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The Howlin' Master of Blues Metal Returns - 95%

The_Scrab, June 26th, 2010

The thing I like most about Glenn Danzig is that he could give a shit whether anyone likes this, or any other installment of his back catalog. Regardless of the content of this and other reviews, the loudmouthed opinions of every know-nothing trendy metal mallcore kid, and his not so steady decline in album sales and popularity, the bottom line is that metal's shortest tough guy will continue to do whatever the fuck he feels like. I respect this kind of dedication to one's own massive ego, and though the quality of albums post Danzig III: How the God's Kill will forever be a subject of heated debate, at least there's a certain amount of honesty and integrity that comes with every Danzig release. That said, everyone nauseated by the industrial experiments of the Zig's latter day releases should lament no more; this album fucking rocks harder than anything since albums one and two.

The most apparent reason for this is the mindless soloing courtesy of Prong main man Tommy Victor. Now, I don't mean mindless in the Malmsteenish sense of trying to cram as many notes into every nanosecond of music, but Victor's chaotic, yet somewhat melodically inclined shredding hearkens back to what I heard on the second Prong album (remember when they were a thrash trio?). The result is something similar to what John Christ contributed to albums one through four, but much less restrained and perhaps slightly more technically proficient. The riffing duties, shared between Glenn and Tommy, are also worthy of note for their energetic bounce and occasionally stonerish vibe. In particular, opening track "Hammer of the Gods" possesses the most bludgeoningly heavy riff I have ever heard coming from a Danzig album, and serves to propel the song along at mach ten before dropping off into a short, grindingly slow doom section, and then picking up again for a monster of a solo. The riffs continue in a consistent, though generally less energetic fashion throughout the whole album, and serve to complement Glenn Danzig's wolfish howls perfectly.

Speaking of which, what Danzig review would be complete without a paragraph going into massive details about how pitch perfect his vocals are? On this album, Danzig's voice sounds much better than it has in a good fifteen years, and while it's obvious he's not quite at the level he resided in during his classic period, it's extremely gratifying hearing him wailing and howling like a wolf again. There are certain points where his voice sounds a little odd, but overall it's a powerful and professional, and characteristically indecipherable, vocal performance from a man climbing bravely into his fifties. His lyrics are generally pretty "evil" (and highly goofy), per usual, but I'm not sure I expect anything else from a Danzig album at this point, and they further cement the album in similar territory to the direction explored on Danzig 1 and 2.

The bass on this album is not particularly distinct, but I get the impression that it was supposed to, in traditional 70s rock fashion, blend in with the music without making too much of a fuss. It's more noticeable if you play the album through a stereo with plenty of bottom end, but it's not really an issue either way, because I'm not sure I can really point out any Danzig song with much of a bassline anyway. The drumming sounds a little odd, also very 1970s, but it's well played enough and does it's best to try and recapture the unpredictable nature (not to mention the outstanding fills) of Chuck Biscuts's performance on the classic material. The most noticeable feature of the drumming is the inclusion of brief, fast double bass patterns in several songs, including Black Candy, which features Glenn on drums. The rhythm for the song is pretty simple, but it's impressive to hear how the quick, clean foot work at the end of the song, especially from a guy not particularly well known for his drumming ability.

I actually really enjoy the production style on this album, as it reminds me of the dry production on the debut album. It seems like Danzig really tried to emulate a Rick Rubin style approach on this album, recording on analogue equipment and with very little unnecessary production interference. It's mixed fairly well, the bass could be a little higher in the mix, but the guitars are loud and the vocals are prominent and everything is clean and comprehensible (except for the lyrics). I especially like how clear the drum sound is similar to the early albums (you can hear every single drum hit on pyre of souls so clearly you'd think Johnny Kelley was drumming in the same room as you) , and how the guitars are allowed room to to fuzz and feedback and not be clipped and processed to hell with pro-tools. The idea of going full analogue with the production on this one was a good one, in my humble opinion.

If you've cried and despaired over the direction Danzig took after album 3, then it might certainly be a fine idea to give this album a spin. Danzig does a good job of crafting an album of memorable tunes that hearken back to his glory days without sounding nostalgic, and it's an adrenaline shot into the heart of a metal scene processed to shit by digital production techniques. Worth a listen, and a purchase on physical medium, if only for the laughs induced by the picture of stony faced Glenn with some naked chick strapped to some crucifix behind him on the inside cover.