Tag Archives: Misfits

Danzig – Black Laden Crown

Cover_of_Black_Laden_Crown_(2017)_by_Danzig

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
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The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)

It seems to me that video game cartoons are much less popular today than they were when I was young.  Then again, I don’t have any kids so I’m not often watching children’s programming so I could be mistaken.  I’m sure Pokemon is still kicking around some network and Sonic may be running in syndication, but that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head.  When I was young there were several video game adaptations for the small screen.  Just going off the top of my head I can come up with Dragon Lair, Super Mario, Zelda, Captain N (not a strict adaptation of a game, but comprised almost entirely of characters from popular games), Sonic, Battletoads, Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat.  I’m almost positive I’m forgetting some but that’s still a pretty solid sample for comparison.  Maybe it’s because so many popular games these days seem to be of the M and T rated variety that we don’t see many cartoon adaptations.  Or maybe it’s because companies like Nintendo are still shell-shocked from less than stellar cartoons based on their properties.  If that is the case, then we can lay a lot of the blame on The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 was, naturally, based on the video game Super Mario Bros. 3.  It was also the sequel of sorts to the more popular Super Maro Bros. Super Show which featured Mario cartoons that took place in a world based off of Super Mario Bros. 2 (the American version).  That show is mostly remembered for the live-action Mario and Luigi and the songs the welcomed viewers and saw them off (Do the Mario!).  The Super Mario Bros. 3 adaptation contained no live actors and no such songs.  The opening is simply a narrator talking over an animated sequence that sets up the series.  There’s no continuity from one episode to the next and each one runs a little over 10 minutes with 26 total episodes.  The retail release is three discs worth of content and I would be surprised if any of the discs is filled to near capacity.  Mario and Luigi had their voice actors recast to Walker Boone and Tony Rosato but the rest of the cast remains intact.  The animation style is also slightly different, most notably Mario is a little trimmer and the Koopa Troopa design from the previous show was scrapped.

The Koopa Kids are probably the best thing going in this show.

The Koopa Kids are probably the best thing going in this show.

The biggest changes from the previous show to this one occurred with the villains and the location.  Location wise, this is a more faithful depiction of the Mushroom Kingdom from the game complete with numerous warp pipes and floating blocks.  For the villains, King Koopa is still the antagonist but now he’s accompanied by his seven Koopa Kids.  The Koopalings resemble their video game counterparts in design but all have different names.  Allegedly, this was due to the series being developed before Nintendo had provided the names.  The characters, for the most part, have pretty stupid and unimaginative names.  Morton Koopa Jr. is now just called Big Mouth, because he has a (you guessed it) big mouth.  There’s a Bully Koopa, Cheatsy, and Wendy is now Kootie Pie.  It’s not very important what their names are but I’ll give credit to the writers for mostly giving each of the seven a distinct personality (with the exception of the twins Hip and Hop, who are basically the same).  The ones that end up standing out include Cheatsy, who’s cunning seems to surpass his father’s as he is often able to manipulate him (usually with flattery).  Cookie is the evil genius of the kids and is definitely the most insane.  And Kootie Pie, being Koopa’s only daughter, is not surprisingly a spoiled brat and her father is a slave to her whims.

Apparently the eyes are fully-functioning on the frog suit.  Does that mean Mario can see out of them?  I must know!

Apparently the eyes are fully-functioning on the frog suit. Does that mean Mario can see out of them? I must know!

The Koopa Kids are perhaps the only bright spot of this program.  Well, that and the power-ups.  Super Mario Bros. 3 is famous for its numerous power-ups and they’re all represented here, for the most part.  For some reason I get a giddy thrill from seeing them used in the show from the common raccoon tail to the absurd frog suit.  Even Koopa gets in on the action in the series finale which is certainly noteworthy.  The rest of the show though is comprised of tired writing and simple plots.  Not much has changed from the previous show and the majority of the episodes follow the same formula of the Mario Bros. having to foil one of Koopa’s attempts at taking over the Mushroom Kingdom.  There’s usually a chase sequence or montage set to a parody of a licensed song which had to be removed from the DVD release.  There is one exception in the episode “Recycled Koopa” which contains a song called “Trash City USA” (2:05 mark in video link).  It sounds suspiciously like the Glenn Danzig song “Spook City USA” and I wonder if it was intended by someone as a parody of that.  Since the song is so obscure it wouldn’t surprise me if it snuck past the legal team (at the time the episode was produced, the song only existed as a B side to the single “Who Killed Marlyn?” which was not exactly a wide release).  There’s also the requisite episode where things get turned around and Mario and Luigi have to be saved by the Princess and Toad.  There’s also a celebrity appearance by Milli Vanilli in one episode, “Kootie Pie Rocks.”  This may be the most hilarious episode in hindsight.

Koopa is backed, armed with an assortment of magic wands this time around.

Koopa is backed, armed with an assortment of magic wands this time around.

This series also establishes the existence of the home world of the Mario brothers as The Real World.  This means several episodes take place on earth and in places like New York and Venice.  There’s even one episode where each koopaling takes over a continent.  This labeling of this world as The Real World bugs the crap out of me.  This show isn’t like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with characters often breaking the fourth wall, instead that’s how the characters view this supposed real world.  What does that make the Mushroom Kingdom then?  The fake world?  I’m surprised the princess would stand for that!

Because of the short run-time, plots are often resolved quickly and haphazardly.  It’s clear the writers had little respect for children as the show is fairly thoughtless.  The animation isn’t anything to get excited over either.  For the most part, it’s fairly typical of its era but there are other shortcuts that bother me.  Most notably, whenever a character morphs into another form there’s no transition animation, it just happens, which is utter laziness.  Unfortunately, the transfers by Shout! Factory for the DVD release are atrocious.  Some episodes are okay while others drop out and look worse than what can be found on the internet.  Supposedly the master tapes for the series no longer exist, so I don’t know what the source was for the DVD, but clearly it sucked and no attempt was made for the episodes that are really bad.  The last two episodes on the set are especially bad and should have never been released in such a state.

