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Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: Danzig - Skeletons

And there it finally is: Danzig’s highly anticipated cover album ‘Skeletons’, about which he has been talking for years now. This album, considered to be the 10th full-length Danzig album, is a collection of cover songs, all of which are among Mr. Danzig’s personal favorites and a lot of of which formed the musical spirit and backbone of young Glenn Danzig. When looking at the cover art you immediately know where Danzig came from, because it shows Mr. Danzig with makeup mimicking a skull, a reference to his time as a Misfit, which he was well over 30 years ago. Misfits was a hardcore punk band that disbanded after six years and two albums in 1983. They were primarily known for their make up: White painted faces with black around the eyes. Glenn Danzig, singer and key specialist, decided to go his own way and started Samhain, a horror punk band with distinct metal influences. Three years later Samhain evolved into Danzig. Since then about a gazillion different guitarists have played various parts in the band’s history, which resulted in nine full-length albums up until this release. Also starring on this release are Prong guitarist/vocalist Tommy Victor and former Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly.

Danzig has created a sound of their own, it really is not hard to recognize their songs, mostly due to the low, distinctly throaty voice of Glenn, who always sounds as if he has to work really hard to get all the notes right. This of course also translates to the songs on ‘Skeletons’, this album basically is a Danzigification of ten songs that hold significance for Glenn in one way or the other. The first song is ‘Devils angels’, a song taken from the biker movie from the sixties with the same name, which was originally performed by Davie Allan & The Arrows. Danzig added some punk elements to it, which completely transforms the feel of the song from a typical sixties tune to, well, a punk track. The second song is taken from a soundtrack of a sixties movie as well: ‘Satan’, from Satan’s Sadists, another biker movie. This one too gets a punkish make-over, which is actually quite good. A bit more speed than the previous song, a bit more rock, Glenn screaming as we know him.

We stick with the movie theme some more with Elvis’ ‘Let yourself go’, a song from the movie ‘Speedway’. He ups the speed, adds a heavy riff, some screaming guitars and his own voice to transform this into an energetic rock song. And then he takes on a legendary song form a legendary band: ‘N.I.B.’ from Black Sabbath. Though tough to make this cover this without sounding as if you’re simply replaying it, Danzig actually delivers a nice version. The riff, along with the entire song, is heavier, the solo modernized. Glenn’s voice is quite suitable for the slow, dragging Sabbath songs, adding to the overall ominousness of the cover.

Next up is Aerosmith’s ‘Lord of your thighs’. Though musically way heavier than the original, which is a good thing, I think the vocals are pretty much killing this one. The low, throaty voice is out of place, this song was definitely not written for a voice like that. Too bad, since musically it’s an improvement. The Litter’s ‘Action woman’ is next in line and also gets punk makeover more or less similar to the makeover the first two tracks had gotten. Comparing this with the originals is like comparing oranges to apples, it turns out to be a completely different song. On to somewhat of a surprise on the album, at least vocal wise. In ZZ Top’s ‘Rough boy’ Glenn shows the sensitive side of his voice, dropping the screaming to sing this ballad. Even though he still sounds a bit throaty I must admit he is capable of adding some emotion and feeling to his voice. It still is not ideal for it, though.

The next two songs, The Troggs’ ‘With a girl like you’ and The Young Rascals’ ‘Find somebody get the, by now familiar, punkification, and the album ends with The Everly Brothers’ ‘Crying in the rain’, again a ballad, again a bit of a surprise vocal-wise, even though it’s no longer a novelty after the ZZ Top cover. Once again Glenn proves he is capable of more than just hoarse screaming, but ballads are not really in his comfort zone.

‘Skeletons’ is a collection of covers of songs that are of great significance to Glenn Danzig and to which he added his own ideas musical-wise, which mainly means he plays them in punk-style. Something he obviously had on his bucket list for quite a few years. Hearing another one’s interpretation of songs is always interesting, especially when they have had a great impact on someone, but it’s definitely no guarantee for good music. That is the case here as well, at least partly. There’s a few nice interpretations, like ‘N.I.B.’ and ‘Let yourself go’, but overall this is not an album I’d play more than once. I get bored with Glenn’s voice quite easily, especially since a lot of the songs get pretty much the same makeover. Apart from that his choice of songs is not necessarily mine, there aren’t really that many originals I liked in the first place. These factors make this a tough listen for me at times. Considering this album has been highly anticipated I’m actually disappointed with it, even when I never have been a huge Danzig, Samhain or Misfits fan. I suppose, when you like either of those bands, or Glenn Danzig’s vocals, it’s worth your time, but I very much doubt he will win new fans with this album.

Written by Henric van Essen

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