Four or five months ago, we started getting the details to Glenn Danzig’s long awaited covers album. He got the ball rolling when he adorned the skull makeup for the first time in 35 years. He then went on to drop the track list (Sabbath, Aerosmith, the Everly Brothers, Elvis, of course) and album cover (an homage to David Bowie’s Pin Ups). On September 4th, he released the albums first single, “Devils Angels,” on a limited edition (500 copies) 7.” All copies sold in a heartbeat. Glenn and his band teased a few of the album’s songs during their 2015 tour; but now at long last, the full album is here. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t disappoint.
Glenn has described the album’s song selection as the basis for the songs he would go on to create, and subsequently, the album hits like a historic revue of his catalog and music history. Songs like Davie Allen and The Arrows’ “Devils Angels” and The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” are fast-paced, pissy, punk songs that recall Danzig’s early days with The Misfits. Considering Glenn said that he conceived the arrangement for “Devil’s Angels” in 1979, it’s not a stretch to imagine the Misfits giving this one a crack. “Devils Angels” and the track “Satan” are as much tributes to 60’s biker films, as they are to a specific artist. “Devils Angels” is the theme song to the 1967 film of the same name and “Satan” is from the 1969 film Satan’s Sadists.
Other songs sound like they would have found home in a Lucifuge-era live set, like Aerosmiths’ “Lord of the Thighs” and The Litter’s “Action Woman.” It should be noted that “Action Woman” freaking rocks. The covers of The Rascals’ “Find Somebody” and Sabbath’s “N.I.B” sound like Glenn’s current band (Tommy Victor, guitar; Johnny Kelly, drums; Steve Zing, bass) and what they probably play during rehearsals and sound checks.
“Find Somebody” starts out with a doomy, metal riff, but when the chorus kicks in, it’s downright catchy. “N.I.B” isn’t a huge departure from the original, but I’ll give Glenn credit: It’s one thing to do a cover song, but here he’s taking on probably the most identifiable voice in heavy metal. Our opinions on the outcome may vary; but you’ve gotta admit, the man’s got balls. And hey, Elvis Presley, Steven Tyler, and the Everly Bros are no slouches either. For those keeping score at home, this is Glenn’s second stab at a Black Sabbath tune (see also, “Hand of Doom” from 1996s Blackacidevil). “Find Somebody” also features a tight and tasteful guitar solo from Tommy Victor. The solo on “N.I.B” seems a little first-take-y, but on “Find Somebody,” the solo is hot.
The highlights of the album are Elvis’ “Let Yourself Go” and the Everly Brothers “Crying in the Rain.” Glenn previously covered Presley’s “Trouble” on 1993’s Thrall: Demonsweatlive EP. On “Let Yourself Go,” Glenn and his band deliver a sweaty and sinister take on the song from the 1968 film Speedway (where Elvis plays a racecar driver). Glenn’s voice is strong and powerful on this track and it instantly makes us impatient for the Danzig Sings Elvis album we keep hearing about. Oh yeah, another thing, Glenn plays drums on this track (and four others on the album) and he’s solid.
“Crying in the Rain” is a highlight, but also a bit of an oddity. Please trust that I am absolutely serious when I say this: This song sounds like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film. No bullshit. For this reviewers ears, it sounds like the only song that wasn’t Danzig-ified. The track is Danzig behind a piano and his voice truly sounds amazing. But, it doesn’t sound like there was a voice in Danzig’s head that said, “Okay, but make it sound like a Danzig song.” Rather, it sounds like Danzig just played this song straight-up and true. The effect is a bit disarming. Sure, it’s a bit of a downer of a song lyrically, and certainly, Glenn brings the melancholy, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t sound slightly optimistic. What’s more, it’s exactly these kinds of leaps that separate true artists from mere musicians. Regardless of the results, Glenn’s willing to let it all hang out.
The one song that I can’t seem to get into is the cover of ZZ Top’s “Rough Boy.” Glenn recently commented that he wanted his cover of the song to be more linear than the original. I believe he accomplished that; however, the song is redundant and repeats the same four-chord progression for four and half minutes. The saving grace is Glenn’s voice, which again, sounds strong and full against the sludgy, metal riff-age beneath it. Other than that, nothing else happens.
Danzig’s Skeletons is an essential for longtime fans and undoubtedly, a great starting point for listeners less familiar with his history. Unlike 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth (Danzig’s last, full-length studio album), things seems a little more stripped down on this affair. Where Deth Red seemed to have ProTools squealing through speakers at a higher clip than Tommy Victor’s pinch harmonics, Skeletons sounds more like it was recorded live (whether it was or not) and stripped of any superfluous over-dubbing/reverbing or polishing (in other words, sonically it’s closer to the Danzig debut album, than Deth Red). It is a fitting approach to a covers album. There’s not a band on earth that didn’t start by playing covers in a garage and this album sounds about as garage-rock as Danzig can get. On a deeper level, this may be the most fun Danzig release since his Misfits days. Perpetually portraying a no-bullshit attitude, every release from Samhain and Danzig has seemed to be deadly serious. I don’t mean to indicated that this recording wasn’t taken seriously, but there’s a looser quality in the recordings here that come off as confident and enthused, rather than a reimagining of a satanic ritual. Trust me, you’ll pump a fist, throw up devil-horns, and have a helluva good time blasting this album.
– J. Kevin Lynch