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As evidenced by the albums after this one not being identified by numbers, this 2002 effort is the last installment of Glenn Danzig's seven-album concept arc (Though I'm not really sure what the concept really is. Anyone care to enlighten me?) and has been seen as a return to form of sorts for the band. It was also the last album to feature Queens Of The Stone Age drummer Joey Castillo as well as the only album to feature bassist Howie Pyro and guitarist Todd Youth.
Before I get to the music itself, I'd like to make a quick note on the production; it's pretty bad. The mixing makes everything sound too distant and the instruments don't mesh together too well. I've gotten fairly used to this lo-fi production with bands like Darkthrone but it really doesn't work with a project like Danzig. I'm pretty sure I've heard Garage Band demos that sound better than this!
Fortunately, the music itself is pretty solid and largely sticks to a more stripped down approach in comparison to the band's last two efforts. The vocal effects are only used sparingly for the most part and "The Coldest Sun" is the closest thing we've really got to industrial influence on here. Of course, there is a hint of modern metal influence in the grinding guitar tone and the band still lacks the blues influence that made it so unique in the 90's...
While the band's performance is fairly decent overall, there are times when things feel disjointed and you get reminded of the group's thrown-together nature in comparison to earlier lineups. Danzig himself sounds relatively energized though he often gets drowned out by the other instruments. But while the following "Circle Of Snakes" has the same problem and thankfully compensates by having a pretty powerful guitar tone, the bandmates on this album don't have as much personality in comparison. I know I shouldn't expect the original lineup but it could be due to the production more than anything...
But with there being thirteen tracks on the album, it is only fitting that it tackles several different styles. Following the strange intro known as "Unendlich," we've got some upbeat numbers ("Black Mass," "Wicked Pussycat," "Kiss the Skull," "Halo Goddess Bone"), dissonant tracks ("God Of Light," "Liberskull"), largely acoustic ballads ("Dead Inside," "Angel Blake"), songs that appear to be channeling old school Maiden ("I Luciferi," "Naked Witch"), and all-out doom metal ("The Coldest Sun," "Without Light, I Am"). There are a few songs that feel like filler but I don't think there are any truly bad songs on here. "Black Mass" is definitely the best track of the lot and flirts with a classic status with its driving beat and solid hooks. I also appreciate the awkward fun of "Wicked Pussycat" (Let's face it; I'm not sure if Danzig can really do "sexy" anymore...), the melancholic touches on "Dead Inside," the grinding riffs on "Liberskull" and "Kiss the Skull," and the underrated "Without Light, I Am."
Ultimately, I think this album would have been a lot better if a number of songs had been more developed. The title track, "Naked Witch," and "The Coldest Sun" all scream for a classic status with their particularly awesome guitar tones, but something in the deliveries keeps them from fully catching fire. Also, "Angel Blake" features some nifty vocal lines but is brought down by a somewhat dull atmosphere and distracting lyrics.
All in all, I think this is one of Danzig's weaker effects but there are still plenty of enjoyable moments to be found on here. It'd probably be a lot better if it had been written and released earlier in the group's career. Of course, I'm not sure how legit that excuse really is when you look at the albums that came after this one...
My Current Favorites:
"Black Mass," "Wicked Pussycat," "Dead Inside," "Kiss The Skull," and "Without Light, I Am"