The Upshot: All hail the evil Elvis!
BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS
There are many potential contenders for the title of rock’s Prince of Darkness. Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, the late Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, King Diamond, the list goes on but for my money, the title will always belong to the “Evil Elvis” himself, the one and only Mr. Glenn Danzig.
Seeing Danzig in concert was something I had always wanted to do but had never done; this fascination began when a cousin brought me a copy of Danzig’s debut album home on a visit from California in 1989. I was hooked on the opening chords of “Twist of Cain,” a song from Danzig’s days as lead singer of Samhain, a band named for an occult holiday. From the debut self-titled, I went backwards through his career, first with original horror punks The Misfits, then taking it up a notch with Samhain and Danzig. However, before I could at last achieve the dream, I got SoCal skate punk legends Pennywise and two rather mundane thrash metal bands, one of which, for the life of me, I cannot seem to recall their name.
First up, the mundane, derivative band whose name has escaped my data banks. [Hellevate. —Metal Ed.] While the music was not necessarily shitty (their last song, a galloping stomper of a tune, was fantastic) it had all the classic thrash metal clichés. A “wailing” singer apparently inspired by Sebastian Bach of Skid Row and Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, neither of which singer’s vocal range was even touched as a guitarist with a pension for pitch harmonics and the hair of Van Halen’s Michael Anthony played recycled riffs from the Metal Handbook circa 1987.
Next came the thrash/hardcore punk band from Toronto, The Cancer Bats. While I will give those points for energy (lead singer Liam Cormier bounces around like a mixture of Andrew WK and a wired early Sabbath Ozzy) and quality of musicianship, the songs just fell flat on the audience, me included. The one saving grace being an amazing cover of The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
Finally, we had made it through the fat and got into the substance that was Pennywise. It had been nearly twenty years since I had seen Pennywise at Warped Tour. Back then, they were balls of energy, climbing the stack speakers, yelling at the cops, doing what punks do. Now, 18 years later, they are still the fireball they were back then. Tearing through “Bro Hymn,” “Fight Till You Die,” Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want,” from the seminal punk record Suffer, “Something to Change,” and several others before leaving the audience wound up and ready for the Man of The Hour.
As Danzig’s band took the stage a selection from the instrumental record Black Aria loomed over the darkened crowd, all light gone minus some purple floodlights. Then the lights came on, revealing Danzig in all his wicked wonder; at 5’4” tall, Glenn may be short but vocally (mixing vocal influences Billy Idol, Johnny Cash and of course, The King) he is beyond powerful, blowing the roof off The Midland, howling out to the world some of his best loved tunes, straight from his black hearted catalog.
At 60 years old, Danzig prowls the stage like a wild animal, teeth gnashed; muscles flexed, ready to pounce on any note, ready to choke out any photographer, ready to leave fire and Hell in his wake. Though I didn’t get to hear personal favorites “Snakes of Christ” from the debut or “Tired of Being Alive” from Danzig 2: Lucifuge or “Left Hand Black” from How The Gods Kill, the setlist was solid, picking selections that he could deliver with power and fury, never missing a step.
“How The Gods Kill,” had an even more ominous tone then when I first heard it at 16, added years and experience bringing weight to the song. “Am I Demon?” “Her Black Wings,” and “Long Way Back from Hell,” the night’s closer, annihilated the crowd, whipping the already vigorous mosh pit into frenzy, before sending everyone home with sinister smiles and full ears.
Jerry Only, Glenn’s former bandmate, and his sham of a Misfits band should take a note or three from Glenn. Instead of crapping all over the solid and vastly influential legacy you built with The Misfits, walk away and do your own thing. Hell, I do not care if it’s your Christian metal band Christ the Conquer, just stop fucking up the greatness that was The Misfits.
I had waited years to see Danzig and I was not disappointed. What I saw was a man who loves what he does, whether he would admit it or not, and a man secure with his place in rock history. Danzig has seen bands come and bands go that built songs and careers on the sonic foundation that he has helped lay down, that my friends, is quite the feat. That, my friends is a legend. All Hail The Evil Elvis! All Hail Danzig!
Hammer of the Gods
Until You Call on the Dark
Am I Demon
Her Black Wings
How the Gods Kill
Let Yourself Go (Elvis Presley Cover)
Devil’s Angels (Davie Allan and the Arrows cover)
N.I.B (Black Sabbath cover)
Black Angel, White Angel
Twist of Cain
Long Way Back From Hell