine album to go out on, but thankfully Danzig decided there was at least one more record left to make.


Back for the first time since 2002’s Danzig 7 is drummer Joey Castillo (center).

In many ways, Black Laden Crown is similar to Deth Red Sabaoth. The personel involved is largely the same, only this time with more drummers. Tommy Victor is back on guitar, and Glenn Danzig naturally is providing all of the vocals and doing all of the song writing, while also contributing on guitar, bass, piano and drums himself. Johnny Kelly returns to drum on two tracks, while former Danzig drummer Joey Castillo (Danzig 5, 6, and 7) also returned for a guest-spot on a couple of tracks. Karl Rokfist and Dick Verbeuren also contribute drums on a track each. Why so many drummers? Because the album has been in production off and on for years and Danzig would just grab whoever was available when in the studio. This means longtime collaborator Steve Zing is still basically just the live bass player as he is once again denied an album credit.


Two things Glenn Danzig loves being photographed with:  porn stars and goat heads.

I’m going to detour away from the music for a minute and take a look at another aspect of Danzig albums that is also past its prime:  the album art. For whatever reason, the album artwork has been on a decline as well since the Def American days, though not always as drastic. I was mostly fine with the artwork for Danzig 5 and 6, the alternative cover for 5 is actually pretty awesome, but Black Laden Crown features some really cheesy artwork (done by the usually excellent Simon Bisley). The reverse cover image of a flaming Danzig head is even worse. There’s a t-shirt bundle being sold on the Nuclear Blast website and the shirt has a different version of the cover artwork (which is also featured on the interior slip-case for the CD) that is light-years better than the actual album cover. It’s sort of similar to the last album where the European version of the single featured superior artwork than the album. It’s not a big deal and it obviously doesn’t have any impact on the actual quality of the music, but as someone who still buys LPs it’s always a drag when the jacket has crappy artwork on it.

Black Laden Crown is best described as an album of mid-tempo, Sabbath influenced, metal. The opening track is a red herring of sorts, featuring a clean-tuned guitar and an uptempo second half, but it also embodies some of the flaws the rest of the album is going to face. And it should be discussed early in this review because there is no getting around it:  the production sucks. Perhaps sucks is too strong a word, but if you were disappointed with the production on Deth Red Sabaoth or the more recent covers record Skeletons, then you’ll be disappointed with Black Laden Crown. What is really unfortunate is that most of the poor production rests on the vocals. As the vocalist for the band, it’s surprising that producer Glenn Danzig doesn’t devote more resources to how his actual voice sounds. Time has obviously altered Danzig’s voice as it would anybody, but some of the songs sound like he just did a one take tracking spot, and decided to use that for the final mix. The lead single, “Devil on Hwy 9,” is especially bad with the vocals sounding dry and wooden. The production on the guitar and drums at least seems noticeably better than what was present on Deth Red Sabaoth. I haven’t seen Danzig discuss how this record was recorded, but the previous one was done with analog. Given that this one was done across so many different recording sessions, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out if it was done digitally since that method is more prevalent and easier.


If you like buying your albums multiple times, Danzig’s got you covered with all of the editions of this one.

The other main issue I take with the performance of the record is with Danzig’s vocals. The production may not be doing him any favors, but several songs just lack emotion out of the singer. “Eyes Ripping Fire” should be a track that rips, but Danzig sounds like he’s just going through the motions. I’m not sure what he was going for with his performance at times, but he just sounds bored in places. Maybe he thinks his voice isn’t suited for certain styles any longer, though I think it has more to do with a mood he was trying to convey. He may have been looking for a controlled, assertive style to his vocals, but it just comes across as uninspired.

Those are the negative take-aways I have with Black Laden Crown, but in spite of those I actually think the whole of the album is actually pretty good. The vocal production is consistently subpar, but not as varied as the past albums where some songs sounded okay and others like rubbish. I really dig the Tony Iommi-like guitar tones on this record and its a sound I’ve always found more suitable for Danzig than the drop-C tuning featured on some records. There are still some chugging low riffs to be found, but they’re not as prevalent and the album has a more crisp sound. Tommy Victor is perhaps at his best with this record, at least as well as he’s been on a Danzig release. He’s given room to work with the leads, and even gets a few chances to drop a solo. The pinch harmonics that some fans found distasteful on the last album have been scaled back tremendously here.


I wish they had used the artwork present on this t-shirt as the main cover artwork on the actual LP.

