Category Archives: Music

The Misfits Come Home – Newark, NJ 5/19/2018

misfitsThe Misfits originally existed from 1977 to 1983. Formed by Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only our of Lodi, NJ, the band cycled through guitarists and drummers for much of its existence before finally disbanding. By then, Only’s younger brother Doyle was a fixture on guitar and the two represented the visual core of the band while Danzig’s songs carried the day. Like what has befallen many artists, they weren’t appreciated during their day, but years later it would become obvious how influential the group was in the punk, metal, and hardcore scenes. Following the band’s demise, Danzig went on to front other bands, most famously the one that bares his namesake – Danzig. During these years he never stopped re-releasing old Misfits material. During the band’s life it struggled to find record deals, but with the music done, recorded and previously released, Danzig found a partner in Caroline Records willing to press CDs and re-release the old stuff. Eventually the band found an audience, and Caroline was willing to release basically anything Danzig could produce.

By this point we were in the early 90s. Jerry Only had tried, and failed, at music with his Kryst the Conqueror outfit and had returned to the family business – a machine shop, to make his living. Danzig had been re-releasing the old material without paying anyone often trying to skirt responsibility by over-dubbing a lot of the music himself. Since he held the sole song-writing credits, this likely was good enough for Caroline. And while sales were low, it likely was, but as the band’s profile was raised (due in large part to famous covers by the likes of Metallica and Guns ‘N Roses) this proved untenable. Legal issues ensued, and one proposed resolution was to simply reform the band. At this point in time, Danzig the band had pretty much disbanded with the original record deal expired. Danzig though had a lucrative offer from Hollywood Records and wasn’t interested in re-forming the band. Maybe if Only’s invitation had come after the commercial failure of Blackacidevil things would have been different, but instead Only and Doyle reformed the band without Danzig. From this point on, essentially two versions of The Misfits had existed; the original from ’77-’83, and the one that reformed in 1995.

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The Misfits re-formed for Riot Fest 2016 which meant lots of new march.

Jerry Only’s Misfits enjoyed its share of success while Danzig kept plugging along with his band. Jerry’s Misfits proved to be plagued by a lot of the same issues as the original. After releasing two albums with the same lineup, the band went through a lot of changes and turmoil with Only being the only consistent (no pun intended) with even Doyle eventually leaving the band. With just Jerry, he basically assumed all song-writing duties as well as vocals. His Misfits have continued right along up until the present day, and he and Glenn have co-existed in their own bubbles for the most part while sometimes dodging reunion rumors here and there. They were strongest in ’02, and according to Doyle they had a tentative agreement that fell apart at the last minute, but nothing imminent ever made it into the public. Danzig and Doyle had long since reconciled and he would occasionally join Danzig on stage for some Misfits songs, most famously during Danzig’s Legacy shows.

All the while legal issues continued to pop-up here and there. The biggest one was Danzig’s claim that Only had made a licensing agreement with Hot Topic and other retailers that made him the sole provider of Misfits merchandise. Absent a reunion, the Misfits likeness was its most profitable feature and both Only and Danzig were able to make use of it to sell merchandise. Only’s deal would have meant that stores wouldn’t sell Misfits related memorabilia from Glenn, and he would understandably find that irritating. These issues were partially litigated in public since a lawsuit by Danzig against Only was made public. This issue is largely credited as being the thing that got Danzig and Only talking once again about a reunion. Both guys had seen their output dwindle by quite a bit, and approaching 60, there was an end in sight for both. A full on Misfits reunion was a way for both men to settle their differences and make a lot of money in the process, which is what lead to the creation of The Original Misfits.

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The original teaser image for the NJ show.

Promoters for the annual festival Riot Fest reportedly had been seeking a Misfits reunion for a few years. Danzig’s Legacy gig originated from there and it was clear there was an audience for it. In 2016, the timing was right for the group to reform and headline two editions of Riot Fest in Chicago and Denver. Danzig and Only were joined once more by Doyle on guitar while former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo was brought in to finally give the band the drummer it sought for so long. Former Joan Jet bassist Acey Slade was added on guitar to round things out, freeing Doyle up to just do what he does best and stomp around onstage smashing the hell out of his guitar. The shows were a pretty big hit, and a Los Angeles show and a Las Vegas show followed at the end of 2017 and just this past weekend the band finally returned to where it all started, New Jersey, for a show at The Prudential Center.

For fans like me, this was a chance to see something I never really thought I would get to see. The Misfits disbanded before I was even born and I came to find them around the time that I was 13. I was just the right age to be seduced by their brand of melodious violence, the horror imagery was appealing and counter-culture and I soon consumed anything Misfits I could get my hands on. The lone exception was the recently released American Psycho LP. Fronted by Michale Graves and not Glenn Danzig meant that I just wasn’t interested. I bore the group no ill will, but I didn’t want a Misfits without Danzig. Eventually I turned to the band, Danzig, for my fix. I didn’t know if I liked that group at first, because it was so different, but eventually I grew to love Danzig even more than I had The Misfits.

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The Original Misfits are billed as Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only with Doyle.

Over the years, I’ve seen Danzig numerous times, but it’s never squashed my desire to see a proper Misfits show. Seeing Glenn with Doyle was good enough, or so I thought. My desire to see The Misfits on stage was less about needing Jerry Only there (no disrespect to him), but more about just wanting to see a proper full set of the songs I grew up on. Danzig was always quick to shoot down any rumor talk and many times went as far as to say it would never happen, and I took his word on it. I’m happy to say I was foolish to do so. Still, my responsibilities to my family first meant I couldn’t drop money on tickets, airfare, lodging, and other expenses to fly out and see any of the announced reunion shows. I kept faith though that The Misfits would eventually play a show on the east coast, and my faith was rewarded. New Jersey is about a four hour car ride from my home in Massachusetts, but my best friend lives in the city so not only did I have a place to crash, but a buddy to attend the show with me. This being potentially my only chance, I jumped on the tickets when they went onside and I’m happy to report it was worth it.

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Quite likely this was the biggest show in the band’s career.

On Saturday May 19th, 2018, I saw The Misfits live onstage. I never thought I would, and it was kind of a surreal experience for me. Preceding The Misfits was Harley Flanagan, Murphy’s Law, and Suicidal Tendencies – all bands/personalities that could be considered peers of the original Misfits. I’m not fans of any of the bands, but their appearance on this bill felt very appropriate and all were entertaining in their own right. Especially cool was Jimmy of Muphy’s Law stopping a song to pull a kid out of the pit because he was getting crushed. He placed the lad on the edge of the stage where he enjoyed the rest of the set from. Following that, he got to disappear backstage for what was hopefully an experience he’ll remember for a long time.

By the time The Misfits took the stage it was after 9 o’clock and the city of Newark apparently has a strict curfew of 11:00 PM for concerts. That didn’t stop the band from ripping through its set and going beyond 11 during the encore. The stage was adorned with numerous Crimson Ghost visages as well as two massive jack-o-lanterns from the cover of the Halloween single. Backing the stage was a screen that displayed classic horror clips, most of them serving as the inspiration for the song being played, that added a nice element to the performance. When the band hit the stage, with Only and Doyle emerging from twin coffins that flanked the drum riser, they tore into “Death Comes Ripping” with the same ferocity they must have brought back in ’83. Danzig emerged last to a raucous audience ready to sing along and go nuts.

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Probably the most popular t-shirt design of the evening, either this or the NJ one. This was used for the poster as well.

Back in the day, The Misfits never played a venue as cavernous as the Prudential Center in Newark. Some 15,000 were in attendance for the sold out show, and even though this was their fifth go at it, the sound mix didn’t appear suited for such a large venue. The reverb on the guitar and bass was thunderous and Danzig’s vocals were drowned out. The reverb was so oppressive that it was hard to even make out what song was being played. I frequently strained to hear the individual notes in the early going, since I could hardly make out the vocals to be certain, and I’ve heard all of these songs probably a thousand times at this point. Danzig’s between song banter was often indecipherable, with only a few words here and there being discernible, which is unfortunate because he would often have to stall for time as Doyle tried to get his guitar back in tune or Jerry fetched a new bass, having destroyed the prior one (I think he ended up using five in total, but I could be mistaken). After a few songs things did settle down. The vocals became more pronounced, though the between song issues were never fully solved.

The Misfits played for over an hour and hit on most of their classic material. For me, it was a real treat to finally hear a live rendition of “Where Eagles Dare,” a favorite of mine for a long time. The band did a great job of hitting all of its eras, the early days as well as the waning ones, with material from Static Age, Walk Among Us, and Earth AD all well represented with 9 of my personal top 10 being played. There’s always room to nitpick, I would have loved to hear “Spinal Remains” or “Devil’s Whorehouse,” but there were few songs I would have kicked out in their place. The only true omission was “We Are 138” which had been performed at the other shows, but the curfew may have messed that up. I still feel like we were sort of denied a great sing-along moment though.

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The stage show was befitting such a large venue. Left to right:  Jerry Only, Doyle, and Glenn Danzig.

Physically, Jerry Only and Doyle are just as imposing as ever. Now well past their supposed physical prime, you would never know it by looking at them. Doyle is still quite the specimen and his gigantic boots means he towers over the stage. Jerry’s coat adorned with spikes and skulls looks great, and he has the energy of a man half his age as he ran around, and at one point slid across, the stage. Danzig, being the one I’m most familiar with, still shows no signs of slowing down physically as he bounded around the stage ready to mix it up with the folks in attendance. The whole band appeared to be in great spirits, and both Lombardo and Slade more than held their own with the original members. The venue banned cell phones, having patrons lock them up in these little magnetic pouches for the duration of the show, but that didn’t stop some folks from ripping them out for a pic or two here and there. It was rather nice to be at a concert where the horizon was not dotted by thousands of illuminated screens, though I’ll admit I missed the light on my phone for when it came time to find my seat.

The Original Misfits was not a cheap ticket. The average price was probably around 100 dollars and general admission tickets were as much as $200. Despite that, the merchandise was surprisingly reasonably with t-shirts the usual concert price of $35 for most sizes. There was also a signed poster available for $100 (unsigned ones were $30) that bore both the signatures of Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only. Normally I would be tempted by such, but I resisted this time. Numerous t-shirt designs commemorated the event and basically every person I saw walked out that night with at least one of them. My personal favorite was the one depicting skeletal riders on horseback with the Statue of Liberty looming in the background, its face replaced by the unmistakable Fiend logo (this was the same image used for the poster as well), though the one used to promote the event was also pretty cool and featured the outline of the state of NJ with the Fiend filling it in.

Seeing The Misfits after being a fan for more than half of my life was an exhilarating experience and well worth both the expense and the horrendous backache as the result of too much time spent in the car. I left feeling both lucky and grateful that I got to experience it with my best friend, though I did wish a bunch of my friends from back in the day that had shared in my fandom could have been there with me. The event was made even more poignant by the revelation that just hours before the show Glenn Danzig’s mother passed away. He would have been well within his right to cancel the show, but he chose to go on. It added a little gravitas to the numerous backslaps I saw him receiving from his bandmates throughout the show. If this is the end for The Misfits as constituted then it feels like a fitting way to go out back where it all began. The rational person within me though sees how much money this event must have made and wonders how the band could possibly turn down future pay days like this one. There very well could be more one-offs in the future as there is likely still an intense appetite for The Misfits all across the world. They’ve yet to do a show down south and they also have yet to take this thing out of the US. Could they headline a festival in Europe or South America? Possibly. All questions to be answered in due time. For now, I’m satisfied having finally seen a band I grew up with for the first time, and maybe the last time.

The Set List (*encore)

  1. Death Comes Ripping
  2. I Turned Into A Martian
  3. 20 Eyes
  4. Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?
  5. Vampira
  6. Devilock
  7. Where Eagles Dare
  8. London Dungeon
  9. Hybrid Moments
  10. Teenagers From Mars
  11. Earth A.D.
  12. Horror Business
  13. Hollywood Babylon
  14. Bullet
  15. Who Killed Marilyn?
  16. Green Hell
  17. Halloween
  18. Skulls
  19. Die, Die My Darling
  20. Astro Zombies
  21. Last Caress
  22. Night of the Living Dead*
  23. Some Kinda Hate*
  24. She*
  25. Violent World*
  26. All Hell Breaks Loose*
  27. Attitude*
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The Ultimate Glenn Danzig Album Ranking

danzig-trump-travel-ban-planned-parenthoodThis entry marks post number 400 for The Nostalgia Spot. This blog is in its 7th year so I don’t really know if 400 posts is a lot or a little, but it feels like a lot to me. Over the past 399 entries we’ve covered a lot – video games, comics, movies, television, toys, music, and other odds and ends. One repeated topic of conversation has been the music of Glenn Danzig, mostly his work with the band Danzig. Danzig is a very nostalgic subject for me personally as that was the music of my teen years. I still enjoy Danzig, or else I wouldn’t have reviewed every album on this blog, and I’m presently looking forward to catching Glenn Danzig with The Misfits this May in New Jersey.

