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Pulse!   August 1990

Horror Business
Glenn Danzig takes a conservative path to '90s stardom
By Marc Weidenbaum

   By the end of the '80s, much of the country's limited
attention span focused on the twin excesses of heavy metal bands
and international big business. Save for the political themes of
a few groups - namely Metallica, Megadeth and their thrash
progeny - the two camps rarely met.
   Come 1990, both metal and the Market are paying the toll for a
decade's indulgences. And while politicos are busy holding the
hands of former free-market posterboys, their wives in the PMRC -
tired of leather and spandex - have turned their jaded gaze from
metal's supposed suicide-mongering to rap's supposed
promiscuity-mongering. And the listening public has followed,
making 2 Live Crew the W.A.S.P. of its generation.
   Having succumbed to the cartoon excess of their images, the
metal casualties are as easily counted as their highly leveraged
counterparts. Most of the '80s biggests have made their way
through one of Betty Ford's detox franchises: Motley Crue, Van
Halen, Guns N' Roses and Megadeth's Dave Mustaine among them.
Mustaine and Alice Cooper have traded in for a more insidious
demon, Top 40 songwriting partner Desmond Child. Metallica turned
in perhaps the weakest (though best-selling) album of its career
and toured with a giant, prone-to-topple statue of blind Justice.
And elder spokesman Bruce Dickinson has led off his post-Iron
Maiden solo debut, Tattooed Millionaire, with the awkwardly
expletiveless "Son of a Gun." The genre is not at its artistic
high, but it's still big business, and most of the pie belongs to
prettyboys like Skid Row and White Lion and their less-pretty
comerades in Warrant, Poison and Great White.
   Unless Glenn Danzig has anything to say about it. He's
weathered the metal years by investing heavily in the genre's
riskiest commodity, Satanism. There's no "dark side" to Danzig's
music; it's all dark (choice titles over the years: "All Murder,
All Guts," "Horror Business," "Soul On Fire," "Evil Thing").
   And for better and worse publicity-wise, Danzig has avoided
the scrutiny of the PMRC ("the Inquisition," as he puts it) in
the most surprising manner: by taking himself very seriously.
(Often to point of caricature: For example, the new CD's art
unfolds into an upside-down cross.) Danzig is capable of the kind
of detailed filibuster with which "moral" groups want to avoid
direct confrontation. His goal, he claims, is nothing less than
reclaiming the confused image of evil from the good/bad dichotomy
politicians and moralists purvey: "I think it's a political
thing. I mean, churches and governments use evil to get money
together when they have campaign drives - especially churches. To
me, the Church is probably the most evil thing, the most corrupt
thing, and the government also. Most people feel very apathetic
about government, because they feel ineffective to do anything
against the government, even when in big numbers - it's still
kind of like hitting a brick wall."
   Frequently a moral opera played in Saturday-morning-cartoon
proportions, it still makes for some great music. The new album,
Danzig II: Lucifuge, the second from his self-named group,
testifies to the rich, but by no means seamless, tapestry of dark
images he has woven over the past decade-plus - a tortured demon
at its center.
   Back in the late '70s, a band called the Misfits brought
B-movie gore and a charasmatic's attitude to punk rock:
horrorcore. Glenn Danzig was the lead singer and songwriter for
the Misfits, and he filled their albums with eccentric punk that
sounded oddly like '50s rock'n'roll when you could filter out the
heavy-static guitars. Today he says, "I never understood why we
were put under hardcore, except the fact that maybe we were just
a noncompromising loud and very aggressive band."
   Danzig followed up the Misfits' demise with a shortlived
project named for the Celtic prototype of Halloween, Samhain. He
carried Samhain's block calligraphy and skull logo over to his
latest band's debut, but the 1988 Danzig had little in common
with the music he sang 10 years ago. The '50s influence remained,
but gone was the mayhem - an aural space filled with an emphasis
on Danzig's crooning; he's equipped with a voluminous low range,
and a knack for writing dramatic songs which can best be defined
the way he praises idol Roy Orbison: "Here's a guy who doesn't
rely on hooks and this and that; when the song is over it's over.
It's very dramatic stuff, fucking great."
   Danzig the band was formed about the time Def American head
Rick Rubin was assembling the soundtrack to Less Than Zero, for
which Danzig ultimately wrote "Life Fades Away" for Orbison to
perform. The late singer's influence is strongly felt on the
first Danzig album during songs about desperate (albeit demonic)
loneliness such as "Twist of Cain" and "Am I Demon."
   Like Danzig, the new album has its most obvious affinities
with the spare form of AC/DC's hits and the mood set by the Doors
and Black Sabbath's early albums. The confusing thing is that
bands like Sabbath and AC/DC would seem exactly the music that
the punk "movement" reacted against. Lucifuge - literally
"fleeing from light," one of Danzig's favorite images and one
which he handles deftly - wanders even further back, to the
acoustic-blues roots of early metal. Danzig teams 'core veterans
(longtime companion Eerie Von on bass; Black Flag and Circle
Jerks vet Chuck Biscuits on drums; John Christ on guitar) but
slows the pace to melodramatic effect. "Instead of just relying
on thrash music," Danzig says, "which anybody can do, and isn't
very powerful - if you place it at the right spot at the right
time, then yes, but if it's just done over and over again, then
it's becomes very patronizing the way a lot of bands
use it. And it's just not what I'm really about."

Marc Weidenbaum is Assistant Editor at Pulse! Paul is dead.

Selected Glenn Danzig Discography

With Danzig:
Danzig II: Lucifuge (Def American, 1990).
Danzig (Def American, 1988).

With Samhain:
Initium (Plan 9).
November Coming Fire (Plan 9)
Unholy Passion (Plan 9).

With the Misfits:
Walk Among Us (Slash).
Misfits (compilation, Plan9).
Evilive (guest Henry Rollins, Plan 9).
Legacy of Brutality (Plan 9).
Earth A.D. (Plan 9).
Die, Die My Darling EP (Plan 9).