Friday, 19 May 2017

Danzig - Danzig

Provenance: For many a year, Glenn Danzig seemed an enigmatic figure, someone who lurked around the periphery of the stuff I enjoyed without ever taking centre stage. Through friends I was dimly aware that his work was worth considering; he cropped up as an influencer in magazine articles; and of course, he was once knocked out cold by the frontman of a support act, which handily for us was caught on video.

This all changed in 2010 when I saw him at Sweden Rock Festival, a performance seared into my memory. Firstly, it should be said that the erstwhile Misfit is a strange looking fellow. Squat, lantern-jawed, top-heavy and bordered by lank, black hair, his general mien is that of a gone-to-seed gothic prop-forward. His arrival on stage was comical - a middle-aged whirling mass of kung-fu kicks and karate chops, performed with such gusto that he was winded throughout the first two songs. Thereafter he recovered his composure and delivered a blistering set.

That being said, the first chord that heralded 'Mother' sent the crowd into a frenzy, to which Danzig responded by reprising his energetic Chuck Norris routine, and thus relegating the vocals to a Vic Reeves 'club singer' rendition. Gloriously funny.

Review: How did Danzig manage to mangle his vocals even further than one night in Norje? Because one of the most striking aspects of this album is that wobbly baritenor of his, like a pissed-up Thursday night Elvis impersonator, utterly unique and instantly identifiable. It really shouldn't work but somehow - somehow - it sounds totally cool.

Another aspect of the sound readily apparent to the attentive listener is the no-frills, unadorned production. Consequently, drums sound like drums, guitars sound like guitars, Danzig sounds like someone who's kicked in the mouth a few times. This is undoubtedly due to Rick Rubin's unfussy recording techniques. The odd instrument is double-tracked here and there and one can discern a slight delay on the snare, but overall Danzig is mercifully free of bells and whistles (opener 'Twist of Cain' aside, which literally does feature a bell).

Looking at both the album artwork and Glenn Danzig himself, I was expecting a skull-crushingly heavy outing bursting with detuned guitar and thrashy drums. Instead, what we're presented with here is a kind of skeletal, melodic hard rock shot through with an anthracite blackness. Lyrically, it's every bit as bad-ass as can be imagined, Satan and his sulphurous crew liberally invoked. It's also catchy as hell, especially the dark strut of 'Twist of Cain' and the Tipper Gore-baiting, face-smashing classic 'Mother'. It is, however, a touch rum to see 'The Hunter' credited solely to Glenn Danzig in the CD liner notes when it is so obviously a re-write of the Albert King song popularised by Free (which was, if memory serves correctly, written by members of Booker T and the MGs. Oh well.)

In fact, nothing on this album sucks. From start to finish, it shines blackly as a tight, conceptually coherent collection of bluesy proto-metallic hell-hymns. What does it sound like? Well, the chugging guitars (all guitars on Danzig are overdriven) and rudimentary production puts one in mind of the better New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Angel Witch. However, the idiosyncratic singing that dominates the album pushes it more towards someone like Mercyful Fate - the singing styles are different, but the shock one receives when first exposed to the vocals of either band is comparable.

In summation, Danzig is an top-tier album and listening to it just once will make you feel one thousand percent more diabolical. But you know what, kids? It's all fun and games saying 'hail Satan' and the like, but what's truly elite and cult is sitting down to a good book:

No wonder he's topless - the silly beggar seems to have put his library right next to the swimming pool!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Hot Shots: #10 - Roy Buchanan - The Messiah Will Come Again

Despite the 1.4 million hits this video has garnered, in his day Roy Buchanan was more a musician's musician rather than a household name. Oft cited as an influence, most notably by Gary Moore (you can hear Buchanan's fingerprints all over 'Parisienne Walkways'), Buchanan was a maestro of the Telecaster. Just listen to him wringing emotion out of practically every note he plays in this wonderful live performance.

Sadly, yet another person who left us too early, Buchanan died by his own hand (though friends dispute this) in a Virginia jail cell aged just 48.