As a celebration of 400 posts, please excuse me as I indulge myself in my Glenn Danzig fandom. If you care not for the music of Glenn Danzig then feel free to bypass this one, because it’s going to be a long one. Glenn Danzig has been making music since the 70s under the three-headed monster that is The Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig with a couple of Glenn Danzig releases mixed in. That’s a lot of music, and I’ve always wanted to go through it and rank it, just because. This is the Ultimate Glenn Danzig Album Ranking! I’m listing out all of the LPs released by Danzig along with a couple of EPs and one compilation. If I were to rank the actual releases it would get a bit muddier, as The Misfits struggled early on to get their material to market. Most of their songs were probably first experienced by many listeners via the compilations released after the band’s demise:  Legacy of Brutality, Misfits (Collection I), and Collection II. Their pseudo first LP was supposed to be what ended up being called Static Age, which was finally released in 1996. When the band couldn’t find a label that would distribute it, they basically cut it up into various singles and self-released. In some ways, the only true LP released by the band is the classic Walk Among Us. To keep this some-what tidy, I’m ranking the most recognizable releases and their most common edition, so in the case of The Misfits, just Static Age, Walk Among Us, and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling (that last one is also a little messy, but we’ll get to that in due time). On the Samhain and Danzig front, things are simpler and straight-forward. Because the Danzig EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive is so popular, I felt I needed to include it. The Sacrifice EP? Not so much. I’m also going to include the compilation The Lost Tracks of Danzig for the simple reason that it’s awesome and contains a ton of unique content, even if it isn’t a true album in the classic sense. I’ll also include the covers record, Skeletons, since it was a Danzig release. In total, I’m ranking 22 distinct releases so let’s get to it because it’s going to take awhile.

ca297e5a51101975771660992b96a2a7.600x600x122. Black Aria II – Glenn Danzig (2006)

Something possessed Glenn Danzig to make an album of classical music. Released in 1992, the first Black Aria was surprisingly good. Loosely based on Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, it was a quiet release that proved hard to track down in short time since it was distributed by Danzig’s Plan 9 label in some-what limited quantities. It was a cult hit, in some respects, and the die-hard Danzig fanbase always hoped for a return to the genre by Danzig. It finally happened in 2006, but where Black Aria had succeeded as a classical piece, Black Aria II sounded more like a collection of haunted house music. You know the kind – the cheap, moody, carnival attraction stuff. There’s really nothing redeemable about Black Aria II. No standout tracks, no killer artwork (unless you like topless, skull-faced nuns) or interesting message. It feels like the result of an artist feeling like he had to release something to follow-up on his earlier surprise success, but it just proves that maybe the classical spark was just a one-time deal.

folder21. 5: Blackacidevil Danzig (1996)

If you’re a longtime fan of Danzig, then you probably expected to see this one here. Blackacidevil has its share of apologists and I’ve even encountered folks who claim it’s their favorite Danzig album. They are entitled to their opinion, though I think they’re crazy. Blackacidevil is Danzig’s infamous dive into the industrial metal genre of music. Freed from his contract with Rick Ruben’s American Recordings label, Glenn Danzig either fired or had his bandmates quit leaving him all alone as the sole creative voice in the studio to do as he pleased. Armed with a nine-figure record deal, he must have felt bulletproof. While Danzig was always the creative force behind everything with his name on it, it’s not hard to imagine that longtime bandmates were able to have some influence over the sound of those prior records, even if it was minor. Just their presence and their strengths and weaknesses probably dictated some of the musical direction. And Rubin certainly had a voice with the earliest Danzig material, though no one disputes his diminished role on the final two albums produced under his label. Even so, if this was something Danzig had to get out of his system then good for him. It’s not that industrial music is inherently bad, it’s just that Danzig makes bad industrial music. Most of the tracks are just noise with no hooks or interesting production values. Danzig’s voice is buried under a thick layer of fuzz on most tracks and songs like “Power of Darkness” and “Sacrifice” rely on the cheesiest tropes within that genre to create a melody. Still, it’s not all terrible as “Come to Silver” and “Ashes” are pretty good on their own and I still maintain there’s a good song to be found, somewhere, in “See All You Were.”

danzigskeletonscoverpreview20. SkeletonsDanzig (2015)

When an artist is getting older and likely getting tired of producing music, it seems like the covers record becomes a more tantalizing thing to produce. It seems like that’s how a great many result, while many others also come about usually as a way of fulfilling an album quota in a record contract that one or both parties would like to see concluded. Skeletons is definitely the latter, as Glenn Danzig talked for years about doing a covers record because he simply wanted to provide his own take on some classic and not so classic tunes. Danzig had done a handful of covers over the years, often with the finished product sounding quite different from the original recording. For Skeletons though, most of the covers ended up being fairly conventional. Few lyrics were altered and there were no major genre shifts or anything. This is a fairly disposable release that’s quite fine on its own, but certainly not remarkable. The production values, as has often been the case with modern Danzig releases, drag it down some. There’s at least one gem, a cover of “Crying in the Rain” which closes out the album and is a quiet showcase for Danzig’s vocals. “Devil’s Angels” is also a neat track since it sounds like something The Misfits could have recorded once upon a time.

R-832512-1396463739-7772.jpeg19. Final Descent – Samhain (1990)

Samhain is definitely the least popular of Glenn Danzig’s bands, and Final Descent is probably its least popular record. That’s in part due to the fact that it was released after the formation of Danzig and after that band had started releasing albums. What comprised of Final Descent in 1990 was essentially tracks that weren’t good enough to become Danzig songs. When the band was signed to Rubin’s Def American label, they were working on an album to be called Samhain Grim, but would shift focus to making the debut Danzig LP. The original release only contained 5 new tracks, one of which was just an instrumental intro for the album, and the second half of the album was essentially the Unholy Passion EP. When the album was re-released for the Samhain Box Set the Unholy Passions tracks were replaced with Samhain versions of Danzig songs “Twist of Cain” and “Possession” as well as an early cover of “Trouble” and a faster version of “Lords of the Left Hand.” Those additional tracks are basically novelties. They sound like demos and the re-worked versions that would appear on the first Danzig album are better. The other tracks also have a feeling of being unfinished. They’re more like ideas that were worked into songs and made releasable, but of the four, only “Descent” is particularly good. Actually, it’s so good that I wish the various Samhain performances that have taken place over the years had opened with it. Ultimately, this album is more interesting for being a missing link or sorts between Samhain and the first Danzig album. A fun listen in that context, but not one you’ll probably revisit often.

earth-adR-8627479-1465438070-2758.jpeg18. Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling – The Misfits (1983)

Following the lack of success by Walk Among Us, The Misfits found themselves back to self-releasing albums. Danzig was also growing bored of the punk genre while thrash was taking over the underground scene and proved to be an attractive genre for Danzig. The problem though is that the band lacked the talent to play proper thrash. Earth A.D. is basically just a really fast punk record with a raw sound. As an emotion, it can be quite seductive especially on a young mind, but as a melody it’s lacking. Several of the songs, particularly the Wolfs Blood portion comprising the second half, just end up being banal nonsense about demons and hellhounds. Of the original 9 tracks, I only consider 3 as being worthwhile:  “Earth A.D.,” “Death Comes Ripping,” and “Bloodfeast.” “Bloodfeast” is also easily the best of the bunch and oddly enough it’s also the “least thrash” of them too being a slow tempo, sinister sort of track. When it came time to re-release the album in the 90s, Caroline Records added the Die, Die My Darling tracks as well which definitely adds some length to the album and some better songs at that. Even with those added tracks, this one is still my least favorite of the Misfits albums and by a wide margin.

danzig-666-satans-child-51c1c45fb9aaa17. 6:66 Satan’s ChildDanzig (1999)

After Danzig crashed and burned with Hollywood Records, he turned his sights towards rehabilitating his image while also trying to help get a new label off the ground. E-Magine Music sunk a lot into Danzig, but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to keep that label around for very long. During its brief existence, E-Magine would release this album as well as reissues of Blackacidevil, Black Aria, and Sacrifice. The label also re-released all of the Samhain albums, plus a live one, and the Samhain Box Set. Satan’s Child, though, was the only original album released by Danzig on the label and it’s okay. As a return to form, it’s lacking. While it’s true most of the industrial elements of Blackacidevil have been stripped away, there’s still some odd production choices and the overall writing on the record feels almost as uninspired as the previous album. This is just a very by the numbers sort of record and it feels like Danzig was having a hard time coming up with worthwhile song topics often resorting to annoying rhyme schemes in many of the lyrics. Supposedly over 20 tracks were recorded in some form, which speaks to the indecisive nature of Danzig during this period. Not surprisingly, virtually none of the album’s songs have become classics or concert staples. Only the closer, “Thirteen,” has enjoyed any sort of a life after this album and that’s mostly due to its appearance in the film The Hangover. Worst of all, Satan’s Child features probably the worst vocals of any Danzig record. They sound hoarse, and this was apparently the moment when decades of touring finally caught up with Glenn. The explanation at the time was that this was the approach he chose and the result of recording the vocals digitally, but just listening to any interview from the same era seems to portray that as bunk since even Glenn’s speaking voice had grown rather hoarse. The album is ranked as highly as it is though because, in the end, it’s a fairly easy listen. There aren’t many high points, but there also aren’t many lows. A mostly forgettable release.

51OlIqMJJrL16. Thrall-DemonsweatliveDanzig (1993)

As Danzig’s albums kept performing better and better, the band gained a little more pull with the label and was able to convince them to put out an EP, supposedly by referencing how well Jar of Flies had performed for Alice in Chains. It ended up being the right move, as Thrall would become the band’s first gold record and the success of the single for “Mother” helped drive sales for the first Danzig album, eventually getting that to platinum status. As an EP, the release was split into two parts. The Thrall portion contained two original songs, plus a cover Elvis’s “Trouble.” The remaining four tracks were live recordings of “Snakes of Christ,” “Am I Demon?”, “Sistinas,” and “Mother.” The album also contained a remastered studio recording of “Mother” as a bonus track and a new single would be released for it with a repackaged music video. The song became a hit, and Danzig was suddenly tasting popularity for the first time. In some ways, it’s the most important Danzig release, if you consider financial success the greatest measure of importance. By itself, it’s merely good. The two original songs, “It’s Coming Down” and “The Violet Fire,” are surprisingly good. They’re the rare tracks that legitimately sound like they didn’t quite fit on the three prior Danzig releases without being poor songs. The live portion captures the raw ferocity of Danzig, though an over-reliance on Danzig’s Cookie Monster voice does drag them down some. It’s interestingly dated as a result, but a fun head-banging release.

5139115. Black Aria – Glenn Danzig (1992)

In 1992, most Danzig fans were focused on the upcoming Danzig III so when Glenn Danzig quietly released Black Aria on his old Plan 9 label few knew what to make of it. It’s cover, illustrated by artist Michael William Kaluta, depicted an angel stabbing a demon in the back which appeared to be a pretty literal interpretation of the album’s subject matter considering it boasted tracks such as “Battle for Heaven” and “Overture of the Rebel Angels.” It was released in few numbers on both CD, in long-box form, and on vinyl LP, and would go out of print. Since it was so limited, it became a rather talked about album in the Danzig community with the few who owned a copy proclaiming its brilliance while also maintaining its mystery, to a point. Just what was this thing? The liner notes by Danzig himself were both a warning and a beckoning as he welcomed fans to join him on this journey into a genre he had never touched before and few would have expected him to ever explore. For all intents and purposes, Black Aria is a classical album arranged in a modern fashion where just about everything is likely originating from a keyboard. It’s very atmospheric, and the first six tracks are inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost. The remaining three are also based in mythology and some of them were actually familiar to fans who had picked up copies of the Danzig home videos (some of these tracks have even shown up during video packages set to music by the likes of ESPN, of all places). Danzig would also often use some of this music as an intro to the live show, and “Overture of the Rebel Angels” became a concert mainstay in that fashion. In truth, Black Aria is a fun curiosity item. It’s brief, totaling less than 24 minutes, but it’s very digestible and is a perfectly fine representation of the genre. Of course, I’m hardly an expert on music and what acumen I have is certainly not in the classical genre, but for what it’s worth I find this record to be a nice listen. Since the Plan 9 release went out of print, the album has been re-released twice on CD. The E-Magine release in 2000 was basically just a re-release while the Evilive reissue in 2006 was remastered and delivered in a digipack, a more suitable format for the excellent artwork.

danzig-circle-of-snakes-50014. Circle of Snakes Danzig (2004)

Come 2004 I believe Glenn Danzig was getting a little fatigued once more. Satan’s Child had featured a tour spanning two legs, plus a few European dates before the album’s release. Danzig 7 followed in 2002 and also featured a heavy touring schedule, and just two years later came Circle of Snakes. Circle of Snakes is even more of a back-to-basics record than Danzig 6 or 7. Structurally, it’s reminiscent of the very first Danzig record though the emphasis on down-tuned guitars and the muddy production give it a distinct, albeit not great, sound. And after Danzig sounded pretty good on Danzig 7, Circle of Snakes presents a more uneven performance. How much of that is tied into the production is unknown, but really for the first time on a Danzig record the vocals sound like they’re too low in the mix in some places and it’s something that will plague future releases as well. The band also had a new lineup, and former Prong axeman and one-time touring guitarist Tommy Victor joined full-time on lead guitar bringing a new emphasis on pinch harmonics that had not been seen since Danzig III. Circle of Snakes has a few awful tracks such as “My Darkness” and “HellMask” – they’re fast, muddy, and lacking in melody or inspiration. Some tracks, like “Skull Forrest” and “SkinCarver,” are almost there, but are missing a certain ingredient to push them over the top. It’s not a total loss though. The first single, “1000 Devils Reign,” features some of Danzig’s best vocals in years as he utilizes a playful croon for the verse that builds to a perfectly suitable, simple chorus. “NetherBound” is another meandering track with a strong melody while “Black Angel, White Angel” is a great closer that employs crescendo to build to a catchy, rapid-fire styled chorus. It’s a song that doesn’t compare to anything else in the Danzig catalogue and is the best song from Circle of Snakes.

