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Chinese Democracy Revisited

chinese democracy

After a lenghty development process, Chinese Democracy was released on November 23, 2008.

Quite possibly the most interesting and fascinating rock album released in my lifetime is Chinese Democracy by Guns N’ Roses, released ten years ago today. This was an album of mythic proportions. It was in some state of genesis for parts of 15 years and I think come the mid-2000s most probably assumed it was musical vaporware and would never see the light of day.

To comprehend the magnitude of Chinese Democracy you need to take a trip back to 1991. That year, Guns N’ Roses released its true sophomore effort and follow-up to the debut Appetite for Destruction with the double-album Use Your Illusion. The band was on-top of the rock world thanks to the success of Appetite. It combined good tunes with big personalities, none bigger than frontman Axl Rose. The band invited controversy, or at least Axl did, and was pretty upfront about its destructive lifestyle. The title of their first album wasn’t something that just sounded cool, it was basically their lifestyle. As a result, record company Geffen was quite fearful that the band would crash and burn before they could milk it for all it was worth. This is all detailed quite well in Watch You Bleed, the unauthorised biography of the band by Stephen Davis. Geffen would repeatedly try to get the band into the studio, and fast-tracked the follow-up EP Lies in 1988 just to keep the cash flowing. Use Your Illusion would basically turn into Axl’s vanity project, wanting to do something bigger than Appetite. His affinity for Elton John was front and center in the many long ballads contained on those two albums and the accompanying music videos were lavish and expensive. The albums were a major commercial success, even if they were quite inferior to what came before.

Following the release of Use Your Illusion, the band would embark on a massive, global tour where apparently things deteriorated between Axl and his band mates with some claiming Axl forced them all to sign over the rights to the band to him before a gig in Rio (a claim Axl denies). Members were dropping, but the most recognizable personalities of Rose and guitarist Slash were still holding things together, albeit barely. Following the heavy touring, the band would work on and release a covers album in 1993, The Spaghetti Incident?. It wasn’t particularly good, though few cover albums are, but still managed to sell over 6 million copies. Things would further fall apart following the recording of another cover, this one of “Sympathy for the Devil” for the Interview With a Vampire soundtrack. Axl supposedly mixed it behind the band’s back and Slash was disgusted with how it turned out (I personally find it kind of interesting), but he still soldiered on but eventually left the band in 1996. Bassist Duff McKagan would eventually follow Slash out the door in 1997. At the time he stated the band had studios rented for the better part of three years and yet no songs to show for it.

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In the early 90s, Guns N’ Roses was on top of the rock world.

By 1998, the band was practically unrecognizable. Axl Rose was the only member left from the early days, and keyboardist Dizzy Reed was the only other holdover from the Use Your Illusion albums. It was at this point the band seemed to get serious about writing and recording new music and Geffen even offered the band a bonus of a million dollars if it could complete the record by 1999. That obviously didn’t happen, but by then one song was unveiled along with the eventual album’s title. That song, “Oh My God” was included on the End of Days soundtrack and was not met with much enthusiasm. It was basically an industrial rock song and few nice things were said of it. This was also the era in which Rose really started talking up the album claiming he had enough material for a whole trilogy of albums. He even played some demo versions of songs for Rolling Stone and there was some momentum for the album, and yet nothing would come for many years.

The band’s first unveiling with this new lineup ended up as a surprise appearance at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. Despite a warm reception, the band kind of floundered through a brief set that included renditions of classics “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” sandwiched around a new song, “Madagascar.” Rose particularly sounded awful, unable to really unleash his screech and compensating by just singing comically high. Still, the band suggested the album was close with guitarist Robin Finck even throwing out a date of Summer 2003, but that obviously didn’t happen.

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The band’s surprise appearance during the 2002 VMAs may have done more harm than good.

Guns N’ Roses, possibly in need of a cash infusion, returned to touring in late 2002. This likely stalled production on Chinese Democracy, but not enough to justify missing that release window by five years. During the touring, fans did get to hear early versions of songs that would make the album, but the reception wasn’t warm. Leaks would follow over the ensuing years, some resulting in legal action by Geffen and the band, and the New York Times would report in 2005 that production costs had now topped 13 million dollars, an incredible sum for an album that still was years away.

