Deth Red Sabaoth
Finally, an album that is (mostly) worthy of the Danzig moniker
Few fans will dispute that Glenn Danzig’s first four releases under the moniker of Danzig (1988’s Danzig, 1990’s Danzig II: Lucifuge, 1992’s Danzig III: How the Gods Kill and 1994’s 4p) are absolute classics, and that line-up at the time (the original line-up - comprising vocalist Danzig, guitarist John Christ, bassist Eerie Von and drummer Chuck Biscuits) is still considered the strongest and most musically capable ensemble put together under Danzig.
But it’s from the moment that the original line-up split in 1996, right through to the present day where most confusion sets, with each one of Danzig’s releases throughout the years earning both critical praise and damnation in equal measure. In other words, while Danzig’s four albums since the original band split haven’t quite earned overwhelming praise from all, fans at least agree for the most part that nothing Danzig has released since 1996 has come close to matching his first four studio efforts.
Since the release of Circle of Snakes in 2004 (an album that I personally believe is one of Danzig’s most uninspired and downright unimaginative album releases to date), Danzig has focussed his attention on projects outside of music (most notably film and book works), with a collection of rarities (2007’s The Lost Tracks of Danzig) and a solo album (2006’s Black Aria II) emerging within that time.
But after a lengthy absence, Danzig (who is backed by Prong/Ministry guitarist/bassist Tommy Victor and Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly) has returned with his first album in six long years - Deth Red Sabaoth.
As with any new Danzig album, his ninth effort was preceded by its fair share of hype, with Danzig going to great lengths to convince listeners that his ninth effort would sound more organic than his former efforts, and how Deth Red Sabaoth would remind listeners of the early Danzig classic efforts.
Having been fed the same lines countless times before, I greeted Deth Red Sabaoth with scepticism, and with my expectation lowered. What I didn’t expect is that for once, Danzig actually lived up to his promise and finally delivered an album that actually exceeded expectations.
The album gets off to a truly promising start, with Hammer of the Gods evoking the feel and vibe of the band’s classic days. Victor fleshes out the song with a distinctly Christ-like heavy riff, and coupled with a vocal performance that Danzig hasn’t managed in years (let’s face it, his voice isn’t quite what it used to be), the opener is nothing short of rock solid. Sure, the production and mix is still a bit of a sore point (Danzig’s vocals are a little high in the mix), and Victor is tone deaf on the solo front, but they can be overlooked for the most part. The riff heavy The Revengeful is another solid groove based effort, and a strong follow up to the opener. The song itself is a little repetitive in places, but at least the production and sound mix seems to get back on track.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse with Rebel Spirits. Although good, the song’s chorus doesn’t stand out quite as much as hoped, and Victor’s solo just sounds plain unmapped and laid down there on the spot.
Despite its simplistic riff and thundering repetitive drum patterns (courtesy of Danzig himself), the slow and moody sounding Black Candy is an absolute classic Danzig in every sense, and a definite highlight on the album. Following in quick succession is the album’s first single promotional video clip On a Wicked Night (which nicely starts out acoustic before the band kick in, and thankfully is mixed so Victor’s random soloing is largely placed in the background), the crooning beauty of Deth Red Moon and the heavy blues feel of Ju Ju Bone (the second single from the album), both of which prove that Danzig is back on form, even if not on every track.
The dark and doom-like Night Star Hel is good, but is a little too drawn out to really captivate throughout its seven minute duration (even if it does thrash out a little on the last couple of minutes), while the ten minute/two part Pyre of Souls is another song that overstays its welcome, but is at least stronger than the former with its two pieces (the chanting Incanticle and its rockier sequel Seasons of Pain) standing out from one another to break things up.
Finishing the album is Left Hand Rise Above, which again captures the vibe of Danzig’s earlier efforts, with the song switching from quieter passages to louder moments, and the transition hinges primarily through Danzig’s vocals. Like the opener, the song is marred by a poor production value, and tends to lose some of its impact. But if you look beyond its obvious faults, it’s still a strong song regardless.
Over the years, Danzig has built up my hopes, only to disappoint with each new release, and with each new album sounding inferior in quality to its previous release in terms of production, song writing and performance (both from the band and Danzig himself).
Deth Red Sabaoth is the first Danzig album in years where I can actually enjoy more than I don’t. Sure, the production is far from perfect, Danzig’s vocals aren’t quite what they used to be, and Victor still can’t play the guitar, but there are plenty of great songs on Deth Red Sabaoth, and Danzig sounds truly inspired and in form more than he has done in years. Those qualities alone make this album worth recommending to those who thought Danzig’s days as an artist went the way of the original line-up.
(Evilive Records/The End Records)