Danzig – Circle of Snakes Review

Danzig – Circle of Snakes
Evilive, 2004

1. Wotan’s Procession
2. Skincarver
3. Circle of Snakes
4. 1000 Devils Reign
5. Skull Forrest
6. Hellmask
7. When We Were Dead
8. Night, Besodom
9. My Darkness
10. Netherbound
11. Black Angel, White Angel

Glenn Danzig’s namesake band once tasted fame in the early 1990s with a revamped re-release of “Mother.” Those who frequented Headbangers’ Ball at the time were treated to “Dirty Black Summer” and generally the best of the band’s output with Danzig III: How The Gods Kill. For the former frontman of the Misfits, it’s been difficult finding his way back to the mainstream aside from getting taken down in one punch. Once fans and others were treated to some huge shifts in sound with Danzig 4, many walked away confused and never looked back. Several discs later, Danzig seems a little more open to actively reaching for an audience with the band’s eighth effort, Circle of Snakes.

It’s been quite some time since Danzig had a discernable lineup, and this outing is no different. Sporting Tommy Victor (of Prong) on guitars, bassist Jerry Montano and drummer Bevan Davies, it has become obvious that Danzig is more Glenn Danzig than a band; Glenn remains the sole songwriter and creator of his trademark dark’n’cheesy evil lyrics as well. For those fans of Prong, the guitar sound is easily recognizable as Victor’s, but that’s as far as the similarities go.

Those who have followed Danzig’s efforts have noticed a trend toward trying to modernize the band’s sound. To his credit, Glenn Danzig himself hasn’t reached that desparation level and has managed to keep a lot of his trademarks intact over the years; his vocals don’t punch whatsoever, sounding like absolutely nothing popular in music today, and he keeps it that way. However, it seems almost too easy to sit back and tell him that a little production help would probably go a long way in making his deep and powerful voice sound a lot more foreboding. If it’s the Danzig sound he wants to keep, he certainly doesn’t capitalize on it nearly enough. Perhaps a bit of conversation with another distinctive vocalist, Dave Mustaine, might help him sort out why the weakest link in his albums over the years has always been his most malleable and noteworthy asset.

The songs themselves on Snakes are easily comparable to those on the band’s last couple of efforts. Take some delightfully dark and evil lyrics, mix well with somewhat sludgey riffs, and KABLAM! Danzig song #147. This isn’t saying that none of the eleven tracks of the disc are easily blurred and unrecognizable from the whole. “Hellmask” actually has some speed to it, coupled with some odd-sounding barked lyrics (did he just say “killing grandmas”?) and the title track shows a lot of contemporary elements of the stoner-rock genre. Other highlights include “Night, Besodom” which cranks along with a groove not often seen in Danzig’s later works, and “Skull Forrest” is a nice trip down oldschool Danzig memory lane, something to remind older Danzig fans why they continue to cross fingers and hope the band will someday return to greatness.

But to those who are not Danzig fans, this album will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. The vocals, as previously mentioned, are often mixed oddly thin and can ruin the experience of what could be a decent tune if they were given the showcase and power akin to other booming voices like Peter Steele of Type O Negative. The subject matter of the songs themselves are more in a long line of cliches, although this is what one should expect from someone with an image as Glenn Danzig. While it doesn’t hurt the music at all, it doesn’t leave an open door for new listeners to jump into the fold via discovery of something new or innovative. In short, while the musicians Danzig recruits often have the ability to bring something new to the table, they’re often held back by Mr. Danzig himself.

In short, if you’ve heard the last two discs, 6:66 Satan’s Child and I Luciferi, you’ve heard Circle of Snakes. It’s Danzig, nothing more and nothing less. The band is in serious need of some type of direction, as they have done nothing but sit completely still for far too long.

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