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UNKNOWN p.87-88, Fall 1988


 Platter Du Jour

 The Misfits
 Walk Among Us

 Def American

Timing is everything.  Just in case you've never heard of Glen Danzig, have
never known the delicious embrace of his dark vision, you're in luck.  You
now have a unique opportunity to hear this master of the macabre both in his
original ineamation as lead singer of the Misfits (on the re-release of
their classic 1982 LP) and his present embodiment as ringmaster of the
hellacios Danzig, thus affording yourself a look at his roots and then
catching up with what he's up to these days.
  The Misfits were a Lodi, New Jersey-based hardcore outfit that managed to
rise above the crowd of generic punk bands by virtue of their rigorous
adherence to Danzig's worldview.  Culled from the pop-schlock culture of
"Plan 9 From Outer Space" and supermarket tabiloid mass murderer lore, this
point of view informed the lyrics of songs like "I Turned Into A Martian"
and "Vampira," both of which are on Walk Among Us, probably the Misfits'
finest moment.  Blood, guts, death, mayhem-all fell into their meat grinder
and emerged as gory, truly sick songs in an infectiously catchy, melodic
punk style.  Maybe too catchy; listen to these songs long enough and you
might find yourself on the subway singing, I want your skull / I need your
skull loud enough to elicit stares of disaproal and fear from the local
citizenry.  The thing is, the songs always had tongue placed firmlyly in
cheek; they were funny as hell, reflecting their Z-movie heritage.  Who
could really take you overseriously if you sang a song called "Mommy, Can
I Go Out And Kill Tonight?"
  Eventually, in typical punk band style, they broke up before they really
found their audience.  The Misfits only gained a mass following after they
had disintegrated and Glen Danzig formed Samhain out of their ashes (Only
bass guitarist Eerie Von joined him from the original lineup.).  Samhain
(The name refers to the original Druidic name for the autumnal equinox
rites that have since become known as Halloween.) reflected the changes
that had taken place in the punk underground since the inception of the
Misfits: hardcore became thrash-slower, less melodic, more metallic.
  Since this sound was a less appropriate medium for the semi-humorous
lyrical approach of the earlier years, the songs got more serious, even
darker, without ever losing their unifying theme of dread and horror.  And
they caught on.  Thrash was attracting the attention of a whole new set of
potential listeners in heavy metal fans and Samhain was in the forefront
of the groups making the crossover.  By tapping into a rich vein of new
devotees, they found the acceptance that had always eluded the Misfits, and
thus became an enormously important influence to the first wave of speed
metal bands.  Slayer, Metallica, Venom and the like were all fans of both
Samhain and the Misfits, and it became a common sight to see long-haired
metalheads walking down the street wearing a T-shirt with the Misfits'
trademark goofily grinning skull emblazoned on it, or even diving off the
stage at a hardcore show if they really couldn't get enough of the stuff.
  Glen Danzig was becoming known far and wide for his intensely charismatic
voice (traces of Elvis!), his electromagnetic stage presence, the way he'd
stalk those planks of wood like a wounded wildcat.  And then, after three
records, Samhain too broke up.  Glen Danzig with the Power and Fury
Orchestra had a song on Rick Rubin's Less Than Zero soundtrack but otherwise
seemed to be in a strategic retreat to summon his forces for a renewed
assault on the pop consciousness.
  Which brings us, more or less, to 1988, and the release of Danzig's
self-titled debut LP on Def American, produced by Rubin.  It's a gorgeous
album, both musically and physically.  A big, black gatefold record, with
the distinctive Jersey Devil caricature that's a holdover from the Samhain
days on the cover, it sets right in to grab you by the jugular and not let
go.  The songs show an expansion, an absolutely unexpcted maturity of voice
and word that overflows with charisma and controlled talent.  Danzig's
lyrics scout the same general parameters as always, but with insight and
depth never before seen.  The music more than holds up its end of the
bargain as well, with Eerie Von's distinctive bass joining John Christ's
guitar and Chuck Biscuits' rock-steady drumming to complete the vision.
Horror business this may be, but Danzig is capable of writing some beautiful
songs: "She Rides" and "Mother," among others, benefit from the slower pace
and show off just how much Glen's voice has grown.
  A fine beginning,overall, one that is sure to please both old fans from
Misfit days and newer converts won when listeners discovered why their
favorite thrash-metal performers were always wearing Samhain T-shirts.  It's
a compelling record and hasn't left my turn-table in a week and a half.  The
songs have already insinuated themselves deep within my brain and still have
the old Misfitian power to come forth to draw blood when least expected:
while in the shower, while at work, while skating home late at night.
  So go to your cash machine and get out enough money to pick up both these
records the next time you go to the music store.  Walk Among Us is so
crucial that first-pressing copies have sold for up to $250, so you would
do well to avail yourself of its charms at the economy rate, while you can.
And Danzig, well, this is a great look at one of the finest all-around
performers to have come out of hardcor@.  Don't let any label scare you
off.  Check this out.  Initiate yourself into the mysteries.
 --Adam Greenfield