Black Laden Crown is at its best when the band is moving at a methodical pace and letting Glenn Danzig’s presence shine. It’s perhaps no better illustrated than with the album’s second single (and first to receive a video) “Last Ride.” The song evokes a drifter, or maybe even an old cowboy, something very Eastwood-like, with its story and the mood is very Danzig. It’s perhaps comparable to the song “Black Hell” from The Hangover II soundtrack, but more refined and focused. The album’s closer, “Pull the Sun,” is another good track and is probably the high point for Danzig’s vocals on this release. It’s not one of the closing numbers where Danzig goes off with a series of wails, but it’s got a nice vocal melody. The lyrics though make me think of Mr. Burns blotting out the sun on The Simpsons, which gives me a little laugh.

If there’s one last piece of criticism I could lay at the feet of this record it’s that it is perhaps one track short. At nine tracks and just over 45 minutes in length, it could have really used one more track to round things out. And if that track had been something more up-tempo that would have helped to break up some very similar sounding songs on the album’s back-end. The most up-tempo track is also the album’s worst, “Devil on Hwy 9,” so another really would have helped out. Even still, I’m digging this album. Perhaps part of that is due to my low expectations going in. An album that has been in the works as long as this one has usually doesn’t come out too well in the end, but I think the album took so long to record not because Danzig was tinkering with the material, he just literally only recorded a song or two here and there until he eventually had enough material for an LP. It’s very comparable to Deth Red Sabaoth in terms of quality, and if it’s the last album for Danzig it’s not a bad way to wrap things up. I’m not sure if it’s better than that record though. At first listen I thought it might be, but then I remember the variety of Deth Red with tracks like “Hammer of the Gods,” “Deth Red Moon,” and even “Black Candy” and I start to think this one may end up ranking behind that release. Which isn’t bad, as I dubbed Deth Red Sabaoth Danzig’s best since splitting with Rick Rubin, so if Black Laden Crown is comparable to that record, then that’s pretty good company to keep.


Top Tracks

  • Black Laden Crown
  • Last Ride
  • Pull the Sun

The Misfits Box Set

The Misfits Box Set (1996)

The Misfits Box Set (1996)

The Misfits came onto the punk scene in the late 1970’s. Founded by Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only, The Misfits embraced the do-it-yourself motto of the punk scene and would record and self-publish numerous EPs during the band’s existence. Following the band’s break-up in the early 80’s, Glenn Danzig would go on to front a new band, Samhain, which would eventually garner a major label record deal and become Danzig. Despite that though, The Misfits refused to die. Danzig would release a few posthumous albums, notably the compilations Legacy of Brutality and Misfits (later referred to as Collection 1). Come the early 90’s and most Misfits albums had been given a CD release via Caroline Records and Danzig’s Plan 9 label. Suddenly, The Misfits were more popular than ever before with the iconic Crimson Ghost becoming a mainstay in concert crowds. A lot of this new-found popularity came in part thanks to Metallica and its cover of classics Misfits tunes “Green Hell” and “Last Caress.” There was new demand for Misfits material, and after being excluded from the more recent releases, Jerry Only and his brother Doyle wanted to get in on the action. There was lots of legal wrangling between the two camps and it all eventually lead to an agreement where both parties would share merchandising rights and Only could resurrect a new version of The Misfits. This also lead to the creation of The Misfits Box Set in 1996, a release meant to compile all of the Misfits recordings lost to time in one box.

It wasn’t until recently that I finally purchased The Misfits Box Set. When the set was released in ’96, I was just getting into The Misfits. As a kid, I didn’t have the capital to fork over for a box set and was forced to grow my Misfits collection in pieces. By the time I was in high school and had a part-time job I already owned all of the albums contained within the box set in their stand-alone version and it no longer made sense for me to purchase the box set. Plus by then the set had been reissued with the newer pressings being decidedly less extravagant than the original. Being the collector that I am today, I finally saw fit to hunt down a first edition box set. I waited a long time for the right set to make itself available, and it finally did. I now own what is arguably the most important Misfits release from the 1990’s and I’m pretty happy with the decision.

The Misfits Box Set was definitely a lot cooler when it came out than it is today due to the original scarcity of the material. Thanks to the internet, Misfits vinyl is a lot easier to come by than it was 20 years ago (though that doesn’t make it cheap) and Caroline has since issued a stand alone version of Static Age that’s superior to what is contained here. When it came out though it was something special. Spread across four discs are Collections 1 and 2 (the latter being brand new at the time), Legacy of Brutality, Evilive, Earth AD/Wolfsblood, Static Age, and the Sessions disc. The only album missing is Walk Among Us, which Caroline did not have the distribution rights for. The gems of this release were certainly the last two discs, Static Age and Sessions.

Static Age was released for the very first time with the box set.

Static Age was released for the very first time with the box set.

