DANZIG – Skeletons (Album Review)

Danzig - SkeletonsMaybe it’s the product of an ever-changing record industry or just an easy way to take advantage of modern recording methods.  Or maybe it’s just easier than writing new songs.  Cover albums seem to be trending.  And I’m not sure why.  Record sales are in the toilet.  But are people who won’t buy new music from an artist they like going to run to Best Buy to pick up an album of covers?  Is radio more likely to play Stryper if it’s a cover of “Highway Star”Pretty Boy Floyd inexplicably did an entire record of KISS covers this year.  Who exactly is that for?  Frankly whether it’s newer bands (Black Veil Brides or Halestorm) or bands who’s career trajectory is on the downside (the aforementioned PBF or BulletBoys) I typically find covers a lazy waste of time.  A pointless exercise done for maximum return.  And they often have some stupid pun for a name.  The Covering.  Or Under Covers.  As a fan, I just don’t see the appeal.

With that said, of course, it makes sense for Danzig to do one.  To be fair Glenn has been tossing the idea of a covers record of some sort or other around for over a decade.  Even with the release of Skeletons he’s talking about doing an entire Elvis ‘Tribute’ record.  And if Glenn Danzig is going to release a record of covers you can be sure it will be full of deep tracks with unique arrangements.  But will it be good?

It’s called Skeletons and in the words of the man himself “These are my skeletons.  You may or may not know that I dig these songs.  You could say that some of this music is the actual basis and skeleton for what I listened to growing up – ultimately informing the kind of music I like.  It’s the foundation.  If you took Elvis and Sabbath out of my life, I probably wouldn’t be the Glenn Danzig you know.”  The cover got some folks talking earlier this year as it featured Glenn sporting the skull makeup he briefly wore during his time with The Misfits.  While it’s a nice nostalgic touch, what I see when I look at the cover is a man who is clearly not ashamed of his body.  I guess it’s ok and ties into his Skeletons theme while also giving longtime fans of the original Misfits something to fap to.  But as a fan of Danzig album covers it underwhelms a bit.

The record opens with a song called “Devil’s Angels” which comes from some sixties biker film of the same name.  Not surprisingly it sounds Danzig-y.  Almost a cross between his days as a Misfit and Danzig.  It’s followed by a song called “Satan” from a band called Satan’s Sadist’s (subtle) of which I could find little info on.  Oddly that was also the title of another biker movie from the 60’s.  It has that 50’s ballad feel that would shape much of the sound of The Misfits.  But it’s the next song, the Elvis number “Let Yourself Go”, that get’s my attention.  The comparison’s to Elvis are obvious and something Glenn has never hidden from over the years.

Next is a song that should be locked in a box called “Songs that never need to be covered again.”  “N.I.B.” by Black Sabbath can be put to pasture away from any bands looking to cover Sabbath.  It’s disappointing that Sabbath was the band Glenn chose to pick an obvious song from.  And this might be the worst version I’ve ever heard.  The guitar solo is embarrassing.  The attempt to make it fresh by playing the drums at half tempo didn’t work.  I would’ve like to hear Glenn do a song like “Megalomania” or “Juniors Eyes”.  “N.I.B.” is a deep track for people who don’t know Sabbath and it’s been done.  Hopefully to death.

From there we get an interesting take on the Aerosmith song “Lord Of The Thighs”.  Almost unrecognizable as Glenn couldn’t be a more different singer than Steven Tyler.  In this case, that’s a good thing.  That’s followed up by a song called “Action Woman” by a band I won’t pretend I’ve heard of called The Litters.  A very aggressive almost pre-punk sounding song and one of the better ones on here.  Then it’s the lesser known post-Eliminator hit from ZZ Top “Rough Boy”.  I really like Glenn’s vocal on this.  He delivers a very soulful rendition that is as much his as it is the original.  I just don’t like the song that much.

The album’s keeper track is probably “Girl Like You”.  A song from 60’s garage heroes The Troggs.  You can almost imagine Glenn smiling while singing this song.  Almost.  The record ends with a heartfelt version of the Everly Brothers song “Crying In The Rain”.  Again it’s all Danzig.  At the very least he seems to know what songs will fit him.  His style.  But everything about this records screams it was done on the cheap.  I imagine the phrase “good enough” tossed around during sessions.  At times, the production is so poor it’s hard to think it’s not intentional.  From his beginnings in The Misfits, Glenn has always approached his music from a raw minimalist slant.  While always maintaining that rawness, the production through his career seemed to progress, but the last few records he’s released sound as if they were recorded in an apartment closet and not by someone who has been doing it almost 40 years.  This record was recorded over a three year period and sounds like it.  It lacks a cohesiveness.  Songs like “Satan” and “Rough Boy” sound like unmastered demo’s.  At times, the music is as much complete as a skeleton is a complete human.  So maybe that was the intent.

If you’re a fan of Danzig then I guarantee you will find enough on this record to make it worth the purchase.  And if you don’t like him already there’s nothing here to change your mind.  Listening as a fan, there were times on this record it felt rewarding to hear Glenn enjoying himself at this stage of his career.  But there are also a couple of moments that made me cringe and wish he had done a record with a proper producer.  Glenn may be a pioneer of the DIY movement in popular music, but his best work has come when he had a second voice in the room.

Danzig Official / Danzig Facebook / Nuclear Blast Records

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