Danzig: Painting the Town Red

Astonishingly, it’s been 22 years since Danzig released their first, Rick Rubin-produced self-titled album through Def American Recordings. The band at this point is basically frontman Glenn Danzig and whoever he gets to play with him, but on the latest Danzig outing, Deth Red Sabaoth (The End Records/Evilive), we see some familiar faces from past tours. Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly is present and accounted for, as is Prong’s Tommy Victor on guitar. Danzig himself handled bass in addition to his trademark animalistic howling vocals, without which, frankly, this just wouldn’t be a Danzig record.

Much has been made of Deth Red Sabaoth’s organic vibe, as Danzig himself has highlighted the ‘70s amps the guitars and bass were run through in search of a more natural sound. Fine, but there’s no getting around how compressed the mix of the album is. Even at ridiculous volumes, the songs feel condensed sonically, and that’s across the board, from guitars, to bass, drums and even Danzig’s vocals, which as he says the song titles during several choruses – “Left Hand Rise Above,” “On a Wicked Night” and “Deth Red Moon” – are charmingly and characteristically indiscernible. The compression doesn’t ruin the listening experience by any means, but it is an example of how modern professional recording is at a crossroads and, I think, a little directionless. A discussion for another time.

Danzig is credited with having written all the songs on Deth Red Sabaoth himself (he even plays drums on “Black Candy”), so I suppose the blame for the pinch harmonics that flat-out ruin the riff of “The Revengeful” – the otherwise perfectly serviceable second track – have to be laid at his feet. Even as Victor lays down a shredding solo, they’re there, multi-tracked just beneath. I’m not a fan of the riff-riff-squee in the first place, but these seem especially annoying, and they come back during “Black Candy,” which, along with “On a Wicked Night” is one of Danzig’s many “this one’s for the ladies” cuts. “Deth Red Moon” reminds a bit of “Mother” in its main riff, but I far prefer the southbound bent of “Ju Ju Bone,” which has a swampy vibe in both guitar and Danzig’s vocals, and the doomed acrobatics of “Night Star Hel.” The latter is my pick of the album.

One might think after the two-part “Pyre of Souls,” which spans a pair of tracks subtitled “Incanticle” (mostly piano and ambient vocalizing) and “Seasons of Pain” (seven minutes of conclusive badassery) that closer “Left Hand Rise Above” would be anticlimactic, but it’s not. Like the majority of the material on Deth Red Sabaoth, it’s between the four and five minute range, but the feel is more epilogue than letdown, and with a stellar performance from Kelly on drums, I can easily understand why Danzig would want to keep it on the album. It seems like the kind of song they had a good time making and didn’t want to leave off. It doesn’t do much for the overall flow of the record, but its quiet verses and loud choruses are so quintessentially Danzig that I can’t fault them for including it.

There are those who unquestioningly worship Glenn Danzig and all his works, but in truth, Deth Red Sabaoth is a mixed bag. Some of Tommy Victor’s soloing – okay, most of Tommy Victor’s soloing — is lifeless in the recording and though there are high points to be found in “Night Star Hel” and “Pyre of Souls: Seasons of Pain,” songs like opener “Hammer of the Gods” and “Black Candy” are forgettable at best. It’s enjoyable to hear Johnny Kelly finally on a Danzig record after touring with them for the better part of the last decade, and though there have been the Lost Tracks of Danzig and Black Aria II releases, this is the first studio album the band has had since 2004’s Circle of Snakes. If you were a fan of really any era of Danzig’s work, the rock beginnings, transitional phase, industrial leanings or later return to more traditional heaviness, chances are at least one track on Deth Red Sabaoth will have some appeal. How you choose to deal with the rest of it is up to you.

Danzig on MySpace

The End Records

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One Response to “Danzig: Painting the Town Red”

  1. Aaron Edge says:

    Interesting. Indeed.

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