"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Danzig - "Black Laden Crown" (CD)

Danzig - "Black Laden Crown" CD cover image

"Black Laden Crown" track listing:

1. Black Laden Crown
2. Eyes Ripping Fire
3. Devil On Hwy 9
4. Last Ride
5. The Witching Hour
6. But a Nightmare
7. Skulls & Daisies
8. Blackness Falls
9. Pull the Sun

Reviewed by on June 9, 2017

"By now, it's almost impossible for Danzig not to borrow from his own material, but 'Black Laden Crown' feels for the most part like a collection of arrangements rather than new music."

When an artist with a career spanning 40 years and commanding the kind of legendary status that Glenn Danzig has, anticipation for new releases is often mixed with equal parts dread by even the most rabid of fans. It can't possibly be better than any of the classic albums, and what if it's bad? What if it's kind of cringe-worthy, like 2015's cover song album, "Skeletons?"

"Black Laden Crown" is Danzig's eleventh studio album under his own moniker. Taking over three years to record with no less than four different drummers, and with Tommy Victor handling both lead guitar and bass duties, this album's biggest claim to fame may be that it's one of the gloomiest of the lot.

Opener and title track "Black Laden Crown" starts out slow with a wailing processional, and when the vocals kick in at just before the one minute mark, it's enough to make your hair stand on end - Danzig's voice is in fine form and it's really the focus of this album. A chorale howls, then a guitar does the same. Lest you get bored, the pace gets moving around four minutes in, but that does set the tone for the rest of the album: never really getting beyond mid-paced in feel if not in actual tempo, this is by far the dirgiest of the band's catalogue. By now, it's almost impossible for Danzig not to borrow from his own material, but "Black Laden Crown" feels for the most part like a collection of arrangements rather than new music.

"Eyes Ripping Fire" again mixes slow with pacier sections and showcases just how cold and demonic Danzig's vocal tone can be. "Devil on Hwy 9" starts with Victor's signature squeal harmonic guitar noise then sloshes along with leads that almost wander into self-indulgent territory. "Last Ride" and "The Witching Hour" both feature spine-tingling, spooky vocals.

By the time "But A Nightmare" rolls around, that constant guitar squeal is starting to get a little annoying. "Skulls & Daisies" is more of the same riff and the same plodding pace - we're really dragging now. "Blackness Falls" starts and gawd, there's that squeal harmonic again.

The final track, "Pull The Sun", is a welcome change with a lovely mournful vocal line, more of a ballad and a bit less heavy-handed with the guitar wailing. It is fitting that the album closes with a showcase of its own best feature: Danzig's voice.

Highs: Danzig's "Evil Elvis" voice is at its best here, and the production takes the vocals to the top of the mix and really features them.

Lows: The lead guitar latches onto those pinch/squeal harmonics and once you notice they're ALWAYS there, they start to grate.

Bottom line: Fans of both Danzig's voice and excessive squeal harmonics may enjoy this. Everyone else should probably not bother.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)