Cover_of_Black_Laden_Crown_(2017)_by_Danzig13. Black Laden CrownDanzig (2017)

Coming in at number 13 is the most recent Danzig release as of this writing: Black Laden Crown. Black Laden Crown is stylistically pretty similar to 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. Both are lo-fi, old school, heavy metal records with a touch of blues and a slew of pinch harmonics from guitarist Tommy Victor. It also possesses the subpar production values of that previous record and it further drives home the point that maybe Glenn Danzig isn’t a great producer, or at least he certainly isn’t in 2017. It also could just be the result of trying to record and release an album on the cheap, since there isn’t a ton of money in music anymore. Whatever the reason, Black Laden Crown fails to put the vocals in the spotlight where they should be on a Danzig release, and the album suffers in places as a result. There’s very much an emphasis on doom metal with almost all of the tracks bringing a more mid-tempo approach with the typical dark imagery in the lyrics. Interestingly, it’s when the album tries to speed things up it falters in its most obvious spot with the single “Devil on Hwy 9,” just a mostly dumb track about driving really fast with some of the worst vocal production to ever appear on a Danzig record, which is a shame because the track sounds so promising at the start. The track that immediately precedes it, “Eyes Ripping Fire,” practically begs for some of that speed but it never comes. Aside from those two missteps, and actually “Eyes Ripping Fire” is an okay track, the album really doesn’t have a bad song. The problem is that it doesn’t really have any standout ones either. It’s an album that really lacks hooks, and even a song like “Skulls & Daises” that manages to be somewhat catchy is really let down by its absence of a true chorus. The title track serves as a great intro. It’s doom, kind of cheesy, but it sounds authentic. It explodes during the latter half, but it never goes anywhere and the vocals never return after that moment. It feels like a real missed opportunity because that track was setup to be an all-time classic Danzig number. Perhaps the best song is “Last Ride,” an almost neo-blues/metal song that is really successful at creating a Danzig mythos, but once more, it’s kind of let down by a lackluster chorus and poor vocal production. Still, I think it offers an interesting template for future Danzig songs that kind of straddle a country/metal vibe, a sort of American Recordings era Johnny Cash, but with a heavy bottom-end. Hopefully this isn’t the last Danzig record and we get something more in that style somewhere down the line, but at age 62, who knows how many albums Glenn Danzig has left in him?

Samhain November Coming Fire12. III: November-Coming-Fire – Samhain (1986)

Samhain’s third release, and second LP, is often cited as the band’s best. Obviously by how I’m ranking it here, I disagree, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily down on the record. November-Coming-Fire is essentially a tale of two halfs. There’s the first half which expands upon the Samhain formula of gothic punk/metal with tracks that are equal parts ferocious and melodious, and then there’s the second half which has some experimental elements (mostly just with “Human Pony Girl”), but is mostly a poor man’s Misfits release from the band’s waning years. It’s not quite so black and white, as the track “November’s Fire” is pretty damn good and I prefer the Samhain version of “Halloween II” to the Misfits version, but there’s enough empty tracks that keep me from coming back to this album as much as I would like to (plus, as good as it is, who really wanted the band to revisit “Halloween II”?). “Birthright” and “Unbridled” are some of the worst sounding songs in the entire Glenn Danzig catalog and they really don’t do anything well. “Kiss of Steel” is one of the weirdest, as it’s just about getting into a nasty car wreck and feels out of place while “Human Pony Girl” is Danzig’s latest attempt (in ’86) at injecting some eroticism into his music and it comes off kind of silly. It’s a song that’s basically just about fucking bareback. Those are the low points though, and the high points are pretty rocking. “Diabolos ’86” is a fun instrumental that bleeds perfectly into the fist-pumping “In My Grip.” “To Walk the Night” and “Let the Day Begin” also play-off of one another not just thematically, but by contrast with “To Walk the Night” being the slowest track on the album and “Let the Day Begin” one of its fastest. Both might represent the peek of Samhain, which is basically this album’s legacy. It contains some of the best songs Samhain ever recorded, and also contains the worst, and at a mere 28 and a half minutes it’s hard for an album to overcome multiple poor tracks.

R-378935-1348186498-6221.jpeg11. 7:77 I LuciferiDanzig (2002)

I Luciferi was Danzig’s second attempt at a comeback album following the debacle that was Blackacidevil. It succeeds at doing so more than its predecessor, though it likely didn’t win over many of the fans that had checked out following Danzig IV. For the band’s only release on Spitfire Records, Danzig kept the C-tuned guitars for the most part and stripped away even more of the industrial elements from those past albums and presented a fairly modern metal release for 2002. The opener, a Celtic sort of instrumental titled “Unendlich,” sets an eerie mood that serves the second track, “Black Mass,” extraordinarily well. Perhaps too well, as the Sabbath-sounding “Black Mass” is such an excellent opener that the rest of the album struggles to match. It doesn’t help that what follows is “Wicked Pussycat,” a song that sounds as dumb as its title. It’s one of the most nu-metal sounding tracks Danzig recorded during this era with its rap-rock chorus and bouncy riffs evoking some very bad imagery. “God of Light” brings an interesting, off-tempo drum pattern, but nothing around it complements it making for just an annoying song. Thankfully, things pick up after that. While “Liberskull” does feature another bouncy, nu-metal guitar riff it at least balances things out with a catchy chorus. The album mostly meanders from there, before picking things up in the second half. “Naked Witch” has a great structure and features some nice work by returning drummer Joey Castillo while “The Coldest Sun” uses an incredibly odd sounding verse to magnify what might just be Danzig’s catchiest chorus of all time. The closing track, “Without Light, I Am” is an evil version of “Let it be Captured” from Danzig IV, and if you’re familiar with that song then that probably sounds awesome to you. The album succeeds in bringing back the guitar, which was de-emphasised on Danzig 6, and newcomer Todd Youth handles himself well on all of the leads and solos. Danzig 7 was an album I listened to non-stop during the summer of ’02, which also happened to be the year I graduated from high school so it’s a pretty nostalgic piece for me. Even stripping away some of that, this album is still one I enjoy basically because it does what Black Laden Crown failed to do in 2017 – it brings the hooks! It’s catchy, and while the filler is marred with poor production and cartoonish imagery, the high points are good enough to elevate this one to rest just outside the top 10. And this album could have been so much better as we’ll talk about when we get to The Lost Tracks of Danzig.

220px-Samhain_Passion10. Unholy Passion – Samhain (1985)

This one is probably the shortest release on our list, coming in at just over 17 minutes, Unholy Passion is a true EP, but based on the numbering of its follow-up, this was considered to be Samhain II. What it lacks in content it makes up for in quality. This is a great little album that really doesn’t have a bad track. If it has a lesser track, it’s probably “Moribund” which is what I would call a very conventional Samhain song. It’s catchy, simple, but doesn’t stand out. Meanwhile, “Unholy Passion” is one of the band’s best. It has some silly lyrics, but the layering effect on the vocals casts an eerie pall over it and kind of obscures them for the better. “I Am Misery” is a rollicking song with a sinister edge and a great closer for the album. And in keeping with tradition, there’s also a Misfits cover on this album, just as there was on Initium and as there is on November-Coming-Fire. This time it’s a cover of “All Hell Breaks Loose,” now retitled simply as “All Hell,” and it adds a new dimension to the Misfits classic that arguably improves upon it. This album is so good that I sometimes think it’s my favorite Samhain release, but in the end, it is just too short to rank it any higher. It was originally released on vinyl with just five tracks. Later, it was included with Final Descent and an extra track was added, “Misery Tomb,” which is essentially just the background noise and samples from “I Am Misery” isolated as a lone track. It’s dumb, but since it was added later as a filler I don’t consider it a strike against the record. When this one was re-released by E-Magine on CD it kept “Misery Tomb,” but at least it’s easy to skip. These later releases also featured overdubbed guitars and are remixed slightly, so the only way to hear these songs as they were originally released is to track down one of the vinyl releases. And if you’re a big baby like me, that might not even work as I have a copy, but I’m too scared to put a needle on it because my turntable is kind of junky.

2737669. Deth Red SabaothDanzig (2010)

Just inside the top 10 feels like the perfect spot for perhaps the true Danzig comeback record – 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. After a long hiatus, it was nice to finally have a new release from Danzig. This one had been in production off and on for a number of years as Danzig basically just rented a studio space when the mood struck and he had a song to work on. It’s hard to know just when each piece of each track was recorded and how old some were, but despite that the production from song to song is pretty even and so are the vocals, so it’s not as if it sounds like listening to the Lost Tracks compilation which did literally span decades. Perhaps feeling nostalgic himself, Danzig elected to record this album via analog as opposed to digital. This means everything was recorded and tracked on tape before eventually being dumped onto a computer for actual mastering. The stated intent of doing so was to achieve a thicker sound, which makes some sense since this is a release that loves the low-end. It even seemed like there would be a minor analog revolution when the Foo Fighters elected to do the same not long after this on their album Wasting Light (I don’t think their decision to do so had anything to do with this release though), but aside from those two instances I haven’t heard of many more. Deth Red Sabaoth still features some disappointing production elements. The vocal levels are sometimes uneven from song to song and there’s a tendency for the drums to take over in places. When Danzig is singing the low parts, such as on the lead single “On A Wicked Night,” the vocal production sounds good, but then the song kicks it into a higher gear and they sound strained, fuzzy, and wooden. There’s definitely a lack of warmth on this release, though I think some of that is intentional, and how much is due to the analog approach as opposed to just sloppy production is unknown to an amateur music critic such as myself. The production is really the only major criticism I have for this release though. As a collection of songs, Deth Red Sabaoth pretty much kicks ass. The opener, “Hammer of the Gods,” is one of Danzig’s best heavy songs he’s ever recorded. It has a fast, mosh-pit personality and is a natural show opener (though the band still insists on using the boring “Skin Carver”). “Black Candy” features actual drumming by Glenn Danzig and he doesn’t embarrass himself. It’s a heavy, thumping song that works in spite of its silly sounding title. “Death Red Moon” is perhaps my favorite song of the bunch. It kind of rips off the old “Mother” riff, but it has a nice, actually gentle melody that courses through the song and just makes for an enjoyable listen. With better vocal production, and perhaps one more hook, this would have rivaled for the top spot on this list. What we have though is pretty damn good though and is easily the best Danzig record post original lineup.

danzig-180417e0-c57b-438b-b499-e0062a80bee48. DanzigDanzig (1988)

The debut for the band Danzig is basically Samhain Rick Rubin-style and with better musicians. Eerie Von was still the bassist, but Rubin’s sort of dislike of the bass means he’ll be seldom heard. The drums were now manned by the incredible Chuck Biscuits and on guitar was the relatively unknown John Christ who had apparently been trying to join the band for some time. Christ brought a very professional, technical sound to the band and for the first time Glenn Danzig would not be held back in his song writing by the personnel around him, nor by financials with Def American now picking up the tab for production. Rubin’s approach to Samhain, now simply Danzig, is basically the same approach he uses for every rock act (and some country ones) he produces. He strips away basically everything, uses the drums to fill the song out, and emphasizes the guitar and vocals. It’s a very simple approach. The production is clear, but bare, with only one or two guitar tracks per song and little in the way of flourish. There’s a blues undercurrent as well with Danzig’s rich vocals up front. The album is also noticeably slow when compared with past albums and the live versions of the songs present here. The album has a nice, sustained groove to it. If every Danzig album had undertaken this approach it probably would have felt boring after a few releases, but since this is really the only one it makes it stand out. The collection of songs are also now considered classics:  “Twist of Cain,” “Am I Demon,” “Not of This World,” “Soul on Fire,” “Mother,” – all great Danzig songs. There’s little in the way of filler, though the cover of Booker T. & the M.G.’s “The Hunter” was probably intended as such, but it ends up being a really fun track thanks to the lively guitar work by Christ. Danzig would go on to become the band’s lone platinum record, though that would take several years and would require a boost from the re-release of “Mother” in 1993. This is a foundational record for Danzig and a killer debut. It established the uncompromising vision of the band, it’s relentlessness, and a piece of it can be found on virtually every album to follow it. It’s simply put, the album you start with when you want to jump into the Danzig catalogue.

R-1232120-1202445868.jpeg7. Initium – Samhain (1984)

Samhain’s debut LP is also the band’s greatest triumph. In some ways, it’s really the only essential Samhain album and it alone almost sounds like a bridge between The Misfits and Danzig, though subsequent releases like November-Coming-Fire due add to that aspect of the band. Initium feels like the album Glenn Danzig wanted to make with The Misfits near the end, but could not. Either due to the musicians around him and their abilities or just fatigue with dealing with everything about that act. A clean break is probably what he needed and Samhain certainly represented where he wanted to go. After flirting with thrash in the latter days of The Misfits, Initium dials back that element in favor of a more traditional punk sound. The additions of keyboards and production elements such as chimes give Initium its distinct sound resulting in most critics attaching the goth label to the band. Some of the songs do sound like they could have been done by The Misfits. “All Murder All Guts All Fun” has the speed and brutality of some of the slasher-inspired Misfits songs while “Horror Biz” is a cover of The Misfits classic “Horror Business” with a new drum pattern and a more “rock & roll” approach to the vocals by Glenn Danzig. The second half of the album is its most interesting section. It sounds like if The Misfits had taken the song “Bloodfeast” and made an album around that track, as opposed to it being the oddball song on Earth AD.  Both “The Shift” and “The Howl” have this slow, tribal quality to them and they work better at creating a creepy, horror vibe than the more cartoonish tracks about literal blood and guts. “Archangel” is definitely the best of the bunch though. Slow, but catchy, with a touch of an ethereal quality to the vocals, it’s a haunting tune that slowly builds and builds without ever truly exploding. The kind of track that you immediately want more of when it concludes. Initium was originally released on LP, CD, and cassette. A CD/cassette reissue in 1986 added the Unholy Passion tracks, and if we were just judging physical releases by Samhain then that version is basically the ultimate Samhain album. Even ranking it as originally released, Initium is still an easy pick for me as best Samhain album. It’s the only one from the band I really come back to each year, only opting for the other albums once I grow bored of this one.

