By Kyle Harcott
Danzig(the band)’s career output has been a slippery slope for this writer. The first four Danzig records are untouchable in my eyes, all-time-classics that are beyond question. Then that classic lineup split up, and things took a turn for the worse. Unpopular though it was, I embraced blackacidevil – not so much as a Danzig -the-band record, but at least as the great industrial-metal album it was. After that, I had high hopes for a return to form on 6:66 Satan’s Child, but was left severely disappointed by the album – so much so that I completely fell out of touch with what the band’s been doing the last few years. I may have heard the albums that came after that in passing, but honestly, not enough to remember them.
So when the hype machine started ramping up for Deth Red Sabaoth back in February, I was curious but cautious; ready to give it a chance, but not about to be surprised if it disappointed me. Joe Chiodo’s album cover art was almost the deal-breaker for me (and that’s no disrespect to Joe’s fantastic artwork, but to me it’s just not a ‘classic’ Danzig album without the Crystar horned skull on it. Seriously, Google ‘Danzig Crystar’ sometime and see what comes up). I could write a whole essay on how the art on Danzig album covers directly corresponds with the quality of music contained on the recording, but that’s for another time (except to quickly say that the Lucifuge album is the only one where my theory doesn’t correspond). But then a couple of months back, I heard Danzig’s song on the new Melissa Auf Der Mar record (the lush duet “Father’s Grave”), and it sounded like an honest-to-god outtake from the How The Gods Kill sessions. Needless to say, I got interested inDanzig again right quick, and I’m happy to report Deth Red Sabaoth lives up to the band’s legacy.
“Hammer of the Gods” with its smoking, holy-shit-is-John-Christ-back? lead riff, is a classic Danzig opening track, on par with “Godless” or “Brand New God”. I’m not kidding – for a sec, I thought I’d fallen into my own hot-tub time machine, and it was 1993 all over again… shit, maybe I had (nope, still balding). This record, all the way through, is a welcome return to form. Things get a little Tommy Victor-ish at first on “The Revengeful” but then Glenn’s voice rides the song right into 4p territory in the chorus. Big ups to Tommy; he’s infused his flavor in the song’s lead but it fits remarkably well in the Danzig framework and complements it. Johnny Kelly, too, puts his stamp firmly on the disc, throwing a few double-bass licks here and there, previously unheard of in Danzig world. The Glenn Himself even plays drums on “Black Candy”, and double-kicks it up a whole lot, so presumably he’s okay with it. There’s not a bum track on the disc, but even still lead single “On A Wicked Night” was my pick for weakest. Luckily, it’s followed up by the baleful “Deth Red Moon”, and my personal favorite “Ju Ju Bone”, which is a study in classic Danzig blues: Danzig growls the ‘this is a song about a little girl, done gimme some trouble’ intro in his inimitable Elvis-werewolf snarl, and then Johnny’s four-on-the-floor (holy-shit-is-that-Chuck-Biscuits?) stomp kicks in and drives the song straight down to the blues-metal boneyard. “Night Star Hel” is also rife with classic first-four Danzig-isms, less subtly calling to mind the monolithic crunch of “How the Gods Kill” – but dammit, so what? At this point in Danzig’s hallowed career, I’m not going to blame him if he wants to borrow from his back catalogue here and there. Deth Red Sabaoth is that solid a record, and could be even considered the rightful heir to Danzig 4p.
Sure, it’ll be a frosty day in Danzig’s nether lair before you’ll ever see a reunion of the band’s classic lineup – but until Lodi finally freezes over, you can certainly find solace in Deth Red Sabaoth, which goes a long, long way to recapturing that classic Danzig sound.