August 30, 2018 | by James Greene, Jr.
Upon the release of Danzig at the end of August 1988, the Washington Post suggested “the band might better be called Rubin” — a reference to the album’s producer, Def Jam impresario Rick Rubin — and wrote the quartet off as a “mean, if predictable, little noise machine.” It’s true that even with Rubin at the helm this group never made another disc as “in bounds” as Danzig, or one as constrained by the conventions of hard rock. Every move on this, their debut LP, feels very deliberate, but they’re all the right moves. In its many sweet spots, Danzig’s got kick, bite, punch, sex, death, blasphemy, and Danzig (comma Glenn), howling with renewed vigor after a tumultuous 10 years in the underground washed him up on mainstream rock’s shores.
Glenn Danzig and bassist Eerie Von spent half a decade together finessing Samhain’s goth vision, but the other two Danzig members — guitarist John Christ and drummer Chuck Biscuits — arrived just six months before Danzig. Six months is plenty of time, though, when you have a percussionist as vibrant and intuitive as Biscuits. A band is only as good as their drummer, which is part of the reason Danzig went into a goddamn tailspin when Chuck left in 1994.
Chuck’s work is sort of buried in the mix on Danzig, “totally absorbed into John Christ’s guitar,” Mick Mercer wrote in a period review for Melody Maker. “Flashing through electrified stubble, defecating like a cheetah in full flight….” Good luck erasing from your mind the image of Chuck Biscuits galloping across a savannah while shitting his brains out.
Just when you think Danzig is starting to drag, “Mother” kicks off with simmering fury, the barroom brawl that was our go-to Danzig reference before Glenn picked up that bag of kitty litter. Our hero later claimed he called Rick Rubin immediately after writing “Mother” to say he just put down the “best song he’d ever written… the song I always wanted to write.” Sounds like a scene from the Danzig biopic that will absolutely never be made. “Mother” might be Glenn’s crowning achievement outside the Misfits, but this story would be better if he’d called Rick Rubin saying the same thing about his greasy fuck anthem “She Rides.”
Aesthetically, it’s hard to beat Danzig’s cover. The menace of that shadowy cow skull, warning but also beckoning the listener. Less is more, particularly in ’88 when most rock ‘n’ roll record covers were detailed renderings of radiated demons eating tanks and entrails on Mars.
Hair metal never really died (Poison still hasn’t broken up), but prior to grunge, the genre was threatened by Danzig’s foreboding blues rock milieu. It’s the most commercial disc Glenn ever made — only because he managed to dial down his Satanism to a dull roar. He’s still obviously some breed of warlock (possibly a highlander) but one who wouldn’t be out of place sitting in your average Middle America juke joint or roadhouse. This ties into consideration Hollywood gave Glenn many years ago for the role of Wolverine; see him scowling in the group photo inside Danzig, cloaked in the darkness of leather and his own hair, and it rings like a bell.
So roll around in all the kitty litter you want, Glenn. Danzig is a legacy performance that cannot be torn apart by memes or tweets or even your own diminishing artistic returns.
Listen to All of Danzig