Eventually, the album would see the light of day. On November 23, 2008, Chinese Democracy was unleashed. It’s hard to say what the level of enthusiasm was at that point. Because the costs for Geffen were so astronomical, the label went to great lengths to try to make as much of its money back as possible. It negotiated exclusive deals for songs with movie studios and video game makers. “If The World” would run during the closing credits of Body of Lies while “Shackler’s Revenge” was included with Rock Band 2. Best Buy secured an exclusive agreement to sell the album in its stores, including CD versions and an LP.  The title track was debuted on Opie and Anthony’s show before being distributed to other radio stations while “Better” was released as a promo single as well. To drum up enthusiasm for the record, fans could stream it for free three days before release. Perhaps most infamously, was the Dr. Pepper promotion. Early that year, Dr. Pepper openly promised free cans of its signature soda if the album was released in 2008. The roll-out of coupons for individuals looking to take advantage of the promotion was botched, with Dr. Pepper’s website becoming overloaded. The band even threatened a lawsuit over the whole thing and accused Dr. Pepper of tarnishing the album’s release leading to lower than expected sales. Rose would later claim he had nothing to do with the threat of litigation and considered it a non-issue.

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Buckethead was probably the band’s most famous member outside of Rose during the interim period between albums, though by the time it was released Buckethead had left the band.

When Chinese Democracy was finally in the hands of fans curious to hear it, it came packaged with a rather thick booklet. So many cooks were in the kitchen here, many no longer even with the band. Of them, the most famous was likely guitarist Buckethead who didn’t hang around long enough to see release. Twelve separate musicians received credits in the personnel department with five additional guest musicians credited (most famously, Sebastian Bach who performed backing vocals on “Sorry”). The 14 track album ran for over 70 minutes, and it’s almost impossible to know how old some of the tracks are. It’s a rather fascinating album for this reason, and perhaps one day Rose will open up about the production process and be able to provide track lists for each year recording was ongoing. It certainly would make for an interesting documentary.

As for the album itself, while the initial sales may have disappointed (it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200) it has since been certified platinum. Critics seemed largely complimentary of the release, even if it was tempered somewhat. Perhaps the biggest proponents of the album were Axl’s former band mates with almost all of them offering a positive assessment of the record.

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Chinese Democracy’s release cost Dr. Pepper a few bucks and maybe some PR damage as well.

In revisiting the album I still largely hold the same opinion now as I did back in 2008. It’s both a satisfying and disappointing release. The disappointment comes in that this isn’t some over-the-top sound, nor is it a giant dumpster fire. I think some people were hoping for a disaster, and what they got is a pretty decent record, though not one anyone is likely to proclaim as an all-time great. What I do find really interesting about the album is that its best moments are what many people disliked about Use Your Illusion. This is an Axl Rose record and Axl Rose likes ballads, so there’s no shortage here. The last three songs are long, slow, pieces and are also among the best moments for the record. When it tries to be hard and heavy, it has its greatest stumbles. The title track is a fairly straight-forward rock track, satisfying, though not spectacular. “Shackler’s Revenge” and “Better” follow a similar path, though to not as great an effect.

The album stumbles following its first ballad, the quite competent and satisfying “Street of Dreams.” “If the World” goes for a bit of a jam sound and it sounds way over-produced. It’s more an idea than a fully realized song. The next two, “There Was a Time” and “Catcher in the Rye,” are fine, but sound way too similar to each other. It’s puzzling to see them placed back to back. “Catcher in the Rye” also goes for a melancholy sound that feels stale and a touch corny. It’s not helped by the subject matter of the song, which feels like well-trod territory. “Scraped” is where the album bottoms out, a noisy, directionless song with Rose’s worst vocal performance. “Riad N’ the Bedouins” feels like the unofficial beginning of the album’s second act. It’s a rocker that’s delivered with true ferocity. It’s probably the heaviest song on the album and it contains some classic Rose gusto with lines like, “I don’t give a fuck ’bout them ’cause I am cra-zay!” What momentum the album finds with the song though is wasted on “Sorry,” just a snoozefest of a track. “I.R.S” is more a mid-tempo rocker, and it’s fine. Axl’s vocals are probably as close to classic Axl as you’re going to hear on this one. The trio of ballads that round things out follow. “Madagascar” is another over-produced mess, though it debuts a new “voice” for Rose in which he goes with a weathered, low, sound. The song is interwoven with clips of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech as well as the same soundbite from Cool Hand Luke that was previously used at the beginning of “Civil War.” “This I love” is a gentle ballad with a great melody and vocal performance by Rose, while “Prostitute” is similar, but it has a bigger end.

