Black Laden Crown review by Danzig

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  • Released: May 26, 2017
  • Sound: 5
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 5.3 Decent
  • Users' score: 5.5 (15 votes)
Danzig: Black Laden Crown
4

Sound — 5
Glenn Danzig's name is one that reverberates quite strongly through the heavy metal sphere. From his involvement in bands such as horror-punk rockers Misfits (which he's rejoined as of last year), Samhain, and his own eponymous band, Glenn has been a name to be reckoned with for many, many years.

"Black Laden Crown" is the band's first release of all-new material since 2010's "Deth Red Sabaoth", their highest-charting album since the release of "Danzig 4" in 1994 (2015's "Skeletons" was a collection of cover songs). Perhaps buoyed by the enduring success of Misfits and Glenn's rejoining, it seems a rather appropriate time for Danzig to return with some all-new material, though it seems the core of the band has been reduced to just Glenn on vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums on three tracks, along with Prong's Tommy Victor on lead guitar and bass. Drum duties are handled by Glenn, along with current full-time touring drummer Joey Castillo, Johnny Kelly (who played on the entirety of "Deth Red Sabaoth"), Karl Rosqvist, and current Megadeth/former Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren.

This leads to many of the tracks having a rather inconsistent production when it comes to the drumming, and I find that in particular, the drumming of Glenn himself (on "Eyes Ripping Fire", "Last Ride", and "Skulls & Daisies") is quite a bit weaker than the other drummers on the record. In fact, production is the biggest issue with this record overall. While one can appreciate the heaviness of a track like "Black Laden Crown" and the hard-rocking "Devil on Hwy 9" on a musical level, the production on this album makes tracks that would otherwise sound really great instead sound like an amateur band recording in a basement on cheap equipment. Clipping is such an ever-present problem throughout the album that my copy is essentially unlistenable, even through decent headphones. The vocal is pushed so much higher than the other instruments, and with so much reverb.

There are some great riffs and melodies on the album, as one would expect from Danzig, like the heavy, Black Sabbath-esque "Black Laden Crown", the entirely too-badass "Devil on Hwy 9", the cool ambiance that opens "The Witching Hour", and the doomy riffage of "But a Nightmare". Most of the riffs and melodies are great, but the mixing completely ruins them in the context of the record. Another point of contention is Tommy Victor's guitar solos. While a few of them are decent, like the first half of his solo in "The Witching Hour" and the one that opens "Devil on Hwy 9", most of them are so lacking in finesse, tone, and subtlety that they make Kirk Hammett's work on "Hardwired To Self Destruct" sound like John Petrucci.

Sadly, for any positive points I can find about the album's songwriting (which, granted, is not that bad at all) and performances, the mixing is among some of the worst I've ever heard, and none of this changed depending on which devices or speakers I listened to the album through, and at the very least, the copies I ended up with for review were all but unlistenable. We're talking "Death Magnetic" levels of badness. Perhaps even worse on the tracks Glenn plays drums on ("Last Ride" seems to suffer the most).

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Lyrics — 6
I'm going to get this out of the way fairly quickly: I am not a fan of Glenn's vocals in any way, shape or form. Even on the band's biggest hit, "Mother", I often found his vocal performance off-putting. For me, personally, this record is no exception. Admittedly, the sloppy production probably heightens this, and had the record been a little more focused in that aspect, that may have improved my opinion of his performance.

But I am also aware of how influential his singing and performances are to many, and it seemed as if there was a whole revolution of industrial metal singers that seemed to imitate aspects of Glenn's vocals, such as Rob Zombie, that no amount of my personal dislike of his singing will ever take away how influential he is.

There are points where Glenn's vocals do fit the style of music a bit better, almost when the band goes in a bit more of a blues-rock territory, such as on "Devil on Hwy 9", and lyrically speaking, it does actually have some pretty badass imagery: "Little to the middle of a thousand miles/Of a blackish road you can drive/Don't look to the left, don't look to the right/Keep your eyes on the fucking line".

Overall, the lyrics on the record are pretty simple, horror-based imagery, leaving the formula for Danzig's lyrics pretty much unchanged. "The Witching Hour" exemplifies this pretty well: "And the clock strikes one/A chain with the gun/Hear the witching hour comes up on/All the waiting ones/And the hand strikes six/Out on the river Styx/And the witching hour long past dead/Plays a solemn train". Death is often a feature of the lyrics as well, such as on "Pull The Sun": "I wish the moon into your eyes/See how it glows, no surprise/I know the tides shift in your mind/I block the sun out for all time/And it's reigning/Death is reigning".

Overall, there's not really anything wrong with the lyrics. They're mostly dead simple and pretty "Halloween-ish" in their horror stylings, but it's a formula that's worked for Glenn for ages. Sadly, I just can't get into his vocal style, and the mixing of his vocals is possibly one of the worst aspects of this album in general.

Overall Impression — 5
I won't ever try to take away the influential nature of Glenn Danzig and his music, whether it be with this band, Misfits, Samhain, or his other various projects, and he's left a fairly impressive body of work behind him. Sadly, though, I don't think this work is up to par. While it contains some really good ideas for songs and if you're able to wade your way through the sloppy production and playing, you can find true gems of riffs on this record, but the production is just so bad on this record that it sounds almost as bad as some amateur basement-studio recordings (to be fair, those amateurs often make those basement recordings sound much better than this).

