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Being that this album has been subjected to more than a couple of half-baked reviews, I felt obliged to contribute my opinion. Frankly, "7:77 - I, Luciferi" is not the steaming turd that more than a few have claimed it to be. It is not a bit below average, either. This is a solid record from the unsinkable Glenn Danzig, the Godfather of Ghoul Rock. An average effort: no more, no less. This was essentially made possible by a few superb stand-out tracks that kept the record from falling beneath its own weight, but the fact is there, regardless. As mentioned, this album is (obviously) far superior to the stinker that was Blackacidevil, but it also proves to be more impressive than Danzig's effort prior to "7:77 - I, Luciferi", the mediocre "6:66 - Satan's Child". By now, Glenn has completely nixed all electronic and industrial elements, opting for a more traditional guitar, drums and bass approach. Keyboards slither their way into a few songs, but they are used in a very tasteful way that enhance the general doom-like atmosphere of the record, adding not only a rather ghastly atmosphere to the sonic assault but also making the record feel a bit more ambitious and inspired than previous efforts. On a purely aesthetic note – this is indeed a return to the form of Danzig of old, but do not expect the consistent ownage of “Danzig II: Lucifuge,” or “Danzig III: How the Gods Kill”. Instead, expect a slate of solid songs, blessed with a few superb tracks that could easily join the ranks of “Twist of Cain,” “Skull Forest,” “Anything,” “Long Way Back from Hell” and “Black Angel, White Angel” within the tome of classic Danzig tracks.
As I said before, and many of you will be relieved to hear this – industrial and electronic elements are nowhere to be found on “I, Luciferi”. Instead, we are treated a rather bottom-heavy bass, drums and guitar attack. At points this results in being a bit too bottom heavy, as the chunky de-tuned guitar riffs occasionally bleed into the chugga-chugga bass tone adopted by Howie Pyro on this record. However, I personally feel that in sections where the riffs are not in the spotlight (such as moments when Danzig’s soaring vocal melodies are carrying the song forward), this approach really adds to the heaviness of the album, because, in essence – this is an extremely heavy album. The drums are loud and thundering, and you can feel them rattle your bones if you play the album loud enough. The bass is extremely audible – and while Pyro does nothing especially interesting or spectacular, it does give the album depth and adds to the heaviness. The guitars are so loud and distorted within the mix that it can almost become quite suffocating and claustrophobic at times, but I feel that this is part of the charm of “I, Luciferi”. This is not the mix you will hear on most metal albums, devoid of bass for the most part and resting the guitar tracks carefully on top of a mid-level drum tracks. This is a very fuck-you-and-finish-your-soup, in your face kind of mix. This may turn some off, but for me, it makes the listening experience a unique and unforgettable one. Unforgettable, let me remind you, does not mean unforgettable in the “Mercyful Fate’s Melissa” kind of way either. It simply means that the production values of this record are so individualistic that it would be hard for one to mistakenly lump this album in, production wise, with the thousands of other metal albums of 2002.
However, let us move away from the sound of this album, and focus a bit more on what the musicians are actually playing. Todd Youth, as we all have known since his stint in Glenn’s former band Samhain, is not an especially impressive guitar player. His solos are few and far between, and the solos that he does play are far from being virtuosic or technical. They vary from standard blues licks with flattened notes for additional atmosphere to inverted and wah-ed out versions of the main melody. As I said – nothing special. The riffs, however, are heavy as almighty fuck and quite memorable at the same time. Always crunchy and hard hitting, the melodies are also laced in a subtle way through distant, dissonant guitar chords (see ‘Black Mass’, ‘Naked Witch’ and the title cut) and eerie keyboard embellishments. The rest of the instrumentation follows suit: nothing technical nor virtuosic, just simplistic and effective.