Static Age was the first album recored by The Misfits. It’s story is rather interesting as Glenn secured studio time for it when a major label tried to start an offshoot label called Blank Records. Unbeknownst to them, Glenn had already started a label under that name and had secured the trademark. Rather than sell it, he gave it up in exchange for the studio time to make Static Age. After the album’s completion, the band was unable to secure a distribution deal for it. They basically would chop the album up and spread the recordings across a few self-published releases, notably Bullet and Beware. A lot of the songs that were never released would eventually make it onto Legacy of Brutality but with the guitar and bass tracks overdubbed by Danzig (so he didn’t have to pay anyone royalties). Static Age is still my favorite Misfits recording as it’s the band’s most diverse. There are elements of rock, punk, jazz and metal on the release and some of my favorite songs are on it such as “Hybrid Moments” and “Last Caress.” Caroline would release the album as a stand-alone in 1997 with three additional tracks: “She,” “Spinal Remains,” and “In the Doorway.” These tracks were unfinished at the time though “She” was released on Collection 1 and “Spinal Remains” on Legacy of Brutality. All three tracks are awesome, and I particularly enjoy “In the Doorway” which is sort of the forgotten Misfits tune. I don’t know why Caroline did not include them for the box set, but it’s a shame that the Static Age released here is basically incomplete.

The Sessions disc was the other main attraction of the box set and remains so today. A lot of the tracks on this release are from the various seven inch recordings that never made it to disc. It starts off with the two tracks from the first ever Misfits release, Cough/Cool, and presents a very different sound as the band did not feature a guitarist originally. Helping to soften the blow of the missing Walk Among Us tracks are the original Walk Among Us recordings. The band had basically recorded the album before securing a record deal. When they were able to land one with Slash Records the label had the band re-record the entire album. The originals are preserved here, some of which I consider superior to the final album version. I particularly enjoy the slowed down versions of “Violent World” and “I Turned Into a Martian.” The Sessions disc does get repetitive as several songs are featured more than once, but I’d rather the set contain too much as opposed to too little.

Former Samhain and Danzig bassist Eerie Von provided the liner notes for the box set.

Former Samhain and Danzig bassist Eerie Von provided the liner notes for the box set.

The packaging for the box set has changed over the years and the first edition remains the best. The set comes housed in a coffin-shaped box with faux wood grain printed on it. Inside the box is lined with a soft red insert. The discs are stacked in individual cases and a fiend pin is included at the base of the box. A booklet with new artwork is also included. The booklet contains a fairly lengthy biography on the band written by former Misfits photographer and Samhain/Danzig bassist Eerie Von. The booklet contains lot of old pictures of the band and various show flyers while also attempting to be a source for Misfits lyrics and a discography. After the release of the box set, it would be revealed that Glenn Danzig had no involvement with it and the lyrics are just the best guesses of some fans and former members (Danzig would, years later, release his own lyric book with select Misfits tracks) which makes a lot of the material inaccurate.

The discs themselves are rather cool as Caroline spent the few extra bucks to make them special. Since Misfits releases are so short in length, the albums could be consolidated to four discs. Each of the first three discs comes in a hard, glossy, black plastic case with raised lettering. Somewhat understated, but also elegant in its simplicity. Static Age received special treatment as it came in an irregularly sized, hinge-less, case. Opening it on the first try is a bit of a puzzle as its seams are hidden quite well. It slides apart, and inside is a small booklet and the actual disc. The outer case is all black with a large raised visage of the Crimson Ghost on the front and the track list on the back. It’s a unique design and not one I’ve seen repeated elsewhere. Repressings of the box set would be done on the cheap with these special cases replaced with two standard jewel cases, each housing two discs, making the first edition the more special of the two. Content wise, all versions contain the same amount of tracks though the pin was supposed to be excluded from future editions (some fans have reported getting a pin in the reissues meaning Caroline probably kept including them while they still had stock available).

More popular in death than in life, The Misfits legacy will likely live-on as more kids discover the band every day.

More popular in death than in life, The Misfits legacy will likely live-on as more kids discover the band every day.

The legacy of The Misfits is undeniable at this point. Even today, rumors persist of the band reforming for a live performance or new album. The box set was an unquestionably cool release at the time that is less special today thanks to The Misfits being more accessible than ever before. It’s pretty awesome that a band that broke up before I was even born could suddenly be more popular in the 90’s than it was at any time previous, which lead to a new version of The Misfits being born. I was never into Jerry Only’s version of The Misfits, but it is neat that it’s around for those who want it. I have had the pleasure, on more than one occasion, of seeing Danzig together with Doyle perform some of these tracks and it was an experience I’ll likely never forget. For the collector, this box set is pretty much essential and for new fans eager to spend some money it’s also a pretty nice gateway to The Misfits. There’s enough here that a casual fan would never have need to purchase another Misfits disc. Caroline did a good job of making the release (the first edition, anyways) feel special and it’s one of the better box sets I own.

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