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20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Humbug808
    This review is spot on, the riffs, singing, and overall songs are great but the unbelievably bad production subtracts from it. I'm not sure if its an intended thing, but each song has a vastly different mix which takes away from the fluidity of the album. The clipping is the worst I ever heard on a professional level band with a 30+ year career, I mean how can you not hear that? While I love the overall song and vibe of "Last Ride", when he says 'Well I'm Lonely!" my studio monitor headphones crackle with insane level clipping, every time he says it.    This album will definitely need a reissue in the near future, the songs/artistry are just to good to be held back by such amateur mixing and mastering. Danzig must be surrounded by Yes Men, because no serious manager or label would allow this to represent a major artist. Death Magnetic sounds like a well mixed and mastered album compared to this! Come on Danzig.. 
    Humbug808
    Also, vocals on "Devil On Hwy 9" sound like they were recorded on an iPhone in a bathroom somewhere in NJ. That is all... 
    travislausch
    Nah, Death Magnetic still sounds like ass, even next to this. Otherwise, your comment is 100% spot-on with why I gave this the rating I did. As for the vastly different mixes, I find that tracks recorded with the same drummer have a very similar mix, and since there are five drummers in total on the album, we have five different mix qualities. The one that suffers the worst is Glenn's drumming, since I'm assuming drumming isn't his #1 priority as a musician, and the mixes are slightly better on the ones where the drummer is actually a dedicated drummer. 
    Humbug808
    Idk man, atleast there's no clipping on vocals or guitars on DM, it's mainly way over-limited and compressed drums along with the mastering. You don't hear pure crackling due to peaking, it's done on purpose on that album too. Yeah it's still a bad sounding album, but here it sounds like its due to laziness/lack of production experience.  
    bluesbuster99
    seems someone is just not a fan of glenn. for one time its not about metallica or another shitty band you just cant say anything positive isnt it 
    travislausch
    Admittedly, his vocals are not to my taste, but I do have a lot of respect for what Glenn has done in music. But "nothing positive" is a bit unfair. I did praise Tommy Victor and Glenn for their riffs. The solos are not great at all, but I will definitely admit that the riffs on this record are bangin'. Shame about the production, though. I feel like some of the aspects I didn't care for (the vocals, especially) might have come through a LOT better had the production been even just a little bit cleaner.
    travislausch
    I mean I'm not even asking for an RIAA-approved super-sterile mix or anything. Just bring down the vocal levels to a point where they're not distorting the shit out of my nice headphones, and ditch some of the reverb. Beef up the drums on a few tracks and tell Glenn to stop hitting them like a pussy on the ones he plays on. You've pretty much fixed the record at that point.
    DifferentWorld
    Actually, listening to the "Devil on Hwy 9" track linked in the review, the point about production is, I would say, exaggerated but not wrong. The drums in particular definitely sound really tinny to me, like they were recorded in a room with a bad echo.
    pressureproject
    Guitars are too saturated for a Danzig album.  I know it's Tommy Victor and all, but kind of off sounding.  Also, Glenn sounds sick or something on a couple of these.  Songs aren't bad though.
    GR84
    This is Glenn Danzig, he's not looking to make your masterpiece, he's not looking for radio hits, he's looking to do whatever he feels like and its not all great, some of it hits the mark perfectly, but the important thing to remember is i don't think he has ever cared, 
    Anjohl
    If you're not a fan of Glenn's vocals in "any way shape or form", why are you reviewing a Danzig album?
    james1210
    "I often found his vocal performance off-putting"????? Why would someone who does not like Danzig review his album? I can't stand Blink 182, so my opinion of whatever garbage they put out really wouldn't mean much to a fan of theirs.    Anyways, this new album took me by surprise, and I just picked it up a couple weeks ago.  Its a good album, and although the production is not the best, it kinda reminds me of old school Samhain. If you are a fan of Danzig, get this album! 
    travislausch
    The comments below explain it. Things have changed a bit with the review system  since this review was done, so the chances of a reviewer having to take an album by an artist they are not a fan of is much lower now, presumably because of reviews like this.  But on the other hand, while I didn't enjoy the vocal work, I did make the most of it and tried to find some praise for its other qualities. And honestly, the production style's just not for me. I can get past a vocal performance I don't like (case in point: one of my favourite bands is Dream Theater, and they're pretty much the poster child for "shittiest rock singer ever") if there's a lot of other things to appreciate, but the production made that very difficult. So whether I'm a fan of the vocals or not, I tried my best to give this as fair of a shake as I possibly could.
    travislausch
    I don't get to choose all of what I review, otherwise, I'd just be reviewing prog shit that no one wants to hear.
    travislausch
    I get to make some picks, but some reviews are picked for us. This happened to be on the roster. Plus, while I don't like his voice, I do genuinely respect the man's contributions to music.
    travislausch
    And it's fair to say this is definitely not a complaint about the review system at large. Usually, I tend to like a lot of the albums I get to cover, and I've learned a lot about many different bands that I normally wouldn't have listened to otherwise. I've actually discovered quite a few bands I now consider favourites doing these reviews over the past year
    chadf1976
    ya i wouldnt walk across the street to see danzig,however i gave it a listen ,devil on highway 9,sounds definitly like what ive been craving except ,when i plug my guitar into my old HP cpu its sounds better than the production on this album....