This 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.
22. 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.
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.”
20. Skeletons – Danzig (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.
19. 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.
18. 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.
17. 6:66 Satan’s Child – Danzig (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.
16. Thrall-Demonsweatlive – Danzig (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.
15. 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.
14. 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.
13. Black Laden Crown – Danzig (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?
12. 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.
11. 7:77 I Luciferi – Danzig (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.
10. 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.
9. Deth Red Sabaoth – Danzig (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.
8. Danzig – Danzig (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.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. 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.
4. III: How the Gods Kill – Danzig (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.
3. 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.
2. II: Lucifuge – Danzig (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.
1. 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.