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Glenn Danzig is a cartoon character. No, really: Just take a look at the cover of the new Danzigalbum, which pictures the singer emerging from a bog like DC/Marvel's Swamp Thing. Inch-deep third-degree burns scar his massive biceps. "Yeah, I've got 666 burned into my arm," he deadpans, in a recent phone interview from his office in Los Angeles.
The remark almost makes you want to say to him, in your best Church Lady voice: Well, isn't that special?
But Danzig, who has been accused of preaching Satanism throughout his career, hardly breathes fire. In fact he comes off as thoughtful, well-spoken, and, well, awfully self-serious. Despite his heavy-metal posturing, no one will ever mistake Glenn Danzig for the boys of Spinal Tap.
In fact Danzig -- who performs with his band April 20 at the Chili Pepper in Fort Lauderdale -- is nothing less than a protean figure in the annals of metal. Born into the same infant punk scene that spawned the Ramones and the Damned, he's had more than a bit part in the evolution of American hard rock.
Danzig's first big gig came way back in 1978 as singer for the Misfits, a B-movie tribunal that mixed horror-house themes with blistering protopunk. Next came Samhain, the late-'80s precursor to Danzig, whose sound veered toward polished gothmetal.
Danzig -- the band -- emerged with an eponymously named album in 1988, its sound rooted in Sabbathian intensity and lyrics drenched in pagan sex, devil worship, and blood sacrifice. Danzig II: Lucifuge, released two years later, added a few stylistic enhancements and demonstrated that Danzig's world view wasn't all dark shadows. More sophisticated than its predecessor, Danzig II introduced the sharp, detailed, wide-screen production that moved away from bludgeoning sludge to emulating the cold, desolate danger suggested by the lyrics. Danzig III: How the Gods Kill garnered as much attention for its frightening cover -- by Swiss airbrush artist H.R. Giger -- as the heart-of-darkness riffage contained within. The diabolically powerful Danzig 4, released in 1994, plunged back into ferocious simplicity, taking Black Sabbath's thudding crunch (and passion for the underworld) but updating the package with crystalline production and even Gregorian chants.
But by 1995 the band's long-time label, American, began to sink, threatening to pull the band down the drain with it. Around the same time, Danzig sacked his original bandmates when he felt creative differences -- and substance dependencies -- had rendered them inefficient. New cogs were installed in the Danzig machine, and the reborn clan created Danzig 5: Blackacidevil, borrowing heavily from the computerized malevolence of industrial purveyors such as Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and Foetus. When the new members -- bassist Josh Lazie and drummer Joey Castillo -- came aboard, Danzig laid down the law: "We have a non-drug policy," he explains. "If you have a drink occasionally, that's OK. If someone smokes some pot here and there, I don't really care, as long as it's not before a show, as long as it's recreational. If you're an alcoholic you might as well look for some other place to go."
With American embroiled in lawsuits and bankruptcy, several parties, Danzig says, expressed interest in releasing Blackacidevil. He decided to go with Hollywood Records, a Disney subsidiary, because they offered him the opportunity to launch his own small label as well. But the entire deal quickly fell apart.
"We had religious groups protesting the signing of Danzig to Hollywood," he explains. "Then we had Roy Disney" -- vice-chairman of the board of directors for the Walt Disney Co. -- "protesting the signing of Danzig to Hollywood!
"Roy freaked out when he found out we were actually on a label that Disney owned," Danzig recalls. "That was it. And after that it was a nightmare. Later on, the same thing happened to Insane Clown Posse. Eventually, we were able to get all our stuff back, sever our deal, and get out of there pretty clean."
These artistic and moral conflicts of interest weren't uncovered until paperwork committing Danzig to Disney was already finished, though, which meant Blackacidevil was officially lost through the cracks, though it should see rerelease later this year. Danzig finally set himself up with his own label -- Evilive -- to handle reissues and new material without corporate/parental control. Now comes Danzig 6:66 Satans Child, which is being issued by Evilive through EMagine Entertainment, a NYC-based, Net-centered imprint.
Satans Child is stereotypically excessive, channeling comic caricature into head-banging glory and focusing Danzig themes (pain, evil, death) into a shiny black mass. Combining the band's trademark mayhem with Danzig's finest Metal Elvis/Lizard King vocals, Satans Child has much in common with the scary apparitions that grace those old monster comic mags.
The album opens with a fast, lean (and to be fair, hummably melodic) anthem, "Five Finger Crawl," which bursts forth with sneering, chanted vocals and a panzer-division guitar assault. "East Indian Devil (Kali's Song)" shows that Danzig's love for dark entities runs multiculti, while "Unspeakable" and the plodding "Apokalips" depend on raging, circular guitar lines and undercurrents of synthetic bass for their firepower. Typical Danzig fare, but "Cold Eternal" -- one of his best-ever compositions -- breaks through the pain.