I bought this set when I found it on sale and did so only for nostalgic purposes.  I liked the show enough when I was a kid but my memory of it wasn’t strong.  It didn’t last long as it was quickly replaced by a Super Mario World themed cartoon.  Even though the set was relatively cheap, it still wasn’t worth the purchase.  Don’t make the same mistake I did, just let this one pass, as your memories of the show are likely much better than the actual product.


Record Store Day!

My target for today.

Today is Record Store Day!  A day that hasn’t been around for too long but intends to celebrate the good old fashioned record store.  As a means of celebration, several labels and bands participate by releasing limited edition twelve and seven inch records (go here for a full list of what’s available today) to get people into the stores which usually are offering sales of their own.  Only independently owned stores are allowed to participate and the organizers of the event take a mostly hands off approach.  This leads to swings in pricing from one store to the next and certain records are only available in certain stores.  Unfortunately, this also leads to some stores forgoing the event and just hawking the limited releases on eBay for inflated prices.  This is also the type of event that attracts scalpers of all kinds only interested in making a quick buck, which takes some of the fun out of it.  It’s become a pretty big deal these past few years and the amount of stuff released each year seems to grow and grow and get more and more interesting.

Last year was my first time taking part.  I was more interested in the spectacle than the actual albums released on that day.  I went over to my local Newbury Comics, one of the few small chains to really break thru and thrive in this day and age.  I got there a little after they opened and found the place pretty packed.  I ended up snatching an Opeth 7″ single released for RSD, “The Throat of Winter,” and picked up some odds and ends taking advantage of the sales.  This year was different though.

There's some black streaks on the record as well, though they don't show up in the picture.

Just a few weeks ago Rhino Records announced that they would be releasing a limited edition of The Misfits’ debut record Walk Among Us to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the release.  This version is limited to 3000 copies:  1250 on red vinyl, 1250 on blue, and 500 clear.  They’re packaged in a blind style, meaning you don’t know what color you have.  Overseas, a purple copy is being released.  The stores that participate in RSD have adopted a 1 copy per person policy to give more people a shot at the record they covet.  This unfortunately means the completist collectors out there either need to round up some friends or take to eBay to get one copy of each.  I was content to get just one, but I had to have it!  Given the vast number of retailers participating and the limited nature, I figured each store would only receive two or three copies, meaning I had to get there early if I wanted one.  Complicating things is the fact that not every store gets a copy of every release.  My local shop didn’t know what it was getting as of Thursday so I was taking a shot in the dark this morning when I jumped in my car and headed over.

I got there early; 7:15.  The store is located in a shopping mall and the doors for the mall open at 8 while the store doesn’t open until 10.  I was going to sit in my car for awhile but became too eager to just sit there so before 7:30 even hit I was up in front of the door just waiting outside.  Once the mall opened its doors I was the first to the store (ended up walking in with the manager) and took a seat right outside to begin the 2 hour wait.  It wasn’t too bad as I brought my Vita with me and had my phone too.  By the time 9:30 came around I was too excited to play games any longer and stood and waited anxiously.  I was the first one there, but by the time the doors opened I was one of 50+ and the first inside.  The manager knew what record I was after and made sure to point it out to me before the doors even opened.  I snatched the first copy and then proceeded to mill around poking at the other exclusives.  A wave of people washed over me with hands darting and grabbing at each release.  It was frantic, but fairly orderly.  No one was pushy or rude at all and it seemed like the crowd was mostly record enthusiasts just hoping to score something from a favorite artist.

Side A of the Nightwish disc.

I ended up grabbing the Nightwish picture disc as well, along with a super cheap copy of Batman:  Sub-Zero since it was the only Batman film I didn’t own (other than the wretched Schumacher films I want no part of).  My purchases came with a tote bag and a ton of freebies I have yet to go thru.  They’re mostly CD samplers and some stickers and stuff.  I don’t know if there will be anything good on them, but it will be fun to find out.

Once I got home I was pretty eager to check out my new Misfits record to see what version I ended up with.  This release is designed to mimic the original first edition release right down to the insert it comes with.  It’s pretty cool, and I actually don’t have a first edition of Walk Among Us as I have so far stuck to the 7″ releases.  I didn’t really care what version I got, but certainly I was hoping for the more limited clear, especially since I don’t own any clear vinyl.  My elation was certainly audible when I did indeed pull a clear piece of vinyl from the packaging.  My day could not have gone any better!

And side B.

The Nightwish picture disc is also quite nice too.  Titled Trials of Imaginaerum, it’s a 10″ release and contains four demo tracks from their last album.  It also comes with a download code to get an .mp3 version of a fifth track.  Currently, the web address doesn’t appear to be up and running yet so I’ll have to try again later*.   The artwork is nice and this release is limited to 1500 copies.

*I tried the download address on Sunday with no success, but it worked tonight(Monday).  It took me to a page that asked for my email address, and then a download link was sent there.  The fifth track is titled “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” (previously released on the single “The Crow, The Owl, and The Dove”) and it’s a folky little number that’s quite pleasing.

All in all, a good day to hit the record store!  Record Store Day is fun, but the getting up early to wait in line for hours does sap a little fun out of it.  I don’t mind it when there’s something I really want, but I certainly wouldn’t do that for most releases.  Turns out I probably could have strolled in at 10 and have been fine, though I probably wouldn’t have ended up with the clear version of Walk Among Us.  I encourage everyone who’s into  vinyl to check out their local record store today.  You might stumble upon something truly special!