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Danzig Circle of Snakes

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, February 28, 2005 @ 1:26 PM


(Evil/Live-Regain-MDM Records)

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Circle of Snakes went curiously overlooked when it was released at the end of last summer; and with his tour underway to support the record, it is high time to consider the eighth studio record of the singer and band known as Danzig.

The brief instrumental opener “Wotan’s Procession” is a dirge that sets the tone for the record: the production of the entire cd (by Glenn Danzig) is extremely raw, and in lieu of putting the vocals at the top of the mix, the guitars (Tommy Victor, Jerry Montano) and drums (Bevan Davies) are pushed forward while the singer sounds (at times) as if he wasn’t anywhere near the microphone. The full effect resonates with the feeling of the band having been recorded live-to-tape with pretty sensational results.

Danzig is at his best soaring over a slow chugging riff and Circle of Snakes does not disappoint. “SkinCarver” kicks you right in the nuts. Tommy Victor bloodies his strings as his guitar squeals over a savage double-bass drum head-banging attack, while Danzig roars about a serial killer with a fascination for human pelts. Either that or he’s decrying the Hollywood plastic surgeons who dominate entertainment television. Only Danzig knows for sure, but it brutally out-rocks the legions of Hot Topic goofballs who have been plundering this man’s work for years. Plus, it’s goddamn catchy.

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Danzig’s ability to craft memorable songs remains undiminished by time, even if the lyrics aren’t always easy to discern. The title track is a crushing Prong-groove with a chorus simply made to be shouted along with, “Halfway to Hell/Halfway to Hell/Halfway to hellbent…” “1000 Devils Reign” blazes along with the fist-pumping glory of a lost Misfits number metalled-up for those who missed out the first time around.

Lending to the gloomy murk of his earlier efforts, Circle of Snakes has its share of gripping funeral processions in songs like the fantastic “Netherboun,” “When We Were Dead” and “Skull Forrest.”

But the real winner on the record is the closing number, “Black Angel, White Angel.” An explosive song with vibrant guitar reminiscent of the best moments within Danzig I – IV, it stands out as the brightest point on the record. It definitely feels like a lost gem from fifteen years ago, and may be one the finest songs Glenn Danzig has ever written. Eschewing the thick sludge that marks the rest of the record, the song is built upon a simple riff, but the beauty of it lies in the superb bridge-to-chorus build-up/crescendo with Danzig in Jim Morrison mode (“Come down and lay in the danger”) then spirals into a leads-frenzy fade-out. Though Danzig is too whatever (dark? Evil?) for mainstream radio, one can imagine it being a hit nonetheless.

Circle of Snakes is damn fine metallic rock record; and an excellent Danzig record. Label-changes, line-up changes, and time have not stopped this man from making great music, and metal fans shouldn’t wait for a box set to appreciate the great stuff that’s happening right now.

* * * ½


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