Friday, July 13, 2012

Danzig: Danzig III: How the Gods Kill (1992)

Motion for Reconsideration
20th Anniversary

As a junior high kid first getting into metal, without any guidance from an older and more knowledgeable metalhead, I had few methods to discover new music. One of the most eye-opening was the shotgun method, i.e., blindly buying a whole lot of stuff all at once. At that time, there was no such thing as music downloading, so the next best thing was to sign up for one of the music clubs. Younger readers will have no idea what I'm talking about, but you could sign up for these "clubs" and get a dozen or so CD's for very cheap. They then planned to send you unsolicited CD's and charge you for them afterward, but most everyone would cancel immediately.

When I signed up for one of these, I got albums from Black Sabbath, Korn (this was before Follow the Leader), Type O Negative, Sepultura, and a handful of others. But out of these, the one that stood out the most to my developing tastes was Danzig, the debut by the band of the same name. Later I began collecting all of the band's albums, and I've listened to them, especially the first four, many times over the course of nearly two decades.

The debut gets all the attention from casual Danzig fans, but more serious fans could debate the merits of each of the first three, at the least. I've changed my mind many times over the years, and even considered 4p my favorite for a while. Today, I would have a tough time choosing between the debut and How the Gods Kill for my favorite Danzig album.

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of Danzig III: How the Gods Kill. It would be the last album the band would record before going in a more experimental direction. This means it's heavy metal, rock and roll, and the blues rolled together into one of the most cocksure, diabolical metal albums of all time. Where extreme metal tries its damnedest to sound evil, the sincerity and very genuine, sexually-charged confidence of this band puts them all to shame. That has never been more true than on their third record.

It still retained the classic lineup of Glenn Danzig, Chuck Biscuits, Eerie Von, and John Christ. The drumming of Biscuits was pure and natural, produced the way drums should be. It is his work that gives the band its swagger in the first place. Von's bass work is probably the least appreciated element, but it forms the backbone and heaviness that allowed Christ free rein to play. And did he. No other guitarist could bring such simple riffs to life like he could. He made the blues sound dangerous like no one since Iommi.

And then of course there's Danzig himself. The man conveyed such presence and absolute confidence because he is in fact a cocky son of a bitch. That would later lead to the lineup collapsing, of course. But his contribution was the final essential piece that made it work. He's been compared to Elvis and Jim Morrison many times, but that's because he has that kind of attitude and voice, and evokes the same kind of fear-for-your-daughters feelings.

Thus far, this critique could apply to any of the first three Danzig albums. What sets III apart is that it's altogether darker and more adventurous than its predecessors. More riffs, more tempo changes, less strict adherence to verse-chorus-verse, and more use of loud/quiet and soft/hard dynamics.

Opener "Godless" plays up the whole occult angle, with long, brooding sections with little instrumentation other than primitive drums and primal snarls, followed by an invocation of sorts. "Anything" evokes Sabbath's "NIB," the devil's own invitation to a young girl, but unlike "NIB" it actually sounds the part. Even the bluesy bounce of "Bodies" sounds devilish when Christ oozes that tone out of the six-string. And the title track is a more complex, layered version of the dark and eerie "End of Time." Yet it's much earlier in the album, setting the tone.

After those first four, the band continue as expected, following a devil on the left down the path to rock and roll perfection. The other two major highlights are "Dirty Black Summer" (with Glenn's animalistic grunts) and "Do You Wear the Mark?" (with its invitation to go down that same path). Both of them feature spectacular work by Christ, of course, but the solo in "Dirty Black Summer" is especially worth noting.

As with all truly great albums, its flaws are just as much a part of its charm. The long wait for "Dirty Black Summer" to start can be annoying as hell, but it only builds the anticipation to that beautiful beginning. The weird, soft "Sistinas" is, in truth, not very good, but it adds another facet to the whole picture. The album simply wouldn’t be complete without it.

Retaining and perfecting all their rock and roll glory, while adding a thick layer of atmosphere, Danzig reached their apex with their third album. Twenty years later, it hasn't shown its age in the slightest. With III on the left and Danzig on the right, there's no mistake which I'll be with tonight.

The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars

Buy Danzig III: How the Gods Kill


  1. This is my first introduction to Danzig 3, and I like what I'm hearing! I never even gave this a chance in junior high because I though Danzig two was mediocre. Damn, I think I like this more than Danzig 1. I'm gonna have to find me a copy of this

  2. I couldn't have expected such a good reaction

    Lucifuge is kind of its own beast, in a way. It's the Danzig fan's Danzig album, if you know what I mean. Some superfans really love it.

  3. EXCELLENT write-up sir. How the Gods Kill is easily the most complete Danzig album. However, I must admit I dig "Sistinas," but then I'm a sucker for all GD's ballads.

    Lucifuge is my overall favorite Danzig album, but I totally agree with you about it being "the Danzig fan's Danzig album."

  4. Thank you. I dig "Sistinas" too, in its proper place and time. In other words, it's perfect in its place in the album, but sounds not so great out of context.

    I wonder if I'm the first to make that observation about Lucifuge. It was my favorite Danzig album at times in my life when Danzig was my favorite band.

  5. The motion is denied. There is nothing to reconsider. Danzig III: How The Gods Kill is their best. Full stop.