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Black Laden Crown

Evilive / AFM / Nuclear Blast (2017)
Rating: 9/10

It’s been seven years since dark rockers Danzig released an album comprising of entirely new material, and so it was with great anticipation and excitement that Black Laden Crown was to be bestowed upon us. I’ve been a Danzig fan since the 1988 self-titled debut album and with black leather wings have welcomed each release; Glenn Danzig remaining one of the most consistent in regards to solid, ashen output.

With Black Laden Crown we’re once again swept up in a black tide of gloomy, morose strains and funereal compositions, beginning with the sombre title track; a doom-laden, rainy Goth whine built upon the oaken foundation of Johnny Kelly’s drum rumbles and Tommy Victor’s mesmerising, fizzing leads.

It’s a perfect way to start; a truly moody plod which finally kicks in to an almost slo-mo punky chug around the 4:30 mark. It’s Danzig doing what Danzig does best; a sinister thud that is mostly instrumental in its suave guise and which bleeds into the equally ominous ‘Eyes Ripping Fire’. This one again builds slowly as a deep, heavy chug-fest, and then Glenn Danzig’s recognisable warble of nocturnal prowess.

Glenn Danzig provides drums on this one, and that’s the only inconsistent detail of the record; the fact that it offers up a quintet of different drummers, including guest contributions from Megadeth’s Dirk Verbeuren and former Danzig members Joey Castillo and Karl Rockfist. But it hardly affects proceedings as ‘Eyes Ripping Fire’ builds to that hollering, hellish chorus amidst a soirée of menacing riffage and gloom-laden bass bludgeons. It’s wondrously heavy stuff, awakened only from its lazy slumber by those spiralling leads, but again it’s still very much a drizzly composition, hinting at classic Metallica with that all so simple chug.

The album offers nine tracks in total, with the next up being ‘Devil On Hwy 9’. Again, the fearsome riffing comes into play, made all the more pulverising by Joey Castillo’s percussion. Admittedly, though, it’s not greatly different in melody and structure from the previous track, except for the rawer, primitive feel confirmed by Glenn Danzig’s howls.

‘Last Ride’ follows, and again there’s that pensive, suspenseful build up and that thick streak of Gothic mood; think of the classic Danzig track ‘Mother’ for comparison, especially in the vocal, with the riffage hinting at a doomy T-Rex (‘20th Century Boy’) lick. For me, though, it’s ‘The Witching Hour’ which really sets the mood; a truly rainy, spook-fest that again provides doom-laden strains. Glenn Danzig’s barks act as ominous commands to the hordes of demons to scurry from their caverns, while the bleak, aching guitar sound is a hellish yawning chasm of blackened dread.

The pitch black hazards never let up, as ‘But A Nightmare’ continues the threatening thread. The catchy, mournful riffage here reminding one of doomy rockers Trouble at their prime, and of course the mighty Black Sabbath as Glenn Danzig’s devilish lyrics roll of his forked tongue.

There’s not so much of the Evil Elvis vibe with this one. Instead, Glenn Danzig and co plunders the depths of the swampy 70s for inspiration – those fetid, squalid chugs constantly clogging the ears. In fact, only ‘Skulls & Daisies’ lifts the tempo, but again it’s still deep, dark and cavernous in its traipse and threaded with a wicked, rainy smudge.

What is clear with this new album is that the band is intent on suffocating us with their gluey slog. ‘Blackness Falls’ is peppered with Glenn Danzig’s usual yowls, which summon all manner of perverse thoughts, and by the time ‘Pull The Sun’ comes lumbering from its lair, we can only be hypnotised by the spells of witchery cast by the mainman and his band of morose maniacs.

Danzig’s latest album is arguably the band’s doomiest affair in respects to its overall constant trudge effect. Barely does the opus raise its head above nod, and any hints of a more upbeat black ‘n’ bluesy roll being dampened by the opening chords of doom – and that’s fine with me. Black Laden Crown is a thick, foggy nocturnal ride into the smoggiest depths of Glenn Danzig’s psyche, and by the time it’s over the silt layering will remain the only sign of the horror you’ve just been engulfed by.

Neil Arnold

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