Danzig changed the way that I view and listen to music when they released their seminal self-titled debut in 1988 – at the time, I was deep into the world of thrash and starting to dip my toes into the chaotic thrall of the early formation of death metal. Even though I still listened to a lot of classic metal at the time, my main goal was sonic aggression and its evolution. But Glenn Danzig, John Christ, Eerie Von, and Chuck Biscuits (R.I.P.) produced a record that was dark, stripped-down, evil, downright catchy, sans blastbeats or growls, and I was enthralled.
Over six years and four albums, this original incarnation of the band made music that I still consider some of the best in metal history. Moreover, it pushed me to find music in very different areas that I wouldn’t have even considered without the inspiration, not to mention (most importantly) shaped how I would listen to music going forward. The group would continue thereafter with different line-ups under Glenn’s watchful eye with varying degrees of success, but never to the level of those early records.
Danzig’s vocals have always been a gothic collision of Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley, even in his days with the legendary Misfits, and it was always a major draw-card with its deep tone and sultry reliance on melody. He has always maintained his hero-worship of The King, and there has been a strong rumour over the years that Glenn was planning an album strictly of Presley covers. The band’s past couple of releases have been substantially lacklustre with poor production (sadly, and without explanation), so when the project was finally announced last year, my hopes of it succeeding were barely non-existent. And when the “One Night” single was released recently, it confirmed my fears: the production was terrible; the instrumentation bare; and the vocals thin and meh.
But here’s the thing – when I finally sat down and listened to the full album, my eyes grew wider and wider with every successive track, scarcely believing what I was hearing, so much so that I listened to it beginning to end three times in that first sitting just to make sure. This is the Danzig that I’ve hero-worshipped all these years, even without the rest of the old gang, and even though these are all Presley songs (admittedly, I’m also an Elvis obsessive, which absolutely helps).
The instruments are still sparse and fulfil only the most basic of frameworks, but they are there simply to back up “that voice.” The production is fairly raw but it works with the material, and the quieter songs have a lush warmth that puts you in the darkened vocal booth along with the man himself. Glenn sounds like the demon of old, but through the guise of a gloomy lounge singer, and the tone and effect are infectious. He mostly sticks to the moodier classics like “Fever” and “Lonely Blue Boy,” but he even makes more upbeat songs like “Baby Let’s Play House” his own, and the version of “One Night” on here is worlds apart from the pre-release.
For me, the standouts are easily “Pocket Full Of Rainbows” and the everlasting “Always On My Mind,” both of which are spellbinding testaments to the strength of his voice, his love of the material, and the ease of which he performs such major songs. This is Elvis for a new generation, channelled through the darkest interpretation, and with stripped-down humanity that exposes both the original songs and the genius of Mr. Danzig. And most of all, he just GETS Elvis (much like John Lennon near the end of his career and Nick Cave with his similar-styled version of “In The Ghetto” back in ‘84) – not the bloated, bejewelled ghost that haunted Las Vegas in later years, but the young phenom that sucked in all the blues and country that came before and spat out the beginnings of rock & roll that would shape everything to come. The dark prince with a vast kingdom that Danzig has always aspired to.
Danzig Sings Elvis, beyond being a fantastic collection of great songs by a great artist, makes me hopeful that Glenn is looking to the future by glancing at the past. His recent reformation of the Misfits was a nostalgic wish that most of us thought we’d never see, and it worked on every level. Will we see a re-energized Danzig over the next few years that’s hungry again and has all the tools necessary to make it happen? Only time will tell, but until then, Danzig Sings Elvis satisfies in every possible area, and I urge you to take a dip in these dark rivers.
Danzig Sings Elvis Track Listing:
1. Is It So Strange
2. One Night
3. Lonely Blue Boy
4. First In Line
5. Baby Let’s Play House
6. Love Me
7. Pocket Full Of Rainbows
9. When It Rains It Really Pours
10. Always On My Mind
11. Loving Arms
12. Like A Baby
13. Girl Of My Best Friend
14. Young And Beautiful
Run Time: 39:21
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Record Label: Cleopatra Records