R-9717941-1485266729-5387.jpeg6. The Lost Tracks of Danzig Danzig (2007)

The best Danzig album post the Def American era is definitely Deth Red Sabaoth, but the best release is probably The Lost Tracks of Danzig. Finally released in 2007, The Lost Tracks had been brought up and discussed by Danzig going as far as the late 90’s. During the promotion for the Samhain Box Set in 2000 Glenn Danzig had discussed his desire to put out a collection of unreleased Danzig songs in packaging in the shape of an inverted cross. The Lost Tracks may not have featured such a design, but it did come in a pretty cool package of its own. Basically evoking the old CD long box, it displayed both discs on digipack release one above the other allowing for the front cover to feature an extra large piece of art with a long booklet glued to the inside. The booklet contained liner notes on most of the tracks, often simply giving Glenn’s opinion on the song and a little explanation for why it was never released. Some of the stories are neat and required further explaining in interviews, such as the surprisingly brutal “Satan’s Crucifiction” which was recorded as a joke song to scare the Def American execs hoping for a new single to capitalize on the popularity of “Mother” that wasn’t “satanic.” Album outtakes are often crappy, after all they’re not released for a reason, but Danzig has always approached each album by recording many more songs than what is needed and picking the ones that best fit the album’s mood. This means sometimes really worthwhile tracks are left behind because they don’t fit in. Sure, there are some filler duds like “White Devil Rise” and “You Should Be Dying”, but there’s also 26 tracks so the sheer amount of content helps to drown the lesser songs out. There’s a ton of material here that I think should have made an actual album, and I’m kind of sad they’re trapped on this release. “Pain is Like an Animal” has some balls to it that would have made it really stand out on the first Danzig record. Perhaps it was too fast, and if included on Danzig III maybe it felt redundant with “Godless.” “Angel of the 7th Dawn” and “Cold, Cold Rain” have the misfortune of being omitted from one of the band’s best albums, Danzig II, but I think both could have made that seminal release even better. What’s really interesting is how strong the second disc is which is comprised mostly of material from Danzig V through Circle of Snakes. I think most longtime fans were probably more interested in the material cut from the early days, but the songs left off of the modern releases are also pretty damn good. It’s kind of crazy that Danzig couldn’t make better use of “Dying Seraph” and “Bound by Blood,” though in the case of the latter he did openly lament in more than one interview at the time how it was going to crush him to leave that song off of Danzig 7. “Crawl Across Your Killing Floor” was finished with Todd Youth on guitar sometime after Danzig 6 was finished, so that one missing a release isn’t hard to figure out. Perhaps it could have been re-worked to fit on Danzig 7 down the road, but at least it was released here because it’s an awesome song and kind of a precursor to something like “Black Hell” and “Last Ride.” This is an awesome release though and part of the fun of listening to it is playing producer and re-arranging the actual albums with material from this one. What do you include? What would you cut from what was actually released? Like an actual album, it has plenty of variety between fast and slow, loud and quiet, and the only jarring aspect to it is the differing production techniques and a repeat song like “When Death Had No Name.” I feel like I go to this one as often as I do the actual Danzig records when I want to listen to Danzig which is why I couldn’t ignore it for this list of Glenn Danzig releases. Track this sucker down if you’re a Danzig fan and slept on it, you will not be disappointed.

R-420437-1369856673-5716.jpeg5. Walk Among Us – The Misfits (1982)

In some ways, Walk Among Us is the only true LP released by The Misfits and it took a lot to get it released. It was basically recorded twice, since once they finally found a label willing to release it the label wanted them to re-do it. The work paid off though as this is the most recognizable release by The Misfits and basically the go-to record of choice for anyone looking to experience the band’s brand of horror-punk. It’s a collection of roughly 25 minutes of some catchy punk music that’s easily digested in spite of the ghoulish imagery. Some of the band’s all-time classic tracks are present here such as “Skulls” and “I Turned Into A Martian,” songs basically guaranteed to be played whether it’s Jerry Only’s Misfits or Glenn Danzig doing songs with his band, or as the now sort-of together Original Misfits. The only song on this album I don’t really care for is “Nike-A-Go-Go,” but even that one is undeniably catchy. This isn’t my favorite Misfits LP, as we’ll get to that one shortly, but it’s definitely the one I would recommend first to anyone looking to get into The Misfits.

Danzig_III_How_the_Gods_Kill4. III: How the Gods KillDanzig (1992)

After two albums in which producer Rick Rubin exerted his influence on the band, he stepped back paving for the way for Glenn Danzig to self-produce the next record:  Danzig III – How the Gods Kill. The result is an album that sounds like what Samhain was moving towards, especially now that the band had some real money to finance their work. That’s not a dismiss of the first two Danzig records, just an acknowledgement that they sound a little out of place and are pretty unique. Danzig III injects some of that goth sound from Samhain as well as plenty of Sabbath. A lot of these tracks would have felt right at home on Final Descent, and would have obviously made that release much better since it was pretty far back on this list. It opens with the aggressive drumming of Chuck Biscuits on the track “Godless,” which comes to a screeching halt where Danzig wails his lines slowly and soulfully. There’s this pinging noise that sounds like a hammer hitting a railroad spike, or maybe driving a nail into a cross. The song picks back up and things get rolling from there. It’s one of the best intros on any Danzig album, and maybe the best song on the album. “Anything” is almost bizarre as the second track as it’s oddly sweet with its message, something not common to Glenn Danzig music. “Left Hand Black” and “Heart of the Devil” double-down on the evil imagery of the band, while a couple of Sabbath knock-offs conclude the album in “Do You Wear The Mark?” and “When the Dying Calls.” The title track is a thunderous Danzig ballad full of the pinch harmonics the band seems to really love these days. The only downers to this record is some uneven production at times, perhaps because of the Rubin absence, and Danzig’s over-reliance on the debuting “Cookie Monster” vocals. I’ll never understand what drove him to mess around with that sound so much. It works in some places, and in others it’s annoying (namely “Bodies”). The combination of dark and light aspects of this album though, and the focused approach, make this one the preferred Danzig album for many fans.

Static+Age+Misfits+Lupinore+music+Toronto3. Static Age – The Misfits (1978/1996)

Trapped in limbo for nearly two decades with some recordings spread across various singles, Static Age was the debut for The Misfits that never was. The band self-financed the recording of the project when a bigger label wanted to start an offshoot called Blank Records. The only problem was Glenn Danzig had secured that trademark for his own band. Rather than sell it to the label, he exchanged it for studio time which is how this album got recorded. They were never able to find someone willing to distribute it though until long after the band’s demise when new found interest in The Misfits lead Caroline to release it first on The Misfits Box Set, and then finally as a stand-alone release with “In the Doorway” tacked onto the end. It’s a collection of more traditional punk material with only hints at the horror gimmick to come. As a result the songs sound more focused and more varied, but there’s plenty of punk attitude with lyrics that seem designed to just get attention, such as “Last Caress.” Maybe you don’t think of this as a true LP for the band, since it wasn’t released when recorded, and view it more as a compilation. Whatever your opinion, I think it’s hard to elevate any other Misfits recording over this one. There’s just too much great material. You have plenty of fast songs, mid-tempo ones, and even some slower stuff the band basically wouldn’t touch for the next few years. This is my personal go-to Misfits release. I love the dated quality of the recording, the clear production on the vocals, and the collection of songs here.

Danzig2na2. II: LucifugeDanzig (1990)

For many years, Danzig II: Lucifuge wasn’t just my favorite Danzig release, but my favorite album of all time. It’s a bit of an odd duck in the Glenn Danzig catalog as it’s really a blues-driven hard rock album. There’s a southern quality in place, and not just because he name-drops Louisiana in the opening song “Long Way Back From Hell,” which is yet another killer opening number (Danzig is really good at those). This album has some of Glenn Danzig’s best vocals and he was just in top shape for the recording of this one. No Cookie Monster stuff, no distortion, and crystal clear production. It’s his most Jim Morrison-like release. John Christ seems to have more room to work with and really cuts loose on “Tired of Being Alive,” another strong up-tempo number. “Devil’s Plaything,” “Blood & Tears,” and “Killer Wolf” number among my favorite Danzig tracks, with “Devil’s Plaything” probably my all-time favorite. The only track I don’t like very much is “777,” though I appreciate the interesting mix of electric and acoustic guitars. The closer, “Pain in the World,” is also a song I’ve just never been able to get into. If described to me it would sound like something that would really appeal to me, but it’s just never worked for me. Maybe I’m just spent by the awesomeness that precedes it by the time I get there, even though this isn’t what I would consider a long record. The only reason why it’s probably no longer my number 1 is fatigue – I’ve listened to this thing hundreds of times by now so maybe it’s just time to elevate something else until I inevitably get sick of it too.

hqdefault-321. Danzig IV (4P)Danzig (1994)

And here we are! It’s taken nearly 8000 words but we’ve arrived at number one and my favorite Glenn Danzig release – Danzig IV. Sometimes referred to as Danzig 4p, this is another record essentially produced by Glenn Danzig and Glenn Danzig alone. It was the last Danzig album released on American Recordings with the band’s original lineup. It was also the first released after the success of “Mother ’93” and really the only time in Glenn Danzig’s career where there was a commercial expectation placed upon his shoulders. As a response, Danzig did not compromise his vision even the slightest embarking on another exploration of the dark that Danzig so loves. Where the first three albums sounded like independent entities all their own, this one is a true follow-up to Danzig III and is sort of the ultimate Samhain album, but there’s so much new and refined at this point that it really is it’s own thing. Simply put, this is peak Glenn Danzig in terms of vocals. He demonstrates his range on this one with screamers, crooners, and wailers. “Going Down to Die” might be his overall best vocal performance, while “Let it be Captured” is his most impressive. There’s some hint to what would follow on Danzig V with the fuzzy, distorted chorus of “Cantspeak” and the mood music track “Sadistikal,” basically the album’s only dud, but also a song that feels less like a song and more like an intermission. “Dominion” and the previously mentioned “Cantspeak” are some of Danzig’s most vulnerable sounding tracks, coupled with “Sistinas” from Danzig III. It’s not all melancholy mood music though as “Brand New God” is the band’s most brutal. It’s a song Danzig would basically rip-off on the next album with “7th House” but without the bridge that gives “Brand New God” some much needed variety. “Bringer of Death” is another thumper while “I Don’t Mind the Pain” strikes the perfect balance of heavy music with melody – a real standout and an obvious pick for an album single. The guitar is inventive and at times experimental such as the back-masked lead on “Cantspeak,” which is just the riff from “Let it be Captured” played backwards. The drumming is varied and expressive and the bass is actually audible. This album is just Danzig to me – it has everything. I never seem to tire of it and I’m always in the mood for it. It doesn’t mean it’s an album I’m constantly listening to, but whenever the mood hits for some Danzig I usually settle on this one. I often get the sense that it’s the least popular of the original lineup era for the band, but for my money Glenn Danzig has never made a better album.

If you actually read every word in this thing, congratulations, but mostly thank you. I don’t know if I have another 400 posts in me, but I’m sure as Hell going to give it a try.

danzig-portlandia

 


Dec. 14 – Bonkers: Miracle at the 34th Precinct

Miracle_at_the_34th_Precinct_-_Title

Original Air Date November 27, 1993

Bonkers was a late inclusion in the Disney Afternoon, a post DuckTales/TailSpin/Rescue Rangers program and contemporary to Goof Troop and Gargoyles. It’s a show about a bobcat named Bonkers who serves in the Toon Police alongside his partner Lucky Piquel (pronounced Pickle by most characters, but it’s supposed to be Pee-kell, making it a running joke). Bonkers exists in a world where people and toons live together, making it sort of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? except the entire show is animated. It’s a cartoon I never really gave a chance because by the time 1993 rolled around I was invested heavily in Batman and X-Men and I really had no appetite for a more traditional cartoon. I watched some Animaniacs and Ren & Stimpy and that was kind of it. Plus Bonkers, who has an over-the-top “toon” aesthetic like Roger Rabbit just kind of annoyed me from what little I saw. The show’s intro is obnoxious and I honestly can’t remember if I ever sat down and watched an entire episode. As an adult, I appreciate the show’s premise much more. After all, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a personal top 10 film for me and one I adore so a cartoon that piggy-backs off of it sounds really appealing to me now.

Bonkers did have a Christmas special, and when I set out to do this it was one I looked forward to checking out. The title of the episode, “Miracle at the 34th Precinct,” implies a parody or adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street which also sounds appealing since it’s a classic Christmas story that’s rarely adapted by cartoons and sitcoms. Where as the contemporary show Darkwing Duck chose to do an It’s a Wonderful Life adaptation, which is so disappointing.

