Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Danzig - "Skeletons" (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/11/2015
Label: Nuclear Blast/Evilive



“Skeletons” would have been an awesome opportunity to work with a variety of musicians, those better equipped to handle specific songs and play up their advantages.  The recording quality varies wildly from song to song, as does the overall execution of each song. The strength of Danzig’s vocal performance is pretty consistent with where he was at on ‘Deth Red Sabaoth’, perhaps even a bit better which, sadly, makes it the album’s only consistently positive attribute.


‘Skeletons’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. "Devil's Angels" (from Devil's Angels soundtrack)
2. "Satan" (from Satan's Sadists soundtrack)
3. "Let Yourself Go" (Elvis Presley)
4. "N.I.B." (Black Sabbath)
5. "Lord of the Thighs" (Aerosmith)
6. "Action Woman" (The Litter)
7. "Rough Boy" (ZZ Top)
8. "With a Girl Like You" (The Troggs)
9. "Find Somebody" (The Young Rascals)
10. "Crying In The Rain" (The Everly Brothers)

Danzig is:

Glenn Danzig | Vocals
Tommy Victor | Guitar
Johnny Kelly | Drums


The Review:

In lieu of doing a more traditionally formatted review, in which I would normally break down the positives and negatives of an album, I’m going to frame this more as if I were addressing Danzig directly. Danzig’s had an enormous impact on my life dating back to the mid 90s when I first heard the band’s debut album. If this comes across as self-serving, I apologize, but this seems to be the only way I feel I can communicate my feelings about this album.

I first heard Danzig in 1994 thanks to a childhood friend who had the debut album. I was borderline obsessed with finding all of the band’s albums and learning whatever information I could. I was twelve at that point, and I had never heard anyone deal with religion so subversively. In a sense Danzig was a gateway into much darker musical interests. The music was so infectious, and Danzig himself was so compelling, as the chiseled rock god howling about fire and sex and demons.

Over the next few years I found everything I could, buying up all of the albums available, including Danzig 1-4, the first Danzig VHS, “Black Aria” and the single for “Dirty Black Summer” with “When Death Had No Name” as the b-side. I even bought a used version of the box set version of ‘How the Gods Kill’, with the bonus VHS and the awesome H.R. Giger artwork raised up from the box. I went on to buy damn near anything I could find from The Misfits and Samhain, and one of my great music fan regrets is that I didn’t snag the “13 Hits from Hell” promo from the Virgin Megastore I worked at before they got called back after the release was cancelled.

As the years went on, I often found myself in the role of a Danzig apologist, acknowledging that ‘Blackacidevil’ was a rough transition, but arguing that ‘Satan’s Child’ brought a lot of what I loved about Danzig early on, even if it was wrapped up in different dressing. I’ve grudgingly admitted to myself that Danzig sounded hoarse and tired after ”Blackacidevil”, and that you can’t go around shoving enormous hardcore dudes without expecting some fists to fly in response. And, while I’m in the middle of confession, I’ve admitted to myself that “Circle of Snakes” wasn’t all that good, though I still strongly contend that ‘Deth Red Sabaoth’ was his best record since the days of the original Danzig lineup.

On ‘Deth Red Sabaoth’, Danzig’s voice seemed to come back to him. His singing was at the level you’d hope for a man to sound like in his mid 50s and some 15 years after his last truly classic album. The songs were compositionally on point, but the album’s production flaws did some real damage to the overall presentation, and the album suffers as a result. To me, that makes the album a victory, given all that had gone on leading up to the album’s release.

So here we are. It’s 2015 and Danzig’s releasing ‘Skeletons’, the band’s first ever album of cover songs. And as much as it kills me to say it; the album’s a mess. It’s a collection of demos that desperately needed to be re-worked before being released. The recording quality varies wildly from song to song, as does the overall execution of each song. The strength of Danzig’s vocal performance is pretty consistent with where he was at on ‘Deth Red Sabaoth’, perhaps even a bit better which, sadly, makes it the album’s only consistently positive attribute.

Instrumentally, Johnny Kelly and Tommy Victor are either uninspired or they’re actively detrimental to the album. If this album really is a collection of rough demos marketed as a finished album that might explain some of what’s going on. Tommy Victor throws pinch harmonics around like he gets a bonus for each one he uses. It feels as if someone were to make a supercut of every pinch harmonic he uses on the album, it would still be half as long as this album. It’s distracting, unnecessary, and ill-fitting at various points throughout the whole album.

Some of the album’s instrumental issues come as a result of simply being the wrong choice of style for the musicians involved. It’s hard to be mad at Johnny Kelly for taking the wrong approach to “Let Yourself Go”, for example, because he’s being asked to translate the drums for an old R&B song into drums for a heavy metal song. I’m not even sure that simply working with the original beat would work to Kelly’s strengths as a drummer, leaving aside whether that style would even make sense in a metal context. The idea behind the cover itself likely crippled the song before tracking ever started. It’s obviously a great fit for Danzig’s voice, but a poor choice for the remainder of the band.

In that sense, “Let Yourself Go” acts as a representation for the whole album. Whatever isn’t bad in concept is often harmed by an individual or multiple performances throughout. Ideally, “Skeletons” would have been an awesome opportunity to work with a variety of musicians, those better equipped to handle specific songs and play up their advantages. Instead we have some of Danzig’s strongest vocal work of the last twenty years, and a flat mess underneath it all.

 I take absolutely no joy in being this harsh on a Danzig album. I’m a huge fan, and his music was there for me during some of the best and worst times in my life. It will be in the future too. But I also believe in giving an honest assessment of an album, and this one is dead on arrival. Danzig as a band is in dire need of a shake up, and it is imperative that they find a new, independent producer. Someone who can give the band a good, consistent tone and challenge the band to do better than settle for demo-quality recording and half-hearted performance. And to think what could have been done when Danzig’s own performance is as good as it is.

You can pick up a Vinyl, CD or Digital copy here.

Band info: Facebook | Official Site

4 comments:

ynard said...

Spot on, bro.

Being a Danzig apologist ain't fun these days. Someone should travel back in time and make Rick Rubin and Danzig NOT TO mess up their relationship, which resulted in four golden eggs that I still cherish as "classics".

lostcauseforkl said...

Oh, what a sad, sad review. I just listened to the thing, and having been a fan of Tommy Victor for years, I cannot understand why he didn't do a.. good job.

Unknown said...

Check out the back of the inner-sleeve. Glenn is playing drums and guitar on a lot of tracks. He is probably more to blame for the lack luster intrumental performances.
Also I'm with you, the (crappy) pinch harmonics are too much. I think I'd enjoy the album a whole lot more if all the pinch harmonics tracks were stripped out

Kenneth Mullins said...

I felt the same after first listen. After a few rounds I fucking love it. Exactly what I'd expect.