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Fellow rocker Sebastian Bach was a source of news on the album leading up to its release. He also guested on the track “Sorry.”

Despite my dislike for some songs on this one, I do still find it compelling enough to listen to the album the whole way through. It is not and never will be my favorite GNR album, but I’m torn on if I like this more than I do the individual Use Your Illusion albums. Those two were a mess stuffed full of filler material. I think if I were to cut Use Your Illusion down to a single album, it would be better than Chinese Democracy, but it is a fun discussion. Appetite for Destruction will likely always be the band’s best album and one that really defines its sound. It’s not just the best album in the band’s discography, it’s one of the ten best rock albums of all time. No one, even back in 1991, expected the band to top it only to supplement it with more worthwhile content.

GNR reunion

After years of saying it would never happen, Slash and Axl finally reconciled and re-joined the band, along with McKagan, in 2016.

Following Chinese Democracy, Guns N’ Roses has been quiet on the new release front. Rose did claim around 2014 that more material was on the way, but it’s been rather quiet. The band put out a remastered version of Appetite for Destruction instead, and former band mates Slash and Duff are back with Rose. Supposedly, there are dozens of unfinished songs leftover from the Chinese Democracy sessions so it’s possible that some day Geffen will put them out looking to just make a little money off of them, if they can. If GNR is to remain a nostalgic act I suppose few will mind, though longtime fans are probably curious to hear what a new album with Slash and McKagan back in the fold would sound like. Regardless of how the album ultimately turned out, Chinese Democracy will always be remembered as the white whale of rock albums. The incredibly long and dramatic production time was perhaps more fun to follow than the album was to listen to. There’s a part of me that wished it continued, though I know that’s a retroactive feeling as at the time I was more than ready for the whole thing to have an end. I think ten years later the album is still worth a look and how much you enjoy it largely depends on your expectations. If you’re looking for another Appetite or even another Use Your Illusion, you’ll be let down. If you just want a textured rock record with a modern sound, then I think there’s something to like here.


The Ultimate Danzig Song Ranking – Part I

danzig_bannerThis day marks the 30th anniversary of the self-titled debut album of Danzig. It was thirty years ago that the album was unleashed by then label Def American alongside Geffen Records. So shaken up by the imagery and subject matter of the group was executive David Geffen that Geffen’s logo didn’t appear on the release. Which is kind of amusing as the album isn’t what many would consider controversial in this day and age featuring no profanity or overly violent lyrics, but this was a different time.

The album has gone on to be the best-selling record released by the group and the only LP to go platinum. It did not happen overnight and most of its success is attributed to a surge in popularity for the song “Mother” which was re-released as a single in 1993 to promote the EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive. As my favorite band, this blog tends to celebrate all things Danzig related, so marking this milestone makes sense. You may recall I ranked all of the albums Glenn Danzig was involved with back in April to mark the 400th post on this blog. Last Halloween, a similar ranking for all of the songs recorded by The Misfits was also done. The Misfits, with Glenn Danzig at the helm, lasted approximately six years spanning from 1977 to 1983. As a result, I only had to rank 50 or so songs. Danzig has understandably output more since it has existed five times as long. I count 129 unique songs that need to be ranked making this largely an exercise in futility, but that’s never stopped me before!

How did I arrive at that total, you may be wondering. Well, I’m not considering live recordings since that would be silly and duplicative. I am also not counting remixes and only considering the original version of a given song. This mostly affects Danzig 5 era tracks which largely aren’t that great to begin with. I also decided to exclude covers. While you may argue that some of Danzig’s covers offer a unique take on an old song, they’re still not exactly Danzig songs. This eliminates the entire Skeletons album and also disqualifies the following: ┬áThe Hunter, Trouble, Hand of Doom: Version, Buick McKane, Cat People, Caught in my Eye. I’m also not counting the song credited to Glenn Danzig and the Power and Fury Orchestra, which was “You and Me (Less than Zero)” from the Less Than Zero motion picture soundtrack. While the orchestra was basically the band Danzig, minus bassist Eerie Von, it wasn’t credited to the band so I won’t rank it (even though it’s a fantastic track). And lastly, I’m not going to rank the instrumental intro songs that appear on I Luciferi and Circle of Snakes and I’m also counting “Pyre of Souls: Incanticle” and “Pyre of Souls: ┬áSeasons of Pain” as one song. Hopefully these ground rules are not too complicated or controversial. With each ranking I’ll include the easiest way to find the song, not necessarily the first. Some songs debuted on singles, but were eventually released on a re-issue or as part of The Lost Tracks of Danzig. With that all out of the way though, let’s get to the music:

129. Don’t Be Afraid (Blackacidevil 2000 re-issue) – The dubious one. The one that is considered the absolute worst. “Don’t Be Afraid” was originally released on a promotional sampler for Danzig 5 and later included on the E-Magine re-issue. It’s basically a noise track, with a simple electronic beat and instrumentation moving things along as Danzig sings over it with vocals so distorted they’re basically unintelligible (aside from when he repeats the song’s title over and over). If you were excited to hear this one for the first time after getting that 2000 re-issue then boy were you disappointed.

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Danzig enjoys seductive snake girls.

128. Serpentia (Blackacidevil) – The worst track from Danzig’s worst album, as originally released. “Serpentia” is mostly just annoying, an attempt to be sexually charged with snake imagery. Danzig’s vocals are not distorted, but they’re also not very good. The song is poorly paced and feels half-baked. Somehow, the various remixes that followed are even worse.

127. Sadistikal (Danzig IV) – This one is less a song and more an intermission for Danzig IV. It’s largely industrial, serving I suppose as a preview of sorts for Danzig 5, and it offers little value aside from the mood it attempts to create. Danzig’s lyrics come across as corny and cliche, so it’s debatable if it really works as an intermission. The worst track on the best album.

126. Lady Lucifera (The Lost Tracks of Danzig) – A holdover from Circle of Snakes, “Lady Lucifera” is a song Danzig claims to love and I’ve encountered a few fans that seem to enjoy it, but I find it repulsive. Muddy, plodding, instrumentation with a weird vocal delivery. The song just meanders round and round without going anywhere. It sounds more like a concept than a fully realized song.

125. East Indian Devil (Kali’s Song)(Satan’s Child) – The most industrial track of Danzig’s sixth album is also its worst. The vocals are largely indecipherable and there’s no real hooks or chorus present. Not sure why it made the album over better songs.

124. Blackacidevil (Blackacidevil) – There’s some disagreement over how this song title is pronounced. Some read is as “Black as a devil” and others as “Black acid evil.” The pronunciation of it in the actual song sounds to me like it is “Black acid devil.” I just call it crap. The only compliment I can pay it is the song has a build to it and increases with intensity the longer it goes, but it lacks a true crescendo to really pay it off. Otherwise, just more Danzig 5 fuzz junk with camp lyrics.

123. White Devil Rise (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Banal and simple, “White Devil Rise” sounds like an alt-right anthem these days. The less said the better.

122. Into the Mouth of Abandonment (Satan’s Child) – This one is similar to “Sadistikal” in that it feels more like an intermission track than a true song. This one tries a bit harder and since it’s past the midway point of the record it probably wouldn’t qualify as an intermission anyway. It’s simple and mostly understated, slightly notable for being the rare Danzig cut to actually contain the word “fuck.” We’re gradually moving away from the songs that are truly poor to the ones that just aren’t particularly noteworthy.

121. Hint of Her Blood (Blackacidevil) – A slow, brooding song. The lyrics are less camp and more traditional Danzig. It’s sort of like our previous entry, “Into the Mouth of Abandonment,” but without the explosive moments, so maybe I should have actually ranked that one ahead of this one. I guess I like the subject matter here a little more, both songs are rather boring in the end.

120. Bleedangel (Blackacidevil 2000 reissue) – The other original track added to the reissue of Blackacidevil, “Bleedangel” is better than “Don’t Be Afraid,” though it’s another song that kind of goes no where. It’s rather atmospheric and at least it doesn’t feature heavily distorted vocals, but what’s there also isn’t all that exciting. The most interesting thing about this song is that at one point in time it was supposed to be released as a single, and according to then bassist Josh Lazie, that single was going to include a cover of The Misfits classic “Bloodfeast.” It never happened, and many doubt that cover actually exists anywhere since no one else has been able to confirm its existence.