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A haggard looking Blitzen has to inform the elves he lost Santa.

The episode opens with Santa trying to navigate a pretty treacherous looking snow storm. He’s being tossed around and we’re soon taken to a a work shop where a pair of elves are wondering where Santa could be. We learn, through their dialogue, that Santa was off testing a new sleigh with only one reindeer, Blitzen, to guide him. The female elf of this duo immediately reacts with worry that Santa didn’t take Rudolf given the conditions outside (score one Christmas point for this one, it actually acknowledges the existence of the 9th reindeer) and immediately starts to panic. A tired Blitzen enters the shop with only pieces of the sleigh remaining. Santa apparently fell out somewhere over Hollywood. With only two days to go until Christmas, this is a pretty alarming development.

In Hollywood, unseasonable conditions are striking the locals. It’s snowing. Why? I don’t know. The camera pans to a building with a hole in the ceiling. Inside we find a mangey looking rabbit apparently named Fall-Apart and a large pile of snow. The pile shakes and out pops Santa, only he doesn’t know he’s Santa. Amnesia! The bane of all television personalities! Fall-Apart doesn’t seem to recognize him, but seems happy to have him around. Meanwhile, Lucky Piquel is being roused by his wife Dill (Dill Piquel, get it? I can’t believe Rugrats would repeat this joke later) for breakfast. He seems grumpy and his wife tells him not to be a Scrooge, which makes me think he’s going to be a Christmas curmudgeon – he certainly seems like he could play the part. He’s unmistakably voiced by Jim Cummings, which is interesting because Cummings also voices Bonkers so he has both leads in this show. Anyways, Lucky’s daughter is waiting for him at the breakfast table, with a toon pencil casually tucked behind her ear which is awesome as it shows how casually the humans and toons co-exist. She’s heard that Santa isn’t real, and Lucky and his wife seem unsure of how to handle this, only to assure her that lots of people believe in Santa.

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Fall-Apart meets Santa, I mean, Jim.

In comes Bonkers! He’s playfully tossing snow around and of course he hits Lucky in the face. My guess is these two are unlikely partners, just as Roger and Eddie were, with Lucky not exactly enjoying the relationship. Bonkers is there to assure the youngest Piquel that Santa does indeed exist, and he and Lucky head off to the precinct. Meanwhile, Fall-Apart (voiced by Frank Welker using a more intelligible version of his Slimer voice with a touch of Dustin Hoffman from Rainman) decides to take Santa (after dubbing him Jim since he can’t remember his name) for a little spin around Hollywood and loads him into his cab. He immediately becomes more of a tour guide and I’m wondering if he’s good-natured or if he intends to rob this Santa of all of his money by keeping the meter running. We shall see.

At the police station, the two elves from earlier are there to report a missing person – Santa. When Bonkers and Lucky stroll in they immediately suggest that Lucky could be a good stand-in, since he’s fat. Lucky’s boss thinks it’s a good idea, why he’s willing to give up a cop for this I don’t know, but Lucky wants no part of it. He regards the elves as being kind of crazy, suggesting adults in this world probably don’t believe in Santa (I wasn’t sure based on Lucky and his wife’s reaction to their daughters declaration). The elves toss some Christmas magic dust on him to make him envision his daughter waking up disappointed on Christmas since no Santa brought her presents. It’s enough to make Lucky openly cry and agree to put on the red suit.

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At least Lucky looks the part.

Next comes Lucky’s Santa training. He seems to be having a hard time, but at least looks the part, while the elves are getting frustrated with him. Nearby at the beach, Fall-Apart is taking Santa water skiing because it’s snowing, so you’re supposed to ski. A fisherman somehow manages to hook Santa by the ass and reveals his underwear – classic. We then jump back to Lucky’s Santa training in the flight simulator. He makes a crack about the lack of an in-flight movie while he’s jostled around in a mechanical sleigh with a giant fan in his face, so the male elf activates a screen on the sleigh to give Lucky the rundown on what every kid wants for Christmas. Back at the beach, Fall-Apart crashes his boat and we see why he’s called Fall-Apart. Bonkers is there to help piece him back together, mistakenly putting Fall-Apart’s tail where his nose should be and his nose where his tail should be, which can’t smell great. Santa is out of the picture following the wreck, so Bonkers doesn’t see him. When he asks Fall-Apart if he’s seen Santa, he teases the viewer that he might say yes, but says he hasn’t seen him. I don’t think he’s doing that for nefarious reasons, he’s just stupid. He sees his frozen buddy, Jim, after Bonkers leaves and tells him they should go on a picnic, which just further confuses Santa-Jim.

Lucky’s Santa training has moved on from sleigh-piloting to breaking and entering, or rather chimney training. The male elf has whipped up a house of sorts for Lucky to practice on, though he expresses some concern with fitting down the chimney. We also find out that Lucky is actually fatter than Santa. Bonkers, basically frozen, returns to the Piquel residence to get warmed up. Lucky’s daughter hopes her dad can make it home for Santa and lets us know it’s Christmas Eve (I might have missed that morsel of info in the precinct scene earlier) while Bonkers withholds info on Lucky playing Santa. Bonkers tells the girl she’s not supposed to wait up for Santa, and manages to catch his tail on fire at the fireplace. Good thing there’s ample amounts of snow outside to put it out and he returns to his Santa hunt. Lucky, on the other hand, is not making any progress in his Santa training because he’s become lodged in the chimney. He manages to fall through and makes a kind of dark observation that having your life flash before your eyes can put you in the Christmas spirit. Whether he’s ready for it or not, they need to get moving if they want any hope of delivering the presents, and Lucky is still gung-ho to help out.

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This guy should probably never be let near an open flame.

Back at Fall-Apart’s apartment, the duo of Santa and the rabbit return with Fall-Apart remarking their picnic would have been better if Santa didn’t give away all of the food. It’s like he’s some gift-giving guy or something. When Santa sits on a toon lounge-chair he gets ejected out of the apartment. When Fall-Apart asks the chair why he did that he replies, “Because it was funny,” which makes a surprising amount of sense for a toon. Just then, a despondent Bonkers pops in. He’s afraid he won’t find Santa in time. Fall-Apart expresses some sympathy, then remarks he has to go help his friend Jim off the roof and describes him as a big guy in a red suit with a white beard. Bonkers realizes that Jim must be Santa, and when they find him on the roof his memory has returned thanks to the second bump on the head. With only an hour until Christmas, he needs to get to his elves Jingle and Belle (so they have names), but Bonkers first wants to bring him by the Piquel residence.

We cut to the Piquel house and the sleigh and reindeer are arriving. There are only six reindeer, which is bullshit. It’s Lucky and the elves. The elves felt that Lucky’s first house should be a familiar one. He expresses some hurt feelings over it while struggling to stand on the snow covered roof, before eventually falling off, which just justifies the concern the elves have in him. They get a call on their sleigh-phone from Bonkers to let them know Santa is all right and they’re relieved to hear it, naturally. Of course, Lucky is already on the job and fallen off the roof to boot, so they can’t tell him the good news.

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Santa and Bonkers arrive on the scene.

Since he’s at ground level, and it is his house, Lucky decides to enter the conventional way even though it’s not the entrance he wants to make. Just as he enters the front door, Bonkers arrives with Santa. They shoot up to the roof where the elves give Santa the update on what’s going on. He grabs his sack and jumps down the chimney. Inside, Lucky’s daughter is already in tears about there being no Santa and left the room. As Lucky heads in further Santa drops in. Lucky doesn’t think he’s the real Santa, even though he has the Social Security card to prove it, and the two start bickering. Bonkers pops out of the chimney to admonish them when Lucky’s daughter comes in. At first she’s confused about there being two Santas, but not as confused as I would have expected. The real Santa gives her a gift, one she didn’t even tell her dad about, and Lucky finally believes Santa is the real deal when he pronounces his last name properly and gives him a gift to top it off. After Santa leaves, Lucky’s daughter gives her father a warm hug and Bonkers somehow gains the ability to float up the chimney like Santa just in time to see the big guy take off and wish him a merry Christmas.

“Miracle at the 34th Precinct” is not what I expected, since it isn’t really a take on the classic story at all. It also isn’t what I expected in that the plot is pretty straight-forward and it seems to take itself seriously. There’s very little “wacky” elements present for a cartoon world. The Fall-Apart and Santa scenes possessed some physical comedy, but for the most part I found the whole thing kind of subdued. I was expecting more parody, and maybe some satire, but instead this show was more earnest and genuine in its approach. I’m not about to judge the whole series based on one episode, but I don’t think I like this. It was kind of boring and the characters are just the sort of standard archetypes we’re used to seeing. I suppose there is some humor to be found in a world that looks at the toon elements as ordinary, but I feel like Tiny Toon Adventures already did that, and better. This does feel like Disney trying to do a Warner-type show, and maybe they just don’t have the ability to produce that kind of show. The animation, for the most part, is still well done though it’s not as crisp as something like DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. My guess is that’s intentional as they want the characters to have less definition and thus appear more “toon” in appearance. There’s an artful sloppiness in how the characters move and animate, in particular Lucky, which is kind of odd since he’s supposed to be the human. At any rate, at least it’s not A Christmas Carol parody though!


The Misfits – Ultimate Song Ranking

Misfitsband1Happy Halloween! I don’t know about you, but for me Halloween is synonymous with The Misfits – the horror punk band out of New Jersey fronted by Glenn Danzig from approximately 1977-1983. It has been that way ever since I discovered the band when I was in middle school thanks to a revival in the band long after its demise that saw its familiar Crimson Ghost skull logo plastered on everything. Unknown to me at the time, this was due to a new legal settlement agreed upon by Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only that paved the way for Only to resurrect the band to record new music and release lots and lots of novelty items.

Truth be told, I do not hate the 90’s version of The Misfits that did not include Glenn Danzig. I also don’t like the music that band made, but I don’t begrudge Only and his brother Doyle for wanting to re-launch the band and take another stab at success. The original version of the band was never very popular outside of the punk scene, so it didn’t exactly enrich anyone attached to it. It’s popularity came far later and who wouldn’t want to try and ride that wave? Glenn Danzig had remained in music and made a name for himself with his band, Danzig, and didn’t need to attach The Misfits to his work, but Only probably did. And since he was a big part of the band back in the day he was entitled to do.

With that out of the way, let’s also acknowledge that the only version of The Misfits that matters to me is the one that included both Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only. That duo recorded over 50 songs during the short life cycle of the band, and recorded many more actual tracks as almost every song exists across multiple studio sessions. The band only released two LPs during its life – Walk Among Us and Earth A.D., with a third released well after the fact in Static Age, which would have been the band’s first had they been able to secure a record deal. Otherwise, songs were scattered across various singles or completely unreleased until the late 80s when Danzig was able to secure distribution via Caroline Records. Then came the compilations:  Legacy of Brutality, Misfits (referred to as Collection I from here on out), Collection II, and the box set. By the early to mid 90s the entire catalog of The Misfits was available on CD and in record stores a decade after the band’s demise. Almost every recording of every song could be found, thanks to the box set and its “Sessions” CD, and fans could pore through it all. What follows is a ranking of all of those individual songs, including the classics to the not so classics, as well as what release you can find them on the easiest. And where appropriate, I’ll mention what version of the song I think is best, since so many different versions exist. If you want all of the songs for yourself, the easiest way is to get the box set. If you’re not picky about condition or which version you want, its pretty affordable on eBay. If you just want my opinion on one album to get, I’d probably say Collection I is the best single release representation of the band. If you’re an LP purist, then get Walk Among Us.

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The Misfits re-formed with Glenn Danzig in 2016 for a pair of shows. They’re set for two more in 2017 with hopefully more to come.

55.  Rat Fink – The only cover recorded by The Misfits, it’s just a simple beat with Danzig spelling Rat Fink over and over. It’s a novelty song, but kind of fun to shout along to. Collection II

54.  Mephisto Waltz – In some respects, this isn’t even a Misfits song. Recorded by Glenn Danzig and Samhain/Danzig bassist Eerie Von for an eventual release on Collection II, there’s speculation this was supposed to be a Samhain song. It’s history is more interesting than the actual song as it’s really banal and yet another song where the chorus is just a bunch of “whoa’s.” It sounds like it was written, recorded, and mixed in about an hour.  Collection II

R-8627479-1465438070-2758.jpeg53.  Demonomania – For Earth A.D., The Misfits wanted to more resemble a thrash band than a punk band, even if they weren’t good enough musicians to play true thrash. It’s basically a minute of Danzig screaming some nonsensical lyrics about his father being a wolf and his mother a whore.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

52.  Return of the Fly – This is kind of a goofy song, and sort of a novelty one too. It almost has a ska beat to it, and Danzig just lists off the cast members from the actual film, Return of the Fly. Strangely catchy.  Static Age

51.  Hellhound – Similar to “Demonomania,” but with more substance. It’s still not really a good song, but has some fun time changes. We’re getting close to the better stuff now.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

50.  Queen Wasp – Almost the same structure as “Hellhound,” but Danzig screams and snarls his way through this song which gives it some nice personality. It still can’t shake the subject matter of a queen wasp, which is a bit strange. Hot stinger in your back, baby!  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

49.  Static Age – Interesting subject matter for The Misfits about TV taking over our lives. This was before the whole horror thing took over the band’s image. It’s fine, though a little slower than a lot of the stuff the band is best known for. I feel like it’s almost a really good song, but settles for mediocre.  Static Age

48.  Hate Breeders – This one is a long song by the band’s standards and kind of shows why the band normally sticks to shorter tracks as it’s just not interesting enough to justify its length. This one just kind of bores me.  Walk Among Us

47.  Spook City USA – For awhile, this one was only available on the Glenn Danzig solo release Who Killed Marilyn? The Misfits version was finally released with the box set, and it’s the one song exclusive to it. As a justification for buying that set, it’s not worth it. A very straight-forward punk track, the guitar work towards the end makes it a bit more interesting than some. Still, it’s no one’s favorite Misfits song.  The Misfits Box Set

46.  Hollywood Babylon – An interesting take on Hollywood culture, and one of those songs I remember being shocked at when reading the lyrics – “That’s what he’s saying?!” It’s a bit meandering, and kind of boring, but also not bad.  Static Age

45.  Halloween II – For some reason, this one has always been Glenn Danzig’s preferred Halloween track over its predecessor, even though it’s kind of a novelty song. The lyrics are in non-standard latin, meaning Danzig basically wrote the song in English and tried to just translate it himself. It’s effectively spooky, more so than “Halloween,” but also never a track I’m particularly excited to hear.  Collection II

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Released originally as a self-titled compilation, this one has come to be known as Collection I following the release of Collection II.

