Release Date: May 26, 2017
Record label: Nuclear Blast
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Punk Metal
Musically, post-Misfits/Samhain Glenn Danzig and Metallica have little to nothing in common. However, when it comes to their respective career arcs, the curvature is almost identical. Both began with a blinding flashes of unparalleled genius via their first four studio albums and the subsequent influence they inflamed. As their careers wore on, they both experimented with their patented sounds.
Being a metal singer is physically demanding, and even the most seemingly triumphant of them know you can't slay age. Rob Halford knows it, James Hetfield knows it--does Glenn Danzig know it? His "metal Elvis" voice isn't what it used to be, and he is his voice. It hasn't kept him away from touring--the Misfits reunion finally happened last year, after all--but his performances have suffered live and in the studio.
The first collection of new original music from the punk-metal legend since 2010's Deth Red Sabaoth, Black Laden Crown follows a surprisingly busy three-year stretch that saw Glenn Danzig issue a covers album (2015's Skeletons), reunite with Jerry Only and Doyle for a pair of Misfits reunion shows, and appear on an episode of the sketch comedy TV series Portlandia. Black Laden Crown is the 11th studio long-player from Danzig (the band), and it marks a return to the brooding, largely midtempo, blues-based biker horror jams of yore, with a smattering of doomy, Samhain-era malevolence tossed in for good measure -- the latter Danzig iteration looms large on the sludgy, nearly six-minute title track. Recorded with multiple drummers over a four-year span, and produced with the opposite of finesse by Danzig himself, the nine-track set never really gels, but like Deth Red Sabaoth, its utter contempt for production values occasionally works in its favor, effectively capturing the pugilistic, comic book/horror punk aesthetic of the Misfits -- tapping British comic book artist Simon Bisley for the garish cover art was a nice touch.
It's hard for a dark 'n' heavy rock star to maintain a suitable patina of evil when viral internet memes picture him in a supermarket parking lot carrying kitty litter to his Jaguar. Or when a backstage video with 3,577,795 views shows said rock star going down hard thanks to a one-punch K.O. But with Black Laden Crown, singer Glenn Danzig, sufferer of those online indignities, plows forward, furthering his dark, blues-doom-metal legacy in 43 minutes and nine well-crafted, if generally unremarkable, songs.
In an era where everyone is looking backwards, it might be time for Danzig to revisit his roots. It is quite spectacular when an artist decides to go down the one-man show approach. Delusions of grandeur can certainly lead to a larger than life release, especially when the said artist is at the absolute peak of his/her inspiration. However, at the case of the 62-year old Danzig whose previous effort is the downright embarrassing Skeletons, the outcome of the aforementioned approach is simply the dark and heavy but painfully average Black Laden Crown. Probably the most disappointing thought regarding Danzig's latest release is how much better it could have been.
Probably the most ironic thing about Danzig's new album, Black Laden Crown, is that despite the cheesecake cover and the Wacky Races tinged lead single of "Devil on Highway 9," it's actually his most mature album to date. And, on top of that, it's certainly his gloomiest, at times referencing the grimy murk heard in the darker recesses of Samhain. In stark contrast to 2010's Deth Red Sabaoth, which at times seemed to allude to the harder rocking, high energy aspects of Led Zeppelin, Crown finds Danzig and collaborator Tommy Victor pulling waaaay back on the reigns and dealing more in ambiance and texture than bluesy licks. It's a smart move.
Jake, my four-year-old son has been obsessed with the Misfits for half his life. Part of his interest in the group is purely visual--the vintage press photos with the sculpted hair, makeup, and bodies; the ubiquitous "Crimson Ghost" skeleton on the album covers and t-shirts. Of course, he likes the songs, too. The early Misfits wrote quick, catchy, sing-along horror-pop for people who love darkness, and Jake loves darkness.