Defending Danzig

Opinion: Danzig’s 6:66 Satan’s Child is One of the Great Unsung Metal Gems of the ’90s

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In the late ’90s and early 2000s, nu-metal’s influence was much like the zombie virus from The Walking Dead–there were distinct telltale signs of infection, and no one was immune. Suddenly, every band wanted frictionless seven-string riffs, effects-drenched vocals, and videos featuring models in vinyl bondage-but-n0t-bondage outfits. Which is really lame if you’re trying to take yourself very seriously as an artist and a cultural arbiter, sure. But if you’re a gothic sex god whose career is a horror comic brought to life, that shit can be really effective and entertaining!

Which is why I think Danzig’s sixth full-length record, 1999’s 6:66 Satan’s Child, is one of the great metal albums of its time. Filled with atmosphere, punch, and several overlooked Danzig classics, that record is a perfect snapshot of what it meant to be a young rocker at that time, and is a lot of fun so long as you don’t get too bogged down in Danzig’s legacy or what it means to be a Danzig fan.

That’s probably what saved me from passing over this record as a teenager–I wasn’t yet super versed in Danzig’s back catalog, and so I could judge it without that rigid mindset. When I was 14, I loved the Misfits and had heard “Mother” a bunch, but hadn’t delved into Danzig’s goth cowboy tunes, so 6:66 Satan’s Child was a new, modern facet of a rock star who I knew in other incarnations. At the time, old-school rockers modernizing their sounds was a common occurrence, and sometimes it turned out really well (I will gladly write a similar piece about Alice Cooper’s Brutal Planet, which absolutely slays). So in 1999, I was open-minded enough to give the new Danzig a listen.

What also helped was that I wasn’t ingrained in “true” metal yet, and so didn’t care about stark production or cultural piety or any of that pedantic horseshit. Danzig, Rob Zombie, and Godsmack were all in the same league, because why not, this was all the musical equivalent of a seance being held in your buddy’s basement anyway (and for the record, anyone who wants to paint early solo Danzig as “real” or “serious” music should watch some of his music videos and try not to cringe). I just wanted music that had a big solid riff at its core and sounded like it was about monsters.

And 6:66 Satan’s Child has that from the get-go–it brings the punch, that initial kick in the guts. Nu-metal was good at writing riffs with tremendous kinetic energy, and opener “Five Finger Crawl” brings it in spades. That chugging death march riff was the perfect soundtrack for stomping around New York in combat boots at fifteen. The same can be said for “Belly of the Beast”, and even the strung-out “Lilin”, which is sort of a ’90s industrial translation of “She Rides” (see what I mean? You’re a silly goose if you watch that video and somehow think Danzig was truly vital and brilliant then as compared to ’99). The digital effects on Satan’s Child do a good job at making the music sound ethereal and creepy even when the guitars are basically acting as alternate percussion.

Here, though, we reach the Cohibas, the great and somehow totally forgotten tracks on the album. “The Unspeakable” opens with a killer riff and is incredibly moshable throughout, with an ultra-distorted bass sound that creeps and crawls wonderfully. “Cult Without A Name” is as Danzig as it gets, with it’s melancholy opening, massive chorus, and self-referencing lyrics; it is definitely the great metal track from this album. “East Indian Devil (Kali’s Song)” is as strung-out and psychedelic as it is stripper-friendly, and “Firemass” adds a diabolical sneer to mid-paced alternative rock. These are all perfect soundtrack cuts–kind of sexy, kind of emotional, but mostly just biting and aggros.

The albums falls off a little during its third act–“Cold Eternal” is a decent Danzig ballad with a fantastic chorus, but the drums are pretty annoying; “Satan’s Child” is heavy as fuck but predictable in its message and sound; and “Into the Mouth of Abandonment” does that whole Talking Over Mundane Music thing that musicians in the ’90s thought was a good idea even though it never was. But “Apokolips” is bluesy goth metal perfection brimming with sleaze and liquor that goes from fast to slow at a moment’s notice. And finally, there’s “Thirteen”, the throbbing misanthropic country track Danzig wrote for Johnny Cash, here performed with all the hoarseness and shadow that the Man In Black’s soothing baritone couldn’t get across (you’ll recognize it as the song behind the opening credits of The Hangover).

Again, purists will claim 6:66 Satan’s Child dilutes Danzig’s brand, but that’s judging the man’s hipness and legacy rather than the songs on the album (bricks, soup, blah blah blah). Sure, that stripped-down stuff from Danzig and Danzig II is really cool, but that doesn’t mean a departure from that sound is any less effective. And hey, like I said before, all of this–the overdone production, the goth club imagery, the simple riffs–would be disappointing if the songs centered around emotional angst, and were performed by reedy teenagers with something to prove. But Danzig’s already a muscular devil-worshipping rock god whose message is, I’m a monster, you’re a monster, let’s have sex and eat scorpions, so it works perfectly for him.

So for those of you looking for a killer macabre goth rock album with a lot of power to it, listen to 6:66 Satan’s Child below. That the hipsters hate it for all the wrong reasons only makes it that much more fun to blast uninhibited.

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