44.  Devilock – These rankings are probably revealing my lack of affection for the Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood compilation release. Some of those songs are great, and we’ll get to them, and some are bad. “Devilock” is in the middle, and we’re just now getting to the portion of this ranking where things are getting a little bit harder. It’s quick, frantic, and fun though the lo-fi recording makes it hard to figure out what Danzig is singing about.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood  

43.  Cough/Cool – The first recording for the band, “Cough/Cool” originally didn’t even feature a guitar, but electric piano. It possesses some punk imagery, but is almost unrecognizable as an actual punk song. It’s really atmospheric though, especially in its original form. That version can only be found on the original and really hard to acquire Cough/Cool 7″ and in the box set. An over-dubbed version by Danzig and Von is included on Collection II. In some respects, it’s better, but I think it lost some of its moodiness with the improved production values.  Box Set/Collection II

42.  Braineaters – This little closing number from Walk Among Us is another novelty song, in many respects, but it’s undeniably catchy and a lot of fun to sing along to, even if it is goofy. Like “Cough/Cool,” a re-tooled version by Danzig and Von is on Collection II. It’s faster and a bit more punk in spirit, though not necessarily any better or worse. This is also the only song The Misfits recorded a video clip for that you can find on YouTube with relative ease. Walk Among Us 

41.  Nike-A-Go-Go – This is a song about some female sex robot with missiles named Nike. Yeah, it’s a bit out there and the song really leans heavily on the “go-go” mechanic, which for me makes it kind of annoying. I might be ranking it too high.  Walk Among Us

40.  Wolf’s Blood – Originally a separate release, it and the Die Die My Darling tracks were incorporated into Earth A.D. for a meatier release. It’s a pretty vicious song, and a good representation for that era of the band. It’s brief, sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can, but also fun to scream along to.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

39.  Theme for a Jackal – A more grounded track about a man abusing the people in his life, it’s probably the most interesting Misfits song from a lyrical perspective. It also has piano throughout, a nice little callback to the band’s original construction, and it has a real 1950s murder/mystery vibe to it. A really cool track, just kind of odd as a Misfits song.  Static Age

38.  Some Kinda Hate – For a lot of my friends, this is one of the first songs we all learned on guitar. It has a really simple riff throughout, and it’s the first Misfits song to just lean on a collection of “whoa’s” for the chorus. It’s very straight-forward and a good representation for the early version of The Misfits.  Static Age

37.  She – The B-side on the Cough/Cool single, the original version, like the title track, featured no guitar. Unlike its sister song, the updated version with guitar is the superior one and can be found across a smattering of releases. The original is locked away on the box set. It’s an extremely quick song with no real chorus, but also an excellent track with some nice vocals by Danzig.  Static Age/Box Set

36.  TV Casualty – Another early era song about television, this one has some of the most descriptive lyrics of any Misfits song which includes a lot of fun references for the nostalgic types out there. Really punk in vibe, with the exception of the tempo which is very mid as opposed to fast. It’s always been one of my personal favorites.  Static Age

35.  Ghouls Night Out – This is one of those songs that feels like a half-baked idea. They maybe had the melody and general structure, and needed to make it fit the band’s horror image. It’s about zombies eating flesh and all that, but comes across a bit cartoony thanks to its campy chorus. It’s a fine sing-along track, it just feels a bit too silly for me.  Collection I

34.  Green Hell – This one was made famous thanks to a cover by Metallica. I always kind of wondered why they chose to cover this one as opposed to a better song, but “Green Hell” is one of the better thrash tracks from the band, and that would obviously make it appealing to a thrash band like Metallica. The subject matter is kind of weird, but it works.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

R-418484-1354432410-3156.jpeg33.  Night of the Living Dead – It feels really appropriate for The Misfit to do a song based on the B-movie classic Night of the Living Dead. I love Danzig’s lyrics in this one to describe the zombies, in particular the shredded wheat line. The only thing holding this track back is a solid chorus as it, once again, just settles for “whoa’s.” Walk Among Us

32.  Horror Hotel – Another campier horror track from The Misfits, this one works a bit better than “Ghouls Night Out” and has some fun lyrics. The chorus isn’t anything special, just “Horror hotel” shouted over and over, but it’s framed well and accentuated with the “It’s up to me,” line. Another good sing-along song.  Collection II

31.  Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight? – When I was in high school, I would challenge myself to remember Misfits lyrics when sitting in class and would write them on the inside cover of my notebooks. I’ve always been glad no teacher ever found one as if they did and saw the lyrics to this song I probably would have been forced to spend time with the guidance counselor, or worse. And post Columbine who knows what would have happened? This song is exactly as the title suggest and it’s pretty vicious, a sick sort of fantasy. It begins slowly before exploding after Danzig asks the question in the title for the first time. The subject matter is almost too familiar these days, what with all of the senseless mass shootings that go on, but it’s undeniably a signature song for the band and probably its darkest.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

30.  Vampira – A campy song about a horror TV host of the same name. This song also has numerous recordings spread throughout the band’s history, though the one on Walk Among Us is probably still my favorite. Tough to say. It’s a great little number though, simple but catchy, and some nice imagery in the lyrics.  Walk Among Us

29.  Children in Heat – Atypical topic, but hard to refute, “Children in Heat” is all about teenagers and their uncontrollable urge to mate. It’s very up-tempo and extremely catchy, and forever linked with “Teenagers from Mars,” which is only slightly better, because they were recorded in the same take and released together on the Horror Business single. For a time, this was one of my most favorite Misfits songs, and even though it no longer is I still love it. Which means we’re at the part of the list where I’m splitting hairs.  Collection II

28.  We Are 138 – If The Misfits have an anthem, it’s probably “We Are 138.” The song is mostly just that line, being repeated over and over with increasing intensity. It pauses for a true verse only for a moment, since the song is only 1:41 (why couldn’t they trim just 3 seconds?). It’s a violent mob song, though not as obviously violent as something like “Mommy…,” and an easy crowd pleaser for a live show.  Static Age

27.  Teenagers from Mars – This is one of Danzig’s best written Misfits songs from a lyrics perspective, just some really fun lines that work well together like “B-film born invasion.” I just wish the chorus was a little better as the verses are just so much more fun than it, it’s like the chorus is letting them down.  Collection I

26.  All Hell Breaks Loose – This a fun track where you can actually hear Only’s bass driving things along. It rises in intensity as it carries on, though it never gets too explosive. One of the few songs not represented on any compilation which adds to its appeal as it makes a Walk Among Us purchase a little more fun.  Walk Among Us

R-418551-1476119908-3164.jpeg25.  London Dungeon – This song is one of the few based on a real-life experience had by the band as they ran into some legal issues while touring the UK. It’s a pretty typical structure for a Misfits song, where a verse is delivered, then returned to with more intensity later on. The unique part of this song is its guitar and bass line which stands out among other Misfits tracks. There’s a 70s sort of groove to it that’s just not found on other Misfits songs.  Collection I

24.  Angelfuck – This song’s title is responsible for my mom refusing to buy me Misfits albums as gifts when I was a teen. Aside from its use of the F-word, it’s not a song that comes across as very sinister. It’s really catchy and representative of those early Misfits songs that probably would have had more mass appeal with better distribution, and in this case different lyrics. This is a great one though and a song I love, even if it doesn’t fit in with the horror stuff that followed.  Static Age

23.  Attitude – Another song made famous when a more famous band covered it, in this case Guns ‘N Roses. Though that cover isn’t as popular as it could have been, since Axl doesn’t sing on it. This song gets some heat for being misogynistic since it certainly sounds like the lyrics are directed at a woman and violence being directed at them is implied, “Inside your feeble brain there’s probably a whore/If you don’t shut your mouth you’re gonna feel the floor!” Now, a whore can be masculine, but it’s probably not intended to be. Anyways, I felt that should be mentioned and not ignored, but this song is incredibly catchy and probably the song that got me into The Misfits. I’m still a little ticked off that the then WWF never found a way to incorporate it into any of their Attitude Era stuff.  Static Age

22.  In the Doorway – This is the last Misfits song to get released. It was recorded during the Static Age sessions, but never released until the retail version of that album was put out in 1996. For some reason, Caroline even withheld it from the box set, making this the only song to not appear in that collection, which kind of ticks me off. Caroline was basically making money off the hardcore fans with that set, and then expected them to re-buy an album included in there just a year later so they could get the last song. They deserve a nice “Fuck you” for that one. This is a good song though, and really unique as it’s very somber and melancholy. I wouldn’t call it a love song or anything, but it’s certainly closer to that in mood than any other Misfits recording. It’s rather brief too, and one of the few Misfits songs that I actually wish was longer, and probably the best vocal performance for Glenn Danzig during his time with the band.  Static Age

21.  Violent World – Another song that didn’t make it to a compilation, “Violent World” is a straight-forward punk song that makes itself stand out through sheer catchiness. It has a sarcastic sort of chorus with Danzig imploring you to come along to a violent world with him, pitching it like some sort of amusement park. It’s a fun song that gets a little dark with some Nazi mentions, but a song worth getting Walk Among Us for.  Walk Among Us

220px-Misfits_-_Legacy_of_Brutality_cover20.  American Nightmare – A post break-up release, “American Nightmare” is made unique with its rock-a-billy song structure and Danzig doing his best Elvis impersonation. There’s a clapping track mixed in and it’s possibly the most fun song ever written about being a serial killer. About a decade or so ago, Glenn Danzig and Hank III performed this one live which was pretty cool. Last I checked, the performance could still be found on YouTube.  Legacy of Brutality

19.  Devil’s Whorehouse – This a is a great song and a good example of The Misfits being both campy and kind of sinister all in one. It’s basically a bondage/S&M song about a literal Devil’s whorehouse. It feels visceral, especially with the slapping sounds tacked on at the end.  Walk Among Us

18.  Come Back – The longest and one of the slowest Misfits songs, “Come Back” was one that didn’t click with me right away. I needed to hear it many times for it to grow on me and to appreciate it more. There’s a rawness to Danzig’s vocal performance, a sort of pain trapped inside as well as danger that isn’t present really anywhere else. There’s mystery, and desperation roars in at the end, and the song feels unsettling and real. It may not be a typical uptempo Misfits track about zombies or something, but it’s still pretty awesome.  Static Age

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“We Bite” and “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight” were included on the “Die, Die My Darling” single.

17.  We Bite – Everything “Come Back” is not. This one is pure speed with carnal lyrics. Reading the lyrics by themselves, the song feels a bit too campy and too silly, but combine them with the visceral delivery of the band and they take on new life. They almost sound authentic.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

16.  Death Comes Ripping – Seemingly one of Danzig’s favorite Misfits songs as he would, from time to time, perform it with his band Danzig. Some great drumming really drives this one and it’s a good song to get a crowd pumping. Also might be the only song I’ve ever heard that references testicle burning.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

15.  20 Eyes – The first Misfits song I ever saw performed by Danzig live was “20 Eyes” in 2005 when Doyle joined him onstage for a show in Boston. The opener to Walk Among Us, “20 Eyes” is a simple track that gets by with sheer catchiness. The song does just enough to keep it interesting for its short duration, and it’s just so damn effective at getting stuck in your head, even if it feels silly and campy.  Walk Among Us

14.  Halloween – The Misfits are so known for Halloween that it feels like this song is more important to the band’s reputation that it really is. It’s a good song. No – a great one, but also pretty conventional for the band. Danzig delivers the vocals with just the right amount of intensity, and the more pagan approach to the holiday helps at least make it feel a little scary. It was basically a song the band had to do, given its reputation, but I find it funny that when making out a Halloween playlist that this isn’t the first Misfits song I think of, or probably even the fifth.  Collection II

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The Misfits took their name from the motion picture of the same name, which was Marilyn Monroe’s final appearance in a film.

