Thursday, July 21, 2011

Worth the Effort: Final Descent - Samhain - 1990

Samhain's last gasp, an odds and sods collection, Final Descent pulls together five tracks originally planned for the aborted '88 Samhain Grim as the band evolved into Danzig proper. John Christ had joined Samhain following the departure of November Coming Fire guitarist Pete "Damien" Marshall and the core of classic-era American Records Danzig was in place. As with all of Samhain's releases, Final Descent's contents vary widely depending upon which pressing you find and even the history of the original recordings is uncertain.

The sound of 1988's Danzig is very, very apparent on Final Descent and, while not quite satisfying as an album proper, it serves as a superb bridge between the two projects. "Night Chill" provides the mandatory moody instrumental Samhain opener before launching into "Descent," whose unpolished punk wail and drums by Glenn himself (or a drum machine, depending upon which source you trust) juxtapose nicely with John Christ's guitar, more distinctive and accomplished than any the band had showcased before (that is, unless that's Glenn's guitar, something that has been rumored on every Samhain release). It's "Death...In Its Arms," though, that has the Danzig fan sit up and take notice. Glenn is actually singing - and that combined with Christ's signature pinch harmonics sounds like it could have come right off of 1988's eponymous debut. This was noteworthy until bassist Eerie Von supposedly revealed that the track was actually recorded the same year of Final Descent's eventual release during the sessions for Danzig II: Lucifuge, complete with Chuck Biscuits on drums (I have yet to see this actual interview and would love a link but, based on the track's sound, don't doubt this claim at all).

"Lords of the Left Hand" follows as another top-notch track propelled by some nice bass courtesy of Mr. Von and the "old stuff" ends with "The Birthing," a rote, by-the-numbers bit of filler, albeit with a nice, quick tempo.

This is where Final Descent gets interesting. And one instance in which the later E-Magine Records release is preferable over the original Caroline pressings. On the 1990 release, six tracks comprising a remixed (some say re-recorded and/or overdubbed) Unholy Passion EP (which was also available on some pressings of Initium) made up the balance of the record. The 2001 E-Magine reissue replaced those with four additional outtakes, three of which would go on to appear as refined versions on Danzig records; "Twist of Cain," "Trouble" and "Possession," and a second version of "Lords of the Left Hand." These early takes are fun to listen to and, with Unholy Passion available as a standalone, make Final Descent sound more like a full, cohesive record.

Unfortunately, as with all of the Samhain re-releases, E-Magine did a half-assed job with the packaging, listing tracks in the incorrect order, using poorly scanned and shoddily cropped artwork and producing what essentially looks like a bootleg. Thankfully, this one, even out of print, is relatively cheap and either version can be found for under $20. It's well worth the price to complete a Samhain collection, itself a discography with far too few entries.


  1. It's not an interview, but for whatever it's worth Misfits Central ( ) lists "Death...In Its Arms" as being recorded in 1990 in the discography which corresponds to that lineup.

  2. Thanks, James. They're a great resource and I'll trust what they say as well. Kind of bizarre in a sense to listen to Danzig as Samhain on a Samhain record out the same year as a Danzig record. Kind of like when Jourgensen decides he's not Ministry anymore and is Revolting Cocks instead.