Saturday, July 23, 2011

Worth the Effort: Initium - Samhain - 1984

InitiumComing close to wrapping up my adulations of all things Samhain, I'm going back to the beginning, the debut record, Initium. For latter-day Danzig fans, this was really the dark genesis of what would become the namesake powerhouse. From the Crystar skull to the Giant Gila Monster poster font, many of the iconic elements all started here. While Samhain is largely viewed as a transitional project, Initium really makes no dramatic leaps from the final Misfits record, Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood, but does manage to incorporate some brand new sounds into Danzig's arsenal. The subject matter stays as dark and the tempo, while not as frenetic as the Misfits, hasn't yet drastically slowed, either. Coming in at under 30 minutes, it's a brief, yet intense, statement and a really exciting record, even over 25 years after its release.

Glenn was credited with guitars on Initium though Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat is credited for leads on four tracks. On- and off-again Danzig cohort Steve Zing played the drums (and also was a part of the ultimate Samhain tribute, Son of Sam, along with another Samhain drummer, London May).

Initium starts with what would be a Samhain mainstay: an opening chant/dirge. This segues into the superb "Samhain," a song that still stands as the very definition of the band's sound.

"Black Dream" and "All Murder, All Guts, All Fun" definitely retain the late-Misfits vibe but "Macabre" and its intense lyric, far removed from any astro-zombie flick, brings something entirely new to the table. (cerebrus) birth is pain / (succubus) life is pain / (cerebrus) death is pain ... mortals of leveled grace / the world's end fierce / we who live are ever dead ... the feet are cloven / the child is burned:

"Horror Biz" also starts the brief Samhain tradition of covering and rearranging a Misfits tune and is a lot of fun. "The Shift" and "The Howl" provide some nice, moody atmospherics and the album's closer, "Archangel" is another 'fits throwback, actually started in 1981.

this little scarecrow pin,
a gift for ordering all the
reissues at once, was the
one thing E-Magine did right

Like all Samhain CDs, every pressing seems to differ. Many of the Caroline CDs tacked on the Unholy Passion EP (feels like finding a Caroline pressing of a Samhain album that didn't include Unholy Passion would be the real find). Some versions reportedly only included the "Unholy Passion" title track. In usual slipshod fashion, E-Magine's 2001 reissue also includes this "bonus" (when they finally reissued the whole damn EP as a standalone, too) though my guess is they simply used whatever Caroline CD they had on hand and used it to copy from as their artwork makes no mention whatsoever of this inclusion. Speaking of the artwork, the E-Magine pressing is the usual piece of shit in this department with muddy, washed out graphics, very apparent cut-and-paste of the title elements (how can you not match black to black?) and a horrid photo in the booklet. If you can find the Caroline CD, do so, as the E-Magine version offers nothing at all superior. Both seem to run between $30 and $40 online and I saw Initium at a used CD shop as recently as a month ago with an $8.99 tag.

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