13.  Who Killed Marilyn? – Originally released by Glenn Danzig as a solo effort, the various versions recorded by The Misfits appeared in the box set and on Legacy of Brutality, though for that release it’s unknown how much was overdubbed by Danzig and how much of the band’s original performance is audible. I love this song though, as it hypothesizes on how Marilyn Monroe was murdered so it’s more grounded than other releases. It has a great chorus and a great structure to it. If you want to hear the original Glenn Danzig version you’ll have to track down the Plan 9 single release 7″. It was announced a few years ago the single was set for a re-release, but nothing has come of it. Legacy of Brutality

12.  Earth A.D. – The title track for the band’s second LP release, “Earth A.D.” takes that thrash approach and does so in a way the band is capable of handling. A post apocalyptic tale about a desolate and violent future, “Earth A.D.” is another one of those tracks that appears to be a favorite of Danzig’s as he’s performed it with his band over the years. It’s relatively fast, has some descriptive lyrics, and a good chorus to shout aloud. On earth as it is in Hell, baby!  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

11.  Bloodfeast – The rare slow and brooding sort of Misfits track, especially in the Earth A.D. era. “Bloodfeast” is creepy and sinister befitting of a modern horror movie villain. The song is all about inflicting terror and unease in the listener amid an orgy of blood and sacrifice. It’s a really moody and satisfying listen, I’m surprised Danzig doesn’t perform it more often.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

10.  Die, Die My Darling – Originally released as a single, this one was incorporated into later versions of Earth A.D. along with “Wolf’s Blood.” It’s name, like many Misfits songs, is taken from an old B-movie and was made popular in the late 90s by a Metallica cover. It’s one of the band’s signature songs these days, and a worthy song to kick off the top 10. It has a simple structure of introducing a verse/chorus that gets repeated multiple times with rising levels of intensity. With the lyrics being all about murdering someone, that increased intensity works really well to heighten the song’s impact.  The single version has been re-pressed and released numerous times, even in the 2000’s.  Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood

R-418399-1205367481.jpeg9.  Bullet – Allegedly, this song got the band banned from Texas. Its lyrics describe the assassination of JFK in gruesome detail and place the blame on the state of Texas before turning into a Jackie-O fantasy in the end. It’s kind of strange, since Danzig would have been pretty young during that time, for him to have a fascination with Jackie-O, but it’s possible his lyrics were more of a reflection of society’s infatuation with her. More likely, the song, like other early Misfits recordings, is designed to get attention by any means necessary. It’s fast and brutal, and if the lyrics were more horror infatuated it would have fit in just fine on Earth A.D. Since it was recorded with the other Static Age tracks, and first released as its own single that was more like an EP than a single, it feels ahead of its time in some respects.  Static Age

8.  Spinal Remains – For a longtime the only version of this song available was the horrible sounding one on Legacy of Brutality. Thankfully, Static Age restored this one to its original glory as it’s another early era speed song. I love Danzig’s vocals on this one, especially on the pre-chorus lines. It’s got a great tempo and would make for an excellent inclusion on any future Misfits reunion set list. Static Age

7.  I Turned Into a Martian – This song seems to pop up a lot among fans as a favorite from the band. When I first heard it, the campy subject matter caused me to kind of dismiss it, but over time I’ve grown to appreciate it more. It possesses a very conventional song structure for a 60s radio hit, and doesn’t possess an overtly punk feel to it. The lyrics are fun, and the song is incredibly catchy. I kind of prefer the original “Plan 9” version of the song from the Sessions disc on the box set, but the original release from Walk Among Us is just fine too. The faster version from Collection I though causes the song to lose a little bit of its charm.  Walk Among Us

6.  Skulls – Perhaps the signature song of the band, “Skulls” is a short but great one that works well when played fast and when played just a bit slower as it was on Walk Among Us. It’s a silly concept, a guy infatuated with collecting skulls to the point of practically begging for them, but framed with enough slasher imagery to give it credibility. And who knew a song about hanging skulls on one’s wall could be so damn catchy? This was the encore song for the Danzig Legacy show I attended years ago, which speaks to its importance within the band’s catalog.  Walk Among Us

5.  Last Caress – We’re in the top five, and kicking things off is “Last Caress.” Like “Bullet,” this feels like a song that’s very much trying to get the listener’s attention by being overtly crass and offensive. The opening line is “I’ve got something to say/I killed your baby today” spoken clearly and dramatically enhanced by the rolling drums. Danzig then goes on to sing about raping your mother and reminding you he killed your baby, all the while he sings a chorus so catchy and benign sounding that it defies the viciousness of the verse. This is very much one of those songs that if you could ignore the lyrical content you would swear it’s beautiful. Even the title “Last Caress” implies some sort of tragic end to an otherwise beautiful relationship and it’s easy to romanticize the concept of a last caress. The finish to the song is the capper, and what makes it so memorable, and almost iconic.  Static Age

4.  Hybrid Moments – Quite possibly the catchiest Misfits song, and that’s saying something. It’s an uptempo track that’s not brutally fast, by any means, and the vocals are prominent in the song and delivered in a soulful performance. This song, as well as many others from the same sessions, demonstrated that Glenn Danzig wasn’t a typical punk vocalist and was capable of a lot more. On any given day of the week, I might tell you “Hybrid Moments” is my favorite Misfits song, and that’s something I can probably say about all of the top six.  Static Age

3.  Astro Zombies – What sounds like a ridiculous concept for a song is made memorable with a great and unique performance amongst The Misfits catalog. “Astro Zombies” manages to appear like a traditional Misfits song in every way, but sounds unique enough to stand out. It even relies on a chorus of mostly “whoa’s” but pulls it off because the connecting tissue is so good. The lyrics appear silly at first blush, but the performance is delivered in such an authentic manner that you almost believe Danzig is going to destroy the world, with just a touch of his burning hand.  Walk Among Us

the-misfits-horror-business-sticker-s09412.  Horror Business – This song, more so than even “Skulls,” feels like it should be the band’s signature song. It’s subject matter, Hitchcock’s Psycho, is appropriate for the band despite the lack of zombies and just the title seems to be a succinct way to describe the band’s approach to song writing and its imagery. And like “Skulls,” it manages to take something violent like stabbing a person and turning it into an extremely catchy chorus. And since Psycho is so well known when compared with other inspirational sources of material for the band, it creates a comforting familiarity that lessens its edge. This easily could have been number one.  Collection I

1. Where Eagles Dare – I toyed with the idea of what I should do with the number one song on this list. Should it be a song that I think best represents the band and its horror image, or should I just go with my favorite song by the band? Now, deciding on a favorite song isn’t a simple endeavor either, but in the end since this is my list I decided that my personal preference should carry the most weight. “Where Eagles Dare” is the perfect Misfits song. It’s got build-up, a catchy rhythm, a really catchy chorus, and just enough obscenity to grab the listener’s attention like a good punk song should. This is one of those songs you can play in front of a conservative listener, watch them scoff at it, then catch them singing it to themself an hour later. The simple, but relatable chorus of “I ain’t no god-damned son of a bitch,” is so easy to get into it should be criminal. How Danzig could resist playing this one with his band over the years amazes me because it’s guaranteed to get a huge response from any crowd. It’s the best song out of a great bunch, and if I were attending a Misfits show tonight it would be the song I would want to hear most, which felt like a great way to decide on what number one should be.  Collection I

So that’s that. I hope you enjoyed reading over 5,000 words about Misfits songs, which collectively probably do not come close to amounting to 5,000 words. Watch out for candy apples with razor blades tonight and have a happy Halloween!


Danzig – Black Laden Crown

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Danzig – “Skeletons”

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Danzig – “Skeletons” (2015)

“Skeletons” is a covers record by Danzig that has been discussed publicly going as far back as 2010. The first single for the album was unveiled online on the Danzig website in 2012, but it wasn’t until November 27th, 2015 that the album was finally released. Totaling ten tracks with a running time just over 36 minutes, it’s a bit puzzling how such an album could take as long as it did to get released, but so be it. In reading interviews with Glenn Danzig I got the impression that the album was recorded piece by piece over the years with the band never fully committing to just go into the studio and pound through it. And considering a covers record probably isn’t expected to move a ton of units or make a lot of money, there likely was no sense or urgency with the record at any point in time.

When it comes to art, it really doesn’t matter how long something takes to get done, only the finished product matters. Of course, when it comes to a covers record we’re talking a lesser form of art. These are songs all written by someone else and recorded a long time ago. And though artists often like to boast, Danzig included, that they’re bringing something new to a song they cover, the truth is the songs are largely unchanged. In the case of the songs contained on “Skeletons,” most of the songs sound as they were originally recorded but with added down-tuned guitars and Danzig’s voice in place of the original singer. Listen carefully and you’ll pick out some slight variations in the lyrics, but it’s nothing major. And there are some tracks altered more than others, the most obvious being the Elvis cover “Let Yourself Go,” which basically turns a rock-a-billy track into something more resembling a punk track with a sinister groove.

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The cover for the album’s single, “Devil’s Angels.”

“Skeletons” gets to benefit from a couple obscure tracks. The two lead-off tracks, “Devil’s Angels” and “Satan,” are not likely to be known by most listeners making them feel like all new songs. “Devil’s Angels” features former Misfits guitarist Doyle in an uncredited role and features a sound that may or may not answer the question of what a Misfits record in 2015 would sound like with Glenn and Doyle onboard. It’s a fast, uptempo number with really only one hook, but the song ends before it becomes overplayed. “Satan” is from the film Satan’s Sadists, so if you’ve seen that you may know the song, but chances are you have not (I certainly haven’t). “Satan” is more of a blues-based number and the lyrics invoke the Lucifuge era tracks “Killer Wolf” and “I’m the One.” The single release of “Devil’s Angels” features a version of “Satan” that’s just Glenn and an organ. I didn’t care for that version but the album version of the song is pretty rockin’.

Other covers stand-out, including the ZZ Top track “Rough Boy” and the Aerosmith cover of “Lord of the Thighs.” The latter is probably the most surprising inclusion on the record as I never took Glenn Danzig for someone who would be familiar with some of the more obscure tracks from Aerosmith. “Lord of the Thighs” was always an oddball in the band’s library, with its bouncing guitar riff way ahead of its time. Danzig’s version of the song is obviously tuned lower giving the riff a more driving quality to it. Steven Tyler’s vocals on the song come across as seductive, and at times, even a little playful, while Danzig’s are more commanding and dominating which isn’t all that surprising, all things considered. Danzig’s cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Crying in the Rain” closes things out and it’s a nice little downer (in mood) of a track to end the record, though I do wish there was a little more emotion in Glenn’s vocals, but it’s a nice little cover. The only song I really wasn’t all that taken with is Danzig’s Sabbath cover, “N.I.B.” In the case of that track, it’s just a song that’s been done too much before. It even has its own cover by Primus featuring Ozzy on vocals that probably improved the original more than anyone else could ever hope to (not that the goal of a cover is really to improve a song). With Sabbath’s vast catalogue, it just seems like there are songs more suitable for Danzig to cover. Danzig’s take on “N.I.B.” doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it just swaps out Ozzy for Glenn and Iommi for Tommy Victor, which is a clear downgrade as Victor’s noodling outro is more distracting than anything.

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In addition to the standard CD digipack release, “Skeletons” is also being released on vinyl in numerous variants.

The production on recent Danzig releases has been spotty, at best, and the same is true for “Skeletons.” Some of the vocals sound too distant and hollow, with the worst probably being the opener “Devil’s Angels.” Some tracks, like “Action Women,” seem to put the instruments and vocals in competition with each other and they all just seem to be rising in intensity throughout the song. The worst overall track in terms of production is probably “With A Girl Like You” which just comes in so much lower in volume when compared with the surrounding tracks. In some respects, the production adds a garage feel to the album which seems appropriate for a covers record. “Crying in the Rain” has a muted softness that actually works with the material. All in all, for a Danzig record, the production is actually fine and arguably better here than it was on the past two proper Danzig albums.

“Skeletons” is a nice little collection of songs that not only work individually but actually arrange well with each other to form a credible album. My expectations, even as a longtime Danzig fan, were actually pretty low so I’m happy to say they’ve been exceeded. And I guess if you like Danzig covers then there’s good news as the band isn’t done recording other people’s songs. During the recording of this record, the band did several additional Elvis songs that Glenn Danzig decided would make sense to just release separately as an EP. It’s being referred to as “Danzig Sings Elvis” and I really hope he rethinks that title. It makes me think of Anne Murray. There was also an additional song released online a couple of years ago, a cover of the Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra duet “Some Velvet Morning” that Danzig recorded with Cherie Currie of The Runaways. The song was cut from this release and the rumor was it had something to do with Hazlewood’s estate. I don’t know if they just plain didn’t want the song being covered by Danzig or if they were demanding a larger than normal royalty or whatever, but the song is readily available online and I don’t think anyone is really missing out. It would have been the worst track on the album had it been included. There is a new Danzig album also being worked on and it’s expected sometime next year, but with Danzig you should never hold your breath. For now, we have 36 minutes of cover songs to bridge the widening gap between releases.

Top Tracks

  • Devil’s Angels
  • Satan
  • Lord of the Thighs

Best of the Beast: The Iron Maiden Albums Ranked

Iron Maiden has been making music and releasing albums for over three decades.

Iron Maiden has been making music and releasing albums for over three decades.

