Review: Danzig ”4” (American Recordings)

Review: Danzig ”4” (American Recordings)

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They went down and died indeed.

4P was the final call of Danzig. A last „hooray!“ before the tremendous and yet undisputed fall and death of Danzig as a band and as an artist. 4P already shows signs of the decline, the recession of high-tier blues-steered heavy metal writing. Upon closer inspection and against expectations, a seemingly sudden lack of confidence in their craft – likely caused by the influx of predominantly inapt, jarring experimentation – troubles and hurts this record.

And yet there is absolutely no doubt about that Danzig was driven and kept alive by the classic lineup, featuring John Christ on guitars, Eerie Von on bass and Chuck Biscuits on drums. As soon as they left the building, Glenn fell flat on his face. Hard. It took him about a decade to realize that, but the later so-called return to the “roots” album in form of Circle of Snakes was not quite up to par – too little, too late. The spirit that had been absent since the stillborn wreck that was Danzig 5: Blackaciddevil has not returned to this day and considering the advanced age and the – rumor has it – rather “special” character of the mastermind, it’s not very likely to return ever again.

But lets head back to 4P now, for many things were still in place in 1994. Glenn’s vocals continued to be as unique and powerful as ever. “Evil Elvis” truly deserves his nickname here, conjuring up a strangely captivating mixture of the 50/60s icon and the late Jim Morrison. Add the howling of a big, bad wolf with gargantuan testicles into the sonic stew and Glenn Danzig is the result.

Focusing on riffs and licks, one can’t get past the fact that the deadly guitar grooves from the band’s magnum opus (that is of course Danzig III – How the Gods Kill) are not nearly as prominent and striking as they’d been previously. The killer groove of Do You Wear the Mark? or the title track of said magnificent predecessor is sorely missed many times on 4P and replaced by too much repetition and some slags of absolute hogwash. Sure, if you are looking for manic sound structures and awkward time signatures you should not really be reading this, since Danzig was never about all that, but hell – Cantspeak is horseshit. It’s lazy, it’s amateurish and lame, but worst of all – it evokes absolutely zero emotions. It’s like Glenn discovered industrial music a day earlier and decided to fool around with a few buttons and distort his voice in the most annoying manner. Sadistikal stems from the same root, but at least it is dark as fuck so one tends to be a little more forgiving when there’s actually a palpable atmosphere to be felt…

Things are a lot better here when they’re kept traditional. Bringer of Death has a skull-banging swagger of a punkish main riff and the distortion on Glenn’s voice is actually beneficial this time. Flourished with some simple, but effective piano hits and chord pronunciations, as well as sitar-licks that reek of pot-consumption, you’ve got yourself a winner. The award for the best chorus on the album goes to I Don’t Mind the Pain – it wins because even though it is repeated many times, Glenn sings it in a variety of timbres and with different levels of aggression, granting a perfectly menacing singalong. To some extend, these attributes also apply to Until You Call on the Dark, but this one suffers from the previously mentioned repetition a lot more because it’s basically one goddamn guitar riff all throughout four and a half minutes of music, accompanied by nothing but feedback noise and guitar-string scratches. Sometimes it seems as if Glenn thought it would be a good idea to stop writing even remotely ambitious songs. Standard fare is too challenging, so lets cut down on bridges, pre-/post-choruses, solo sections…or on any other intriguing parts that could make the album more interesting. Good job!

Eerie Von‘s part on here is still worth mentioning, but the way this album was produced does not exactly favor the bass levels too much. Some gripping bass lines to be found here – (again – Bringer of Death!) but they’ve been robbed of their power since the heaviness and the natural “thump” of the bass guitar are not really up to par. Until 4P arrived, Danzig had never sounded this treble-y and mid range-stressed, with some crackling and clipping-hiss popping up now and then – a gloomy foreshadowing of the ill-fated production jobs swallowing this album’s weaker successors, killing off even the slightest bits of potential that could have peeked through the niffy mud that was thrown at their fan-base later in their career.

Mr. Biscuits‘ (that name is still cracking me up!) heavy skin-bashing remains a constant, not overly technical or excessively flashy but incredibly forceful – especially on that poor snare drum – and it’s easy to hear why his and Mr. Christ’s departure caused such a dreadful shift in sound. Contrary to the rather weak bass guitar treatment, the drums sit very well in the mix and they’re possessing a highly organic, natural sound, further augmenting their important role in pushing the tracks forward.

All things considered, the drive and the metal is still mostly there, the rambling about sex and whipping remains present and even our old friend Satan rears his head once in a while, but some of the golden riffcraft is covered in filth and excrement – the consistently high quality standard is not quite there anymore and sometimes you have to suffer through moments of absolute bollocks, just to be rewarded with the exact opposite a mere three minutes later. My comparatively low rating is the result of this exhausting ambivalence.

So here we are after all, standing right on the brink of disaster, looking down at the overwhelming amount of failure that would follow…this is the valley in which Glenn would end up soon afterwards. You better enjoy your stay here, DO NOT tread upon old Glenn’s shoddy path and better start your next Danzig run with the self-titled debut, since the best thing one can do is pretend that the musical journey of Danzig ended with 4P.

Highlights: Little Whip, Going Down to Die, Bringer of Death, I Don’t Mind the Pain

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