Black Laden Crown might make you black laden frown unless you live for undercooked slabs of metallic demon rock.
June 1, 2017 | by James Greene, Jr.
Black Laden Crown
Nuclear Blast, 2017
It’s the cardinal sin of mediocrity that cripples Black Laden Crown, the first disc of original material from humorless heavy metal marauders Danzig in seven years (their 11th effort overall). The band plays technically well, but we never feel the true heat of their alleged flame. It’s white-hot competency, and perhaps we’re lucky to have even that, considering four different drummers are credited on this album. Danzig mainstay Tommy Victor handles the Black Laden guitars and continues to prove he’s never met a pinch harmonic he didn’t like.
Glenn Danzig, who founded this band in 1988 following legendary jaunts with the Misfits and Samhain, retains a power and majesty in his once world-renowned voice. Unfortunately, like the Parthenon and Jerry Mathers before him, the ravages of time have taken their toll. It has been over 15 years since Danzig recorded an album of his own stuff where his vocals did not include a certain amount of breathy huffing or hoarseness. Black Laden Crown is no different. There are moments where he sings like he’s been guzzling from the Fountain of Youth; there are other times, such as on the sour biker snarl “Devil on Hwy 9,” where you wonder how takes three through eight sound, or how much of the recording budget should be allotted for hot tea and Sucrets.
And yet, Danzig squeezes out a few tunes on BLC that have earned their spot on any future greatest hits tombstone. “Last Ride” slithers through the grass and bites you with melody when it’s least expected. The opening six-minute dirge “Black Laden Crown” is a beautiful entry in the field of warlock burial anthems. Deliciously morose chanting pairs well with Victor’s screaming guitar — it’s almost a shame the song breaks into a more moderate tempo three quarters of the way through. Let a funeral procession process, you hellspawns.
Also a shame: Black Laden Crown’s abominable cover art, a flea market rendering of a Taylor Momsen figure dressed as some brand of viking that lacks all poetry and nuance but is certain to emphasize the subject’s breasts. Even for a demon-rock property this artwork’s quality is embarrassing. If Glenn is responsible for handcrafting the drawing I hope he withheld his own paycheck.
Let it also be known that the man waited 29 years into his career with his eponymous band to craft a song titled “The Witching Hour.” That kind of restraint should be praised. Black Laden Crown also features “Skulls & Daisies,” which sounds like a parody of Danzig’s milieu, though it actually proves to be one of the more convincing pieces here, making enough of an argument for Danzig album #12. Pray to the witch’s coven they can afford a real illustrator and some lozenges for that one.