By the time 1988 rolled around, Glenn Danzig was already a music legend with over a decade-long career under his ghoulish belt. He had already left his imprint on two influential punk bands. Although much more underground at the time than today, The Misfits was one of the preeminent hardcore punk bands to ever come into being. The were innovated, copied and had a huge mythos since they were relatively short-lived. Samhain was even more underground, playing up the splatter and gore theme of the horror punk angle, and had several influential releases. Moving on to a solo project, and partnering with mega-producer Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C. LL Cool J) the Def American label honcho seemed like a calculated risk at the time. The results were explosive and arguably produced the best, most endearing music of Glenn’s career with his new band Danzig and his eponymous debut, which was released thirty years ago today.
Originally conceived as another punk sounding project, Rubin has taken credit for getting Glenn to rearrange the tracks into dirgey, blues rock and heavy metal, rather than another punk affair. With Glenn’s incredible voice, he shined as the centerpiece of every song. The heaviness and pure rock and roll aspect of the tracks had more in common with AC/DC, ZZ Top, Accept, early Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, and thus helped the band cross over to a wide range of thrash metal, traditional heavy metal, classic rock, and punk fans alike. This made Danzig a surprise smash hit. Having Rubin, the “it” producer of the 1980s helm the record gave additional dap to the name and pop critics took notice of Danzig the important artist, perhaps for the first time ever.
The crown jewel of the album is ‘Mother’, which later gained popularity with its stripped down video to match its sound found favor on MTV. However, the entire album is a deep affair with amazing songs, great lyrics, and dry production. It’s almost super heavy from the writing, in spite of itself, with nearly no distortion, not too many overdubs, and only a few solo breaks. The original Danzig band included wizard level players John Christ on guitar and previous Danzig affiliates Eerie Von (Samhain) on bass and Chuck Biscuits (Misfits, Black Flag, Circle Jerks) on drums. James Hetfield of Metallica, himself a major Misfits/Glenn fan, sang on ‘Twist of Cain’, and ‘Possession’. From the opening track to the last the album boils with sexuality, evil, religious symbolism, straight up satanic lyrics, anguish, and raw emotion.
Every track is excellent with nary any filler. Some of the more notable cuts on the album include opener ‘Twist of Cain’, ‘Not Of This World’, the strip club anthem ‘She Rides’, ‘Am I Demon’, quasi-original/cover song ‘The Hunter’, and ‘Evil Thing’. These are all essential Danzig tracks, some of which they have continued to perform ever since.
The impact of this album can’t be understated for the time. It not only came along on par with its peers as mandatory listening for metalheads in 1988, it renewed interest in Danzig’s earlier music. Many of his contemporary bands and singers copied Glenn’s singing on this album, notably Hetfield, who became the most copied singer of his generation. Metallica, in turn, was also heavily influenced by this album, copying certain aspects on “The Black Album”, Load and Reload. Other bands showing this influences includes Volbeat, Godsmack, Doomriders and many more. Also, when the resurgence of trad metal happened in the last decade, “Danzig I” has been often mentioned. The band is on the road this year, celebrating this album and really all of his solo material. Danzig has had bigger selling albums and even hit songs on radio decades later, but it all started here in terms of mass acceptance and popularity. Let’s celebrate this badass album today!