119. Power of Darkness (Blackacidevil) – Disco Danzig! This song is straight-up techno garbage. I guess if you like techno maybe you would like this song. I suppose it’s rather danceable. I personally never needed to hear Danzig tackle this genre.

118. You Should be Dying (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Supposedly left off of Lucifuge, this is one of the tracks from the Lost Tracks compilation that sounds like the vocals were re-recorded for that release. It definitely doesn’t sound like Glenn Danzig circa 1990. Regardless, I don’t think even a vintage vocal performance would save this one. It has a decent, very Sabbath-like riff going for it during the intro, but then it devolves into nothing. Very bland, and the chorus is kind of annoying. A rare clunker on disc 1 of that set.

117. Hellmask (Circle of Snakes) – “Hellmask” marks the return of Glenn Danzig’s “Cookie Monster” vocals. Lots of screaming, and the mix makes it sound like Glenn is battling with the guitar and drums for audio supremacy on the track, and losing. He hasn’t really revisited that sound since.

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Danzig also enjoys six foot cat women. I’m not kink-shaming, I swear!

116. Wicked Pussycat (I Luciferi) – “Wicked Pussycat” contains a very modern, nu-metal sound for 2002. The subject matter is cartoonish even by Danzig’s standards, and the rap-rock chorus is kind of embarrassing. There is a catchiness to it, I suppose, but it’s not something I return to often.

115. Invocation/Demon’s Call (Danzig IV) – The title of this one is confusing. For years it was referred to as “Invocation,” though I’m not sure if Glenn himself ever confirmed it. When mp3 distribution showed up, Apple listed it as “Demon’s Call” in iTunes and I have no idea where they got that title. It’s all confusing because this is an unlabeled bonus track from Danzig IV, track 66. It’s a classic bonus track in that it’s experimental and kind of weird, which is on purpose. Those were kind of the best bonus tracks as they were a fun little treat for those who left their CD player on after the last song. This one is basically a hymn, and it’s about a demon that seduces its victims. It’s basically just Danzig’s heavily layered vocals and an electric organ. Pretty cool, a little creepy, and mostly fun though it’s also not likely to be anyone’s favorite song due to its unique nature.

114. I Know Your Lie (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – Another leftover from Danzig 6, this one was probably left off of the final release because it sounds very similar to “Five Finger Crawl.” Had it been on the album it would have been a filler track, neither good nor bad, which is what it is on The Lost Tracks of Danzig.

113. My Darkness (Circle of Snakes) – So I kind of hate this one, but also kind of love it. I never seem to enjoy hearing it, but it gets stuck in my head. It’s also really annoying, but also fairly catchy. I didn’t know where to rank this and honestly considered it more towards the back, but it’s fine right here.

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A band still from the “Circle of Snakes” video. It’s mostly the band posing menacingly while snake girls do their thing.

112. Circle of Snakes (Circle of Snakes) – This is like a sludge version of “Twist of Cain.” Riffs and song structure are similar, though it lacks that bridging second chorus. I mostly hate the guitar tone on this album, and this song in particular.

111. 7th House (Blackacidevil) – This song may have been okay if it wasn’t so distorted. It’s basically like “Brand New God” if that song just stayed with the up-tempo, thrash sound it starts with. The lyrics are pretty stupid though, so maybe the distortion helps there. It’s one of the songs from Danzig V that works a lot better live than it does on the album.

110. God of Light (I Luciferi) – I dislike this song less now than I did in 2002. It used to annoy me, and it still possesses a rather weak chorus, but when I listen to it now I appreciate the odd time signature of it because it’s very different from basically every other Danzig song. I’m ranking it as high as I am because of that uniqueness, though it’s still one of the weaker tracks on Danzig 7.

109. Apokalips (Satan’s Child) – This song has a good structure to it. It starts slow, slightly quiet, and then ratchets that up when the chorus kicks in. There’s a dense bottom-end, and the production helps add to the apocalyptic atmosphere the lyrics are going for. The problem then? The vocals. They’re oddly pitched and Glenn’s voice is borderline annoying at times. There was supposedly a lot of post-production nonsense done on Glenn’s voice, as he stated at the time he tried to achieve a sound closer to how he hears himself, so maybe that’s what is going on here. Whatever the case, it doesn’t work.

