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Danzig's darkest, but not the best. - 87%

woeoftyrants, February 18th, 2007

Continuing their paths of progression, Danzig's 3rd album, How the Gods Kill, shows the artistic and most progressive peak of the band with the classic line-up before fading into experimental obscurity. Elements from the debut and Lucifuge are both present here, but the band's sound has grown progressivbely darker and harder to digest. By no means is it pretentious or "artsy", but the band's compositional maturity hit its apex with How the Gods Kill, and it clearly shows.

Production-wise, not much has changed from Lucifuge, which featured one of the band's best production jobs. The guitars still boast a thick, hot distortion, and the drums maintain an old-school sound; the bass, however, has come a bit more out front than in the past. Other than the occasional odd touches and effects, it's pretty standard fare for Danzig.

The breaking point for this album is the band's musical offerings. Not only have they grown more complex, but much darker than what you would expect; the rock elements are still very much present, but are seen in a much darker light on this album. The atmosphere here can be described as brooding, and even gloomy or bitter at times. This time around, the compositions seem to be in minor keys, adding to the mysterious nature of songs like "Godless" and the second track of the album. How the Gods Kill focuses less on the progressions seen on Lucifuge and more on the pure sinister power that the band can conjure on their own; and they succeed. The opener "Godless" shifts between crushingly slow verses and attitude-filled swagger in the mid-section, while "Do You Wear the Mark" takes the formula from the band's debut album and shifts it to even more ominous, faster terrain. The album's title track stands out as one of the band's all-time best compositions. Starting off with slightly depressing plucking on the clean guitar and leading to one of Glenn's most spine-tingling performances as a vocalist, the song pushes through enveloping soundscapes of darkness before shifting to a sludgy riff ripe with pinch harmonics that carries the rest of the song. More accessible numbers such as the closer "When the Dying Calls" and the single "Dirty Black Summer" help to lighten the load a bit and capture some of the band's older fans, but otherwise, Danzig really came into their own on this one. Maybe a bit too much, since most of us would have liked to see the variety that Lucifuge offered.

Glenn's voice has not faltered since the band's last release, nor have the band's songwriting chops. (The latter has actually gotten better, but in a different way.) His voice still holds the freshness and power to adapt to the various changing demands of the music, as seen on the beginning of "Heart of the Devil"; and the lyrics this time around have again taken on a totally different theme. I would dare say that Glenn's lyrics are occult-laced this time around, though there are no explicit occult references.

John's guitar work hit its ultimate peak here; from the gloomy beginnings of the title track and "Anything", to the head-swinging riffs of "Dirty Black Summer" and "Left Hand Black", and the psychedelic "Sistinas", John composes some of his best riffs and solos here. A particular standout is the wailing solo on the album's closer, as well as the harmonies on "Anything." There is plenty of variety in the songwriting, and the band seemed to have broken away from the rock-ish arrangements of older outputs. Bluesy elements are still in full swing, the clean-picked riffs are ripe with atmosphere, and the riffs are crunchier and heavier than anything else in Danzig's discography.

While not the most memorable of the band's discography, this album is certainly the darkest. How the Gods Kill shows a band at their artistic peak, but in a more primal way. It's a grower, and is quite hard to digest upon first listening. All-around though, this was the last great album from Danzig with the classic line-up.

Highlights: "How the Gods Kill", "Dirty Black Summer", "Do You Wear the Mark."