It’s a difficult time for aging rock stars of the heavy metal variety. One minute they’re summoning the darkest demons from the pits of hell, then they’re laughing stock of the meme generation the next. If their hair is too short, they’re sell outs. If their bodies don’t look like swimmers, they’re too old to be playing live. No one feels those aches like Glenn Danzig. With plenty of experience on both sides of that fickle coin, it’s difficult to listen to any of his new music without a small amount of apprehension. This is the double edge sword of Danzig’s eleventh album Black Laden Crown.
At 62 years old, Danzig clearly doesn’t have the strength and vigor in his voice that made him one of the coolest hard rock singers of the 80s and 90s. However, his surprisingly on-point performance with the one-off Misfits reunion at Riot Fest, made me realize Danzig is still capable of pulling off a decent record. Especially with the right mindset.
Apprehension and hopefulness aside, Black Laden Crown is a traditional Danzig record.
Let’s talk a little bit about the dying elephant in the room: the production. This is what you’re waiting for right? You just can’t wait for me to rip into Danzig’s feeble attempt at being ‘scary’. The laughable cover art that looks like the t-shirt of every metalhead driving a 1981 El Camino. But most of all, you just want me to put the production on blast. It’s what everyone expects out of every single Danzig album review. That in of itself has become some sort of a meme.
Yes Black Laden Crown has its fair share of production issues
Guitars have zero mids, drums are dry as a decade old dead body in the dessert and everything is inconsistently mixed. More often than not, Danzig sounds more like a drunk Michael Rooker doing karaoke to The Doors than his former Misfits/Samhain days. And of course, said vocals are brutally close in the mix. But isn’t this what we’ve come to expect?
In what world has Glenn Danzig produced what you would call a perfect album?
If you go back to the first 4 Danzig albums (the ones with Rick Rubin at the helm) you’ll find, none of them have fantastic production. As gifted as Rubin was in his prime, nothing stands out as timeless or remotely interesting. When comparing those albums to other hard rock releases of the time, nothing rises above average. While on the subject, has anyone who complains about the production on a Danzig record ever listened to a Misfits song? Bad production is part of the charm. It’s Danzig in his element.
When did heavy metal fans become such audiophiles anyway? I’m not exactly a metal aficionado, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about the drum mic placement on Anthrax’s Among The Living. Or the compression levels on Megadeth’s Countdown To Extinction. I speak for myself here too. I even joined in on the public Metallica lynching with the Hardwired To Self Destruct episode of the B.G.M. Podcast. It’s the most common argument among metal fans and frankly, it’s the pettiest.
I’ve always felt the brash aggressiveness is the greatest strength of any heavy genre. I’m not bashing any artist who prefers high production value, there is a time and place for everything but I’m all for less-than-perfect production if it’s coming from an honest place. Hard rock isn’t supposed to be glossy and pristine. The thought of hearing a song like “Devil On Hwy 9” with the pro-tools trickery of a Beyonce record makes me want to puke my guts out.
Black Laden Crown‘s issues may have more to do with casual fans than itself.
Danzig has produced his own releases since 1996, and while he may not be a master in the producer’s chair, he’s been at it enough to do exactly what he wants. If he wants his vocals to be front and center and guitars down the street, he can do that. It’s his band. This still doesn’t give Black Laden Crown a pass, or any album for that matter. If it’s not good, it’s just not good.
Black Laden Crown isn’t really a bad album, it’s just paint-by-numbers. Songs about death, dying and/or being dead, all with Danzig’s signature grumpy attitude. “Blackness Falls” has a cool blues vibe and a wicked shredding ‘dad-metal’ guitar solo. “Eyes Ripping Fire” is my favorite but that’s not saying much. Any worthwhile groove is ruined by inane lyrics or going on for too long. But similar things can be said for just about every post-Rubin Danzig release. At least he sticks to what he knows. Can you imagine this guy trying to buddy up with some flash in the pan pop star in hopes of staying relevant?
All in all Black Laden Crown is pretty average. That’s the extent of my personal review.
I just hope the production critiques would stop once and for all. Especially from people who only know Danzig for “Mother” or a handful of Misfits tracks, much less the countless memes of the Facebook generation. People who argue about the likes of Slayer and Metallica adapting modern recording techniques for their most recent releases have zero business complaining about Danzig. You have the right to dislike any album from any artist but why zero in on the production value of an artist who consistently releases music of the same sound? That’s not a very metal argument. Do you really want the guy responsible for “Last Caress” or “Death Comes Ripping” using autotune? Worse yet, a duet with Lady Gaga on the Grammy Awards? If so, maybe Danzig, punk, metal, and hard rock isn’t right for you.
Black Laden Crown is available in all formats at AFM Records
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.