Happy Iron Maiden Day, everyone! It’s Friday, September 4th, the street date for Iron Maiden’s 16th studio album: The Book of Souls. To commemorate this event I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the Maiden catalog and rank the studio efforts put out by the band. Obviously, for a band to have a 16th album means it’s been around for a long time and Maiden has certainly withstood the test of time. At one point it seemed like the group would not be able to emerge from the 80s, overtaken by grunge and other forms of “new” metal, but the group came back strong and in more recent years has enjoyed some of its greatest success thanks in large part to its stunning stage shows. I have, to my own surprise, never blogged about Iron Maiden in any extensive way which is kind of odd for a blog centered on nostalgia with some musical presence (though admittedly, this has become more of a video game/animation blog than a music one) so it makes sense to do a big blow-out here. After I compose and post this, I’ll most likely head to the store to grab a copy of the new album and race home to digest it. If I can find the time, I’ll look to post a review as a supplement to this topic. Now, onto the rankings!

15. Virtual XI (1998):  In 1995, Blaze Bayley had the unfortunate task of trying to replace a heavy metal legend as frontman for one of the biggest metal acts of the 80s. Bayley is a capable vocalist, but his talents are not particularly suited for the Iron Maiden sound. Worse still, the band did not seem to try to augment its sound to suit Bayley in the least, resulting in two rather poor albums. Only one song, The Clansman, has survived the reunion and even that has been brushed aside in favor of older songs and new ones. Not all of that can be blamed on the vocalist, of course. The songs in general are just rather bland and represent a low point for the band creatively. This was really a continuation of the malaise that affected the group in the 1990’s that wouldn’t be rectified until 2000’s Brave New World.

Blaze Bayley was a hard sell for the Iron Maiden faithful.

Blaze Bayley was a hard sell for the Iron Maiden faithful.

14. The X Factor (1995): I could basically cut and paste the synopsis for Virtual XI here as well, right down to only one song making it to the stage post-reunion, “The Sign of the Cross.” The X Factor is the marginally better of the two Blaze albums as there is a slight uptick in energy. Some of the songs though, such as Man on the Edge, sound like they were written with Dickinson in mind and then handed to Bayley and they suffer for it. Both Blaze albums are for Maiden completists only.

13. No Prayer for the Dying (1990): Iron Maiden entered the 1990s with a dud. By now, the Maiden formula had been well established: fast songs, catchy leads, galloping bass lines, and soaring vocals. The problem being that variety was becoming hard to come by as the band chugged along like a machine for the duration of the 80s. An album would drop, followed by a huge world tour and then a trip back to the studio. It was a pace no band could maintain. Come 1990’s No Prayer for the Dying, that heavy workload was starting to show. The production on the album sounds like it was handled in a quick, lazy, manner and Dickinson’s voice is throaty and weather-beaten. There’s little imagination in the songs from both a structural standpoint and lyrically. The result was the worst Maiden record of the Dickinson era and none of the songs are played live any longer.

12. Iron Maiden (1980): Debut records seem to go one of two ways: they’re either really good or really forgettable. Count Iron Maiden’s debut album amongst the forgettable ones. Most of that is due to poor production and the band not quite yet finding its sound. The band feels like it’s being held back and that’s really easy to see now since we can compare the studio tracks from this album with the live versions. Paul Di’Anno, Iron Maiden’s original vocalist, brings a kind of punk sound to the band that may sound like a poor fit to those who grew up on Dickinson’s Maiden, but it actually works in some places. “Prowler” is a nice opener that suits Di’Anno but a slower tempo track such as “Strange World” is a poor fit (the song as a whole really feels like a poor fit for Maiden in general). The slower parts of “Charlotte the Harlot” also sound off, but then again, the song is unspectacular. Out of all the tracks on the album, only the title track, “Prowler,” and “Phantom of the Opera” are really memorable. “Running Free” was a concert mainstay for a long time and I never really understood why as it’s a rather boring tune. “Sanctuary” isn’t very good on the album, but is an example of a song sounding better when the band plays it live.

Fear of the Dark was the final album of the first Bruce Dickinson era of the band.

Fear of the Dark was the final album of the first Bruce Dickinson era of the band.

11. Fear of the Dark (1992): The last album before Bruce Dickinson departed the band, Fear of the Dark was more of the same when compared with its predecessor, No Prayer for the Dying. Boring compositions, poor production, and Dickinson’s voice sounding shot after years of touring. As a whole, the songs are better than the ones on No Prayer, but that’s not saying much. The saving grace for the album is its epic closing title track, but numerous live renditions recorded since illustrate how poor the production on the studio version was. It’s the only song from the album that’s still played live.

10. Dance of Death (2003): I’m happy to report, that we’ve exited the realm of poor to sub par Iron Maiden albums and we’ve entered the “okay” range. 2000’s Brave New World was a true return to form kind of album for Iron Maiden. It marked the return of vocalist Bruce Dickinson as well as guitarist Adrian Smith. It also felt like it had a real fresh, quasi-modern approach to song writing and production. It was the album that made Iron Maiden relevant once more. When the band went back into the studio to record its follow-up, they pretty much just tried to copy the formula that made Brave New World great. As a result, Dance of Death feels like the B-sides for Brave New World. There’s some good stuff, but a lot of it just feels like filler. Hurting the album is that its three lengthiest tracks are more “miss” than “hit.” Some fans really dig “Paschendale” but I’ve always found it too boring, and I’m someone who typically enjoys long compositions. Dance of Death is an okay album, simply put. Whenever I return to it I’m usually left satisfied, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that I could have spent my time listening to a better Maiden album.

9. A Matter of Life and Death (2006): A Matter of Life and Death was a return to form in a bad way: the muddy production of the 1990s albums. For whatever reason, the band decided to forego traditional mastering and opted for a raw sound. That kind of approach would probably work for a punk band or maybe even a thrash band, but not for a metal band such as Maiden that made its mark with complicated lead work and soaring vocals. The oppressive sound does suit the subject matter, which is a bleak and cynical take on the world climate at the time. A Matter of Life and Death is a complicated release. It’s easy to see what the band was going for, but they just didn’t quite get there. That said, there’s some really strong compositions on this record such as “For the Greater Good of God,” “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns,” and “Lord of Light.” Unfortunately, a lot of the songs just don’t work well with each other. They’re just way too similar with seven out of the ten tracks basically starting and ending the same way: slow, sometimes acoustic, intro, crescendo into a fast part or gallop, a chorus that’s pretty much just the song’s title, quiet outro. It becomes exhausting by the album’s end. The album essentially feels like a series of singles. Maybe if they had broken up tracks 7-10 better it wouldn’t have been as overbearing. This approach makes A Matter of Life and Death the band’s most uneven release.

The Final Frontier was the best album for the band since Brave New World, but few fans felt came close to capturing the greatness of the earlier works.

The Final Frontier was the best album for the band since Brave New World, but few fans felt came close to capturing the greatness of the earlier works.

8. The Final Frontier (2010): Despite the album’s title, The Final Frontier is not the final album for Iron Maiden, which can only be considered a good thing. In comparison with its immediate predecessor, The Final Frontier is an improvement in almost every area. The production is stellar, the song structure more varied, and the album does an overall better job of blending new elements with some of the more traditional, old school, traits of Maiden’s past. The only major issue carried over is, once again, the arrangement of the backside tracks. Maybe the album could have been arranged better, though I’m not sure they could have avoided the redundancy effect. Really, some of the songs should just have their intro/outro portions removed. I feel compelled to point out that The Final Frontier contains Maiden’s best power ballad, the Dickinson penned “Coming Home.” That one easily has the best chance at becoming a set list mainstay going forward.

7. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988): I swear ranking this album as seventh is merely a coincidence! Seventh Son has the distinction of being perhaps the only Maiden album to go from being underrated by the fan base to overrated. The presence of synthesizers on it and the previous album were controversial at the time and disliked by many, but the dredge that would follow seems to have made fans appreciate the lightness of the record in hindsight. The only thing holding Seventh Son back is the absence of a killer track. From track 1 to 8, this is a solid and entertaining record but when it’s over it’s over. Some of the tracks, like “The Clairvoyant” and “Moonchild,” have made a return to the stage but the album lacks a defining track. Even lesser albums, like Fear of the Dark, can’t say the same, making Seventh Son of a Seventh Son the classic example of a good, not great, album.

6. Killers (1981): The follow-up to the first Maiden record and only other featuring Paul Di’Anno on vocals marked a big improvement over the debut record. Everything felt faster, and tighter, and Di’Anno was at his best and comfortable with the material. The title track, “Wrathchild,” “Ghengis Khan,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “Purgatory” are among my picks for standout tracks. Unlike with the debut record, not many of these songs survived the transition to Dickinson with really only “Wrathchild” being a semi-common occurrence in set lists. That mostly feels like a reaction to a lot of these being tailored to suit Di’Anno’s vocals, particularly his falsetto. This is probably the most underrated album in the Maiden catalog, don’t sleep on it!

The stage for the Powerslave tour is what set the standard for subsequent Maiden tours.

The stage for the Powerslave tour is what set the standard for subsequent Maiden tours.

5. Powerslave (1984): If Killers is the most underrated Maiden album, Powerslave just might be the most overrated. This is mostly due to the album’s high points being really high, but the lows really low. This album contains perhaps my all-time favorite Maiden track, “Aces High,” and my most detested, “Back in the Village.” “2 Minutes to Midnight” might also be my pick for most overrated Maiden song as it always felt like a filler track to me but its inclusion in the set list over the years says otherwise. A far better song, “Flash of the Blade,” is criminally underplayed but the album’s title track has enjoyed a nice run. I also can’t talk about Powerslave without mentioning the epic at the end, the 13 minute “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which up until now, has remained Iron Maiden’s longest song. It is a pretty excellent tune, when it’s rocking, but it also feels like it’s long for the sake of being long. There’s a portion in the middle that could have, and should have, been trimmed down some as it derails the song’s momentum. I’m guessing the band disagrees with that take, especially now that it has returned to the live show and affords the band a nice break during the show.

4. Brave New World (2000): Brave New World was the comeback no one expected and few probably knew that they were anticipating. It was such a shock to hear Iron Maiden be relevant again that I almost didn’t believe it. “The Wicker Man” announced the band’s triumphant return, and heralded the return of Bruce Dickinson to where he belonged. While I could easily criticize the album for giving rise to the slow, fast, slow approach to song structure I so lampooned on A Matter of Life and Death, in 2000 it just wasn’t as noticeable or as overdone. Here’s one album I wish would be played more at concerts, but at least we have the DVD for Rock in Rio that included a ton of cuts from this album. The band plays the songs with such a contagious exuberance that makes it so easy to get into. This is a band making an album out of sheer enjoyment and it shows. Now please, pretty please, play “Out of the Silent Planet” on the next tour!

3. Somewhere in Time (1986): Sometimes after I finish listening to Somewhere in Time I’m left thinking it’s my favorite Iron Maiden album. I could also say that about each of the next two albums on this list, which speaks to how close I feel they are. Somewhere in Time is a true Maiden classic. While it contains equal parts greatness and filler, its high points really justify its ranking. The lead track, “Caught Somewhere in Time,” is one of Maiden’s best and I remain flabbergasted as to why it gets overlooked today while lesser, though still good, tracks like “Heaven Can Wait” are not. In terms of filler, “Deja-vu” is one the better tracks, a quick, catchy little number that would make a great B-side for a lead single. “Sea of Madness” is a weird track with odd time signatures for this era of Maiden, making it one of their most forward-thinking tunes. The only things holding the album back is the awful “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” which feels like a song that needed more work and the ho-hum closer (when compared to Powerslave’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”) “Alexander the Great,” which tries too hard to feel like a Maiden epic.

It doesn't get more iconic than this.

It doesn’t get more iconic than this.

2. The Number of the Beast (1982): Here we arrive at the album that made Iron Maiden a household name, inspiring protests and album burnings across the world. The Number of the Beast is a classic heavy metal album and the fact that it heralded the Bruce Dickinson era of Maiden makes it even more memorable. The holy trinity of “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills,” and “Hallowed be thy Name” represent three of Maiden’s finest compositions with “Hallowed…” being my pick as the definitive Iron Maiden song. A lot of Maiden’s modern tracks feel like a callback to “Hallowed…” though few have approached its perfectly constructed pace. The only thing that kind of bugs me about this album is that it chose not to lead with the title track. I have no idea how the band resisted that temptation, or why it did, as it would have ranked among the best album openers in metal history. I’m just thankful it was the first Bruce Dickinson track I ever heard because that’s an introduction I can never forget.

1. Piece of Mind (1983): Just narrowly edging The Number of the Beast, by the slimmest of margins, is the follow-up record Piece of Mind. If I were to rank every track on both records I’d probably pick “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “The Number of the Beast” one and two, but the back-end of that list would feature more tracks from The Number of the Beast than Piece of Mind. And Piece of Mind has its own stand-out tracks to be proud of too. I’m talking songs like “Flight of Icarus,” “Still Life,” “Sun and Steel,” and “The Trooper,” Maiden’s signature gallop. Piece of Mind is the more complete record, and the only reason why it’s close is because the closing track, “To Tame a Land,” sucks. That song may be Maiden’s most boring and is just a toothless way to end an album. It’s to Piece of Mind what “Invaders” is to The Number of the Beast, a filler track placed inexplicably in a position of prominence. The only difference being there isn’t an obvious closing track on Piece of Mind that could have taken its place.

So there you have it, Iron Maiden’s fifteen studio albums ranked according to me. I am by no means the authority on the subject, but if you’re someone looking to get into Iron Maiden those top three albums I selected are rather hard to debate. Here’s hoping the new album, The Book of Souls, makes a case to enter the top ten. Considering the album tops 90 minutes it’s already risen to number one in terms of length and there will be plenty to chew on.