108. Skin Carver (Circle of Snakes) – Frustratingly, the song that has been opening every Danzig show since 2004. It’s a head-banger, and most concert openers are designed to fire up the crowd and set the tone, there’s just so many other songs in the Danzig catalog that work better. The silly whisper first chorus does nothing for the song’s mood, and the shouting version that follows is just kind of dull. It’s just the song’s title, over and over. I do like Tommy Victor’s guitar work on this one, and the bass is thunderous, it’s the other parts that lag.

107. Night Star Hel (Deth Red Sabaoth) – Our first song from 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth is that album’s most boring song. It’s not terrible, but it’s very reminiscent of the lower points from the preceding albums. A nothing chorus with a slow, brooding verse with iffy production.

106. Deep (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – This one was originally released on an X-Files compilation album of songs, Songs in the Key of X. They were supposed to be inspired by the show, but I think it was just David Duchovny reaching out to artists he liked for music to fill an album with. “Deep” was not written for the album and was basically a holdover from Danzig 5. Interestingly, it would have been one of the better tracks on that record (the reissue included a remix of this one called “Deeper”) instead of being one of the lesser tracks on disc one of The Lost Tracks of Danzig. It’s a bit slow, with imagery reminiscent of “Sadistikal” that tries to build towards a big chorus, but it doesn’t deliver.

105. Dead Inside (I Luciferi) – This is a song undone by its chorus. The verse is simple with some sweet Danzig crooning. It builds into a faster verse following the first chorus that’s really satisfying, but that damn chorus. It’s just screaming with machine-gun drumming that doesn’t suit the song. It almost betrays the verse which is very melodious by being so simple. A missed opportunity.

104. Cult w/o a Name (Satan’s Child) – This song might be Danzig’s worst written when it comes to nonsense lyrics. “I am teeth of fire/taste a thousand shames,” – what? Teeth don’t taste, Glenn, but I guess tongue doesn’t sound very menacing. The song has a solid groove to it, it suffers some of the same vocal shortcomings as “Apokalips,” but it’s not a bad song. Just flawed.

103. Devil on Hwy 9 (Black Laden Crown) – Okay, maybe this one has dumber lyrics than “Cult w/o a Name.” Driving on an evil highway? Sure, whatever, as long as it sounds good. And the music mostly delivers, but the vocal production is wretched. I was shocked the first time I heard it that it was released like this. This one definitely was let down by its production. Every time I listen to it that opening piece tricks me into thinking maybe this song isn’t so bad, but those vocals bring me back down to earth. Still, as the first song to show up from Black Laden Crown, I’d say that’s a pretty good showing from the most recent Danzig albums, though we’re about to start a little run on songs from this album.

102. Eyes Ripping Fire (Black Laden Crown) – The song that immediately follows “Devil on Hwy 9” is this one, and it’s title seems to imply something more like the previous song, but it’s rather muted. It’s just a song I want to find another gear, but it just meanders. It has kind of a meaningless existence.

101. Night, BeSodom (Circle of Snakes) – This is another song that finds a nice groove, but it’s all it has. It gets what it can out of that groove though, and then quickly ends so that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. If it had an actual chorus it might have been able to climb higher.

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Danzig contemplating what it means to feel all sacrificed.

100. Sacrifice (Blackacidevil) – The lead single from Danzig 5 was kind of a red herring. This one is very Nine Inch Nails-like, and some of that Trent Reznor’s remixes of “Closer” really drive that point home. It’s simple, has an electronic base to it, but the vocals are mostly clean and the chorus explosive. It has kind of a cheapness to it though, like it’s relying on the most basic hooks for success. At least it has hooks though, something a lot of the other songs from this album are sorely lacking in. I’ve picked on Danzig 5 a lot so far, but we’re actually going to leave that album alone for a good while now as it’s surprisingly top heavy relative to other Danzig releases.

99. The Witching Hour (Black Laden Crown) – Another brooder from Black Laden Crown, “The Witching Hour” is an unremarkable track. Not particularly great, but far from bad. It’s the definition of filler.

98. Kiss the Skull (I Luciferi) – This one was originally going to be the title track for Danzig 7, but it lost out to a better song. It’s also inspired by Gary Glitter, he of “Rock n’ Roll Part 2” fame, as well as a noted child molester. It’s kind of a goofy track, but it does possess some catchy qualities and it’s also fun hearing Glenn dust off his “Whoa oh” he so frequently resorted to with The Misfits.

