Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Worth the Effort: 777: I Luciferi (2002) & Circle of Snakes (2004) - Danzig

Neil Young had Freedom. Lou Reed had New York. Enter, then, Glenn Danzig's 777: I Luciferi?
777: I LuciferiIt's true. The prolific Godfather of Ghoul-Rock, practicing his craft for well over 20 years by the release of his namesake band's seventh album in 2002, has produced surprisingly varied works within his genre. Like other rock-and-roll trailblazers, determined not to please anybody but himself, Glenn Danzig makes albums his way - whether or not fans agree has often seemed secondary to his musical vision. This has resulted in a rocky road for some listeners, especially since 1996's divergent 5: Blackacidevil, but it's safe to say that I Luciferi, a rebirth worthy of mention alongside rock's greatest, will bring a smile to even the most jaded misfit's face. It is, simply put, a powerhouse.
To be a Danzig fan is an exercise in endurance. One must generally exert one's will not to yearn for the past. Forget about the Misfits. Don't think of Samhain. And quit wishing for those American Records years. The incarnation of Danzig represented on I Luciferi nearly erases longtime whines for memories of past glories, revamping the sound in the meantime, replacing power-chords and clarity with all-out crunch and grind. More reminiscent of the glory of Danzig's former Samhain, this record hits its stride immediately with the instrumental "Unendlich" and never stumbles nor strays from the path it blazes. "Black Mass" starts the pace off nicely, chugging along at mid-tempo, compelling the listener to turn the volume up, way up, and segues into the all-out twister, "Wicked Pussycat." By this point, you're hooked. It's the incredible dynamics of "Dead Inside," though, that really sell I Luciferi.
Like Samhain's seminal November Coming Fire, I Luciferi provides another rollercoaster-like thrill midway through, with the one-two knockout punch of the title track and "Naked Witch." "Angel Blake" slows the pace a little and settles into a deep, sinister territory that lingers throughout the remainder of the album. As "Without Light, I Am" winds up, the listener is left thanking either God or Lucifer for the glorious renaissance that is I Luciferi and is reaching for the "repeat" button on the CD player. I personally sat through three straight listens the first time through. An incredible album. A keeper. A classic.

Circle of SnakesTo be a Danzig fan, true blue, is to move ever forward, never looking back lest ye turn into a pillar of salt. I Luciferi made the task easier, for it rocked hard and it rocked well. Circle of Snakes, the eighth full-length effort from the ever-changing self-titled lineup followed in 2004 in the same vein. It wails, then it howls, then it screams. Repeat.

Forget, once and for all, the industrial-alt-metal musings of Blackacidevil and 6:66 Satan's Child. They had their moments, albeit few and far between (though Satan's Child was indeed a step in the right direction). Circle of Snakes winds itself back beyond the Samhain-esque raw rockery revisited on I Luciferi and settles comfortably into the Motörhead-esque territory of constant grind.

Danzig and Co. start things off with the appropriate obligatory dirge of "Wotan's Procession" and seque directly into the bona fide rock of "Skin Carver," which sets the tone for the remainder of the album. It presents a simple riff set against a simple (though powerful) rhythm section and churns, baby. Come then the third number and title track, "Circle of Snakes," which repeats the same formula, the only difference being it rocks a few notches harder. And continue. Circle of Snakes presents no guitar trickery and, to be honest, no tracks that rival memorable highlights from the established Danzig canon. That said, there aren't really any lowlights, either. In fact, the album closer, "Black Angel, White Angel" - an uptempo number that builds upon its own momentum for the duration - leaves the listener strangely, surprisingly, satisfied. The head has been banged and it has been banged well. Sleep well, heavy metal soldier. Rest easy, assured that the old guys can, indeed, still rock.

Both of these records are essential entries in the Danzig catalogue and are a direct progression to the full-on return to glory, 2010's Deth Red Sabaoth. It seems downright criminal that both are currently out of print. I Luciferi is fairly easily found for around $10 anywhere used music is sold but Circle of Snakes is harder to come by and you may expect to pay over $30 for a copy. It's worth it.

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