Oh, Glenn Danzig. There was a time long before now, before these dark days where the Misfits are almost better known as Jerry Only’s touring roster of whatever punk vets he can get his hands on than the pioneering horror-punk outfit they were under your leadership. Before your detours into pseudo-Ministry industrial metal threw off a good portion of your larger fanbase, before you got…well, chunky (like I have any room to talk), before you got KO’d by an unexpected punch, and before that shot of you with just-purchased cat litter became an internet meme.
And thankfully, that time has been left largely unsullied by the passage of history.
I refer, of course, to that glorious middle period. That largely-left-unexplored timespan between the Misfits’ Earth A.D./Wolfsblood and Danzig I. The season of the witch.
Infinitus sleep has ended and I live again.
Beyond race, beyond religion, beyond man’s fears, I am the end.
Now is release. Now comes revenge. Now is the pain.
You think you’ve known pain? You’ve known nothing.
Feel my touch. Feel its pulsing surge. Know the meaning of my gift.
Thus opens Glenn Danzig’s first post-Misfits release, Samhain’s 1984 LP Initium. Yeah, I know. Thus is also revealed Glenn’s tendency towards extreme pomposity. And here’s where we leave fun behind, for the most part. The splatterific antics depicted in the Misfits’ classics “Night of the Living Dead,” “Astro-Zombies,” “Skulls,” “Hollywood Babylon” and “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” are in the past. The darker elements of Glenn’s psyche as unveiled in “Halloween II” and the majority of Earth A.D./Wolfsblood (the former of which would be revisited by Samhain, and the latter of which was largely written for Samhain before the dissolution of the Misfits) would be pushed front and center, with lyrics delving into pagan and occult themes with a serious intent many would never have suspected based on the Famous Monsters of Filmland by way of Violent World Magazine atmosphere cultivated by the Misfits.
For three years, Glenn reveled in the darkly occult world of Samhain, mixing post-punk and goth influences with the punk practiced by the members that floated through the group’s lineups (beyond founding members Danzig, bassist Eerie Von and drummer Steve Zing, members of Minor Threat and Reagan Youth also participated). Glenn slowed the frenzied tempos of Earth A.D. down to a mid-paced crawl, and revealed that there was always just a hair’s breadth between the Misfits’ anthemic punk and heavy metal, paving the way for the transition into the full-blown blues metal practiced by the band Danzig.
Three years, three releases: 1984’s Initium, 1985’s EP Unholy Passion and 1987’s November-Coming-Fire. While the first two records are admirable, lasting pieces of work (the second of which has only been available in a vastly remixed/overdubbed version since 1987; the original mix is well worth tracking down), the band’s potential finally bore full fruit on their last album. Almost completely gone are any pretenses at being a punk band. The lineup (Glenn, Eerie Von, guitarist Damien—a holdover from Unholy Passion—and new drummer London May) plow full-force into gothic metal before there really was such a thing. Sure, you can hear echoes of LA death-rock acts like Christian Death and 45 Grave all over the place, particularly in Damien’s ringing, chorus-laden guitar tone; but Glenn has fully embraced the power of heavy metal here, and he’s not letting go. Listen to the drastic rearrangement of the Misfits b-side “Halloween II” and you can basically hear that first Danzig album champing at the bit to be let out.
Speaking of champing at the bit, there’s the epic album closer, “Human Pony Girl.” As far as I know, it’s the first song devoted to the “pony play” avenue of BDSM fetishism. So it’s got that going for it, which is nice. It’s a great song otherwise, don’t get me wrong. But when I first heard this track as a fresh-faced lad just off the farm back in ’88, well, I was sorta taken aback for a bit.
But overall, the album is a fiercely driving piece of proto-gothic metal; much rawer than the Danzig albums that would follow it (to get an idea of how Danzig I would have sounded as a Samhain album, check out Samhain’s Final Descent, which is largely composed of tracks that were intended for the scrapped album Samhain Grim, three of which were shortly thereafter rerecorded for Danzig), much more focused and accomplished than the records that preceded it, and dammit, more frightening than anything the Misfits put to wax.