Defending Danzig

DEFENDING DANZIG, DAY TWO OF FOUR: MUSIC

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In honor of the Samhain season, MetalSucks is taking a fresh look at Danzig’s 11 most dubious distinctions. And we’re rendering judgment. (Click here for Part One: Misfortune.)

Danzig is, of course, a musician. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to debate whether he can fight or what kind of neighbor he is. Today, let’s look at the only thing that should matter: his art.

Over the course of 35 years, Danzig has topped the Billboard classical chart, written for country icon Johnny Cash, and penned a punk anthem that Guns N’ Roses covered. But rather than celebrate his diverse ability, contingents of diehard fans still heatedly debate the merits of his wide-ranging catalog.

Incident #1: Samhain

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=K3C90Pr7QOU

The Charge: Samhain Sucks.

The Case: Samhain was Danzig’s second major band, between the Misfits and Danzig. From 1983 to ’87, they were the biggest punk band on the planet. (Check out the crowds in this ’86 show in the clip above; the infamous “blood set” and similar photo shoots were seminal moments in extreme-metal visuals.)

Compared to the Misfits, the goth-y postpunk crew brought more art and less fun to the  party. And, yeah, they had some cheesy moments (“Initium/Samhain” is no “In the Beginning/Shout at the Devil”).

And sure, they wore some suspect sweaters (check out live footage from the box set or YouTube clips of the 1985 Starwood Ballroom show). And even if you think career highlights like [ “Archangel”  and “Unholy Passion”] are fodder for crossover Cure fans, you have to give it up for the band’s more hardcore moments, like when they finally got the Misfits holdover “All Hell” right.

Verdict: It’s Not Very Metal, But That Don’t Make It Bad.

Incident #2: Danzig 4, 5 and 6:66

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YXwaHYPKyIM

The Charge: These Albums Suck, Too.

The Case: After three awesome classic-rock style albums, Danzig embarked on a lengthy departure with 1994’s Danzig 4p. For three LPs, he dove into the darkwave genre, combining goth trappings, electronic sounds, industrial noise and sensual rock. The discs were underrated and remain unpopular among his casual constituency.

Fair-weather fiends revolted against the new direction. The Hot Topic demographic didn’t really exist yet. And real goths didn’t warm up to it. But if the albums would have been released by some scene dude in a Projekt Records band or even Trent Reznor, they’d have been hailed as groundbreaking.

And even if that kind of music just isn’t your bag, maybe you’ll agree that the whole phase was worth it for Beavis and Butt-head’s commentary on the “Cantspeak” video from 4, in which Danzig is trapped in a giant litter box and forced to contend with an ominous, sentient, shark-like turd. (“Is this some toilet of the future?”)

That particular clip isn’t online, but here’s some pretty funny Beavis & Butt-Head observations on the “Mother” video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jZ4mYvOYLf0

Verdict: The Albums Don’t Suck. You Do.

Incident #3: The Last Decade of Danzig

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BP_Jf5iJyy4

The Charge: The Danzig Band’s Records Aren’t Any Good Any More.

 

The Case: There’s a popular notion that the last decade of Danzig albums have been hit-and-miss. Maybe they haven’t been as solid as the first three Danzig albums, which were produced by Rick Rubin (Slayer, Johnny Cash, Wolfsbane) and released on his [Def] American label.

But 777 I Luciferi was a welcome return to form, even if you dug the prolonged darktronica phase. It had some Misfits-style whoa-ohs, and “Angel Blake” is not only a helluva slow, heavy jam — it has a kick-ass recorder solo, just like “Stairway to Heaven.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aZgxP1WLsr0

2007’s Circle of Snakes is a little turgid, but 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth is a great synthesis of Danzig’s rock and post-rock material — see the two-part “Pyre of Souls” epic. The problem is: You have to listen closely to notice how good the better songs are; Deth Red in particular sounds like shit.

The Verdict: Maybe Danzig Is a Little Too Frugal With Production Budgets, But He’s Not Working For a Label With Deep Pockets Anymore.

Are the Danzig albums you don’t like any good? Let us know in the comments section!

-Ferris

D.X. Ferris is the author of 33 1/3: Reign in Blood, the first English-language book about Slayer, which is available cheap in hard copies and for the Kindle machines. (He’s been know to send bonus swag in exchange for a proof of purchase.) You can friend it on the Facebook, or follow his bullshit daily on the Tweeters: @dxferris and @SlayerBook.

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