97. Soul Eater (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – If “Kiss the Skull” is goofy, the this one is positively ridiculous. “Soul Eater” is one of the catchiest songs Danzig has ever recorded, but the lyrics are so stupid and silly, which makes them strangely endearing. Even though I consider it only the 97th best Danzig song, I’d love to hear a live version. I even think it was written with that in mind as it references “Blackest of the Black,” the lyric that leads off “Her Black Wings” and is also the namesake of Glenn Danzig’s festival of extreme music, which was in the planning stages during the recording of this song.

96. Firemass (Satan’s Child) – This one is part of the easy listening middle section of Danzig 6. It has a very effervescent guitar tone and there’s an ethereal quality to Danzig’s vocals on the chorus. It was one of my favorite songs on this album when it first came out, and maybe I listened to it too much then because I find it a tad unremarkable now. It’s almost too understated to really stand-out.

95. Belly of the Beast (Satan’s Child) – This is yet another decent song somewhat undone by the lyrics from Danzig 6. This was definitely a creative low point for Danzig, and a lot of the songs show. The song is perfectly catchy, simply but logically constructed, it’s just got this annoying rhyme scheme to the verse. It just sounds like amateur hour, but I’ve always liked the vocal melody on the chorus.

94. When We Were Dead (Circle of Snakes) – An interesting song title that doesn’t really lead to an equally interesting song. The lyrics are actually a strong part to this one as they’re morbidly descriptive. The time signature is a bit interesting, but I feel like the song is building to a conclusion it never reaches, it just devolves into Glenn repeating the song’s title over and over.

93. 777 (Lucifuge) – We’ve kind of reached the first song from the original four. The first four albums are widely considered the band’s best. How much that had to do with Rick Rubin or it containing the original lineup is anyone’s guess. We had picked on Danzig IV’s “Sadistikal” earlier, but like I said, that one feels less like a song and more like an intermission and “Invocation” is just a weird little nugget of a track. “777” sits right in the middle of what many consider the band’s best album. Its twangy acoustic elements overlaying traditional blues rock makes it stand out, but I hate this song’s chorus. The lyrics are just really stupid to me, and I’m not particularly crazy about the verse either. I know a lot of people who like this song a lot, but for me it’s never clicked.

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Just jamming to “Bodies.”

92. Bodies (How the Gods Kill) – If you’re worried I’m about to start ripping on those first four albums, don’t worry. We have a few more tracks to cull before we really get into those albums, but “Bodies” is an especially notable track for being not great. It’s very bluesy, so it has its admirers, but the over-the-top “Cookie Monster” vocals nearly ruin the experience. I often wonder if anyone ever asked Glenn why he chose this approach, it sounds brutal for one’s vocal chords. Rick Rubin had less involvement with this album than the first two, leading to Glenn himself receiving a producer credit on it, and I do wonder if Rubin would have steered him away from this sound had he been around more.

91. Who Claims the Soulless (Lost Tracks of Danzig) – A Danzig 7 reject, “Who Claims the Soulless” is a perfectly forgettable track. There is some merit to the notion that it deserved to make the album over something like “Dead Inside,” but there are also better tracks left off of that release. It doesn’t quite fit with the other material on that record, so there’s an equally valid reason for leaving it off. Is it better than “Kiss the Skull”? Maybe, but does it fit within that album as well? Probably not.

90. Unspeakable (Satan’s Child) – While “Five Finger Crawl” received the first (and only) video from Danzig 6, “Unspeakable” was the lead single sent to radio. It’s not really traditional rock or metal, nor is it really nu-metal. It’s kind of an odd song, and like a lot of that album, it’s not easy to shoe-horn into one of the many sub-genres of rock that were dominating the airwaves. The verse is very simple, and the chorus is really catchy. It’s a straight-forward track that serves its purpose, though it could use some more flourish with either the verse or guitar licks.

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“Unspeakable” was the lead single for Danzig 6:66 Satan’s Child.

I’m going to cut this post off right here as we’re nearing 4,000 words which is just too long for a blog entry. Tomorrow is this blog’s usual Batman Day, so check back on Saturday for Part 2 of this massive entry. And if you have a copy of the first Danzig record laying around, turn that sum-bitch on real loud in honor of its 30th birthday.


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