By Steven Waddell
Ok so let's cut to the chase, thanks to the Misfits, Samhain, the first four Danzig albums and the recent Misfits reunion, the leather lunged larynx from Lodi is pretty much untouchable at this point. A punk rock legend that looks after his cat, all good in my book.
That being said, recent output from the Evil Elvis hasn't been well received so I was a little anxious before hitting play on this. The album art didn't help matters it must be said- a generously bosomed young temptress covered in blood and fire has kinda been done before and it doesn't really reflect the music within.
So....title track Black Laden Crown kicks things off and it's appropriately titled; Danzig's plaintive howl has weathered with time and has a certain lived in quality to it. The track itself comes across like late period (the drinking years) Jim Morrison fronting early Sabbath, drummer Johnny Kelly (one of five on this album but we'll get to that) of Type O Negative fame really contributes to that doomy late 60s vibe. Onto track two and Kelly slides off the drum stool to make way for.....Glenn Danzig! Now at this point I should tell you that there's inconsistencies in the drumming throughout the record, as well as Danzig and Johnny Kelly we also have the awesome Joey Castillo, most recently to be found pounding the living hell out of the skins behind Zakk Wylde in his Zakk Sabbath project, Karl Rosqvist of Michael Monroe and Dregen fame takes track 9 and Dirk Verbueren of Megadeth takes track 6. While it's musically interesting to have these excellent drummers all on board it does make things a little disjointed within the context of an album.
Devil on highway 9 takes us into classic Satanic biker Danzig territory and Castillo's drums are absolutely thunderous, Long time cohort Tommy Victor chugs along manfully with some thick and soupy riffage, and if pinched harmonics were nickels and dimes the man would be a millionaire. The nasty biker feel continues on second single Last Ride, atmospheric finger clicks at the intro set the scene for a tune that would sit happily on the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack, Danzig screaming about his loneliness as the world has died helps detract a little attention from Tommy Victor's blatant T-Rex lift....naughty boy. His lead playing is fuzzed out and wah soaked on this track, probably his best solo on the record.
It's a moody album this, the pace rarely picks up but when it does it's propelled by Victor and his thunking, palm muted, room shaking riffs. Witching hour has another reflective intro, and it seems this is where Danzig shines, the gravitas his voice now has is well suited to the more melancholy pieces.
While this ain't exactly a classic it's definitely not the the turkey the nay sayers expected. The let down is really the production, the vocals are too high in the mix and the lack of reverb gives it the effect of a high performance demo. Things wobble out of tune here and there and the overall feeling is that with an independent producer (Glenn himself produced) a level of objectivity could have coaxed even better performances. I'm looking forward to the next one as it feels that Black Laden Crown has given him something to build on.