Danzig – Black Laden Crown
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: May 26, 2017
As a freshly-minted teenager, I remember the wary look of my parents as I tried to sing along to “Mother” as it played on mainstream radio (a significant achievement for any “metal” band in the waning years of glam rock and hairspray). While it would still be a little while longer before I went head first into the heaviest that music could offer, Danzig and the two follow-up albums to their 1988 debut found their way into my walkman. The darkness was only broken by a solid riff that nearly always included a pinch harmonic or the incredible bellows that can be uttered by one Glenn Danzig.
Now nearly thirty years later, Danzig have released their eleventh studio album, Black Laden Crown, and honestly it leaves much to be desired. To be fair, it is completely unfair to judge Danzig’s vocal stylings against what we all know and love of his talents. You cannot listen to a Misfits or early Danzig record without being blown away by Glenn’s range and depth. But it is painfully obvious those days have come and gone. And by painful I mean it literally sounds like it hurts to sing on the title track, “Devil on Highway 9”, and in many other spots on the album. And while there have been many great riffs and fills throughout each record, the real draw is Danzig’s voice. The guy just turned 62, so he clearly gets a pass there and a massive E for effort, but it still hurts a little more every time you hear the crackle in his voice.
Musically, the production value is poor (Danzig self-produced this album and his previous album of covers called Skeletons). Danzig’s vocals are pushed so far to the front of the picture there are times you can’t really distinguish the guitar parts. There are some classic Danzig intros, but in general it’s slow and brooding throughout, but not in the creepy Danzig way. It’s slow. Period. There are very few sections that pick up any fire and let it rip. The best musical effort comes in “But a Nightmare”. Everything comes together in a way Danzig followers will relish and harkens back to the fear-inducing days of yore. Unfortunately, it is one of the very few “bright” spots (can we say bright when working with Danzig?) on the album.
If you’re a die-hard Danzig fan, I’m sure you stopped reading some time ago, but there’s little doubt you will enjoy the album as another notch in Danzig’s musical belt. It keeps along with the evil and gloomy feel of its predecessors, just at a much, much slower pace. For the regular metal fan like myself, the album got better as it went on, but certainly not enough to recommend to a fellow metalhead, due mostly to the lack of polished production. Danzig will always have a special place in the story of heavy metal in the U.S., but Black Laden Crown will not be included as a reason why.