Glenn’s vocals have also increased in quality. On “Blackacidevil,” they presented no redeeming qualities as most fans ears heard nothing but monotonous industrial drivel. On “6:66 – Satan’s Child,” they were strained and hollow. And while they are not quite producing the distinctive, bluesy howls we could find in abundance on the first four Danzig albums, Glenn’s pipes have stepped it up a bit in the game, occasionally churning out few hauntingly demonic bellows straight from the depths of hell. Glenn seems to have picked up on whispering his way through verses as well, and considering his penchant for occasionally slipping out of key (again, see “6:66 – Satan’s Child”), this is not particularly a bad thing, albeit a tad tiresome come the end of the album. However, the man can still carry a melody, and can still write a catchy song. Which brings me to the next redemptive quality of “I, Luciferi”.
Most of the songs on this record are as catchy as fucking Stratovarius anthems. Glenn has displayed this talent since his days in the Misfits, who were incapable of creating songs that weren’t catchy. Even the instrumental introduction track is as catchy as the fucking bubonic plague: ‘Unendlich’ is laced with so many infectious yet hauntingly beautiful melodies and counter melodies that I found myself listening to it on repeat just to capture the dense atmosphere this track creates.
As far as standout tracks are concerned – there are three or four songs on this album that are fucking unstoppable. The first song I am compelled to mention is the power ballad of sorts, ‘Dead Inside’. Opening with a somber, acoustic guitar chord progression – and eventually erupting into a violent fury, this song is completely perfect. The chords are disturbing and dissonant, yet beautiful and powerful. The arrangement is flawless. Glenn’s vocal attack could not have been executed better: quiet and expression, pensive and introspective. The way that the pre-chorus explodes upon the listener, and then flows into an electric version of the verse chords is so gorgeous it nearly brings tears to my eyes. Also, the outro solo is quite impressive, which is all the more exciting especially since Youth seems to be unable to write a good guitar solo. The first proper track on the album, ‘Black Mass’, is also a powerhouse. The guitars are loud and crunchy, decked out with some almost black metal-esque ringing guitar chords beneath. Glenn has penned an especially memorable melody overtop this song, making it one of the catchiest songs on the album, along with ‘Kiss the Skull’. ‘Kiss the Skull’ has apparently been under attack for being a bit too mallcore for the folks. I say that everyone needs to lighten the fuck up, because this song has it all – a militant drum beat, heavy as fuck guitar riffage, a creepy melody and some fun (albeit cliché) lyric . Also, ‘Without Light, I Am’ is the perfect way to close the album. Anthemic, and almost operatic in delivery – it really leaves a great ‘last’ impression of the sorts.
But, for every gem on this album – there are more than a couple of stale, generic sleepers. ‘Naked Witch’ is nothing new – if you have heard “6:66 – Satan’s Child,” you have heard this song. ‘Angel Blake’ finds Danzig a bit too hard in the over-the-top symbolism department, and ‘Wicked Pussycat’ is downright embarrassing. All of these songs should be avoided, because not only are they forgettable songs – but they do nothing to further the legacy of Danzig the man, nor progress the sound of Danzig the band. This is the downfall of “I, Luciferi”. The filler.
In the end, Glenn is not what he used to be (yet, because he will ultimately prove the cynics wrong on his next release, Circle of Snakes, by kicking their collective ass), Todd Youth is certainly no John Christ, Howie Pyro no Eerie Von, nor is Joey Castillo a Chuck Biscuits (who was not especially impressive anyway) – which inevitably means that you will not get out of “7:77 – I, Luciferi” that which you got out of “Danzig II: Lucifuge,” but you may find a few songs that might just become new personal favorites. All in all, this is a solid slab of metallic metal in the style only Danzig could pull off. Granted, without the help of gems such as 'Dead Inside,' 'Black Mass,' 'Kiss the Skull' and 'Without Light, I Am' - this would be a 55%, easy. But the majesty of those songs shoots it straight up to 75% - smack dab in the middle. Certainly not Danzig's worst - but we all know he is capable of better.
However, the best is yet to come.