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Album Review: Danzig – Black Laden Crown

The 2010s have been a rather rocky time for Danzig. 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth was a great way to kick things off and the band has miraculously not had a single lineup change through the whole decade, but any signs of momentum were squandered when Evil Elvis took five years to follow that album up with the poorly received Skeletons cover album in 2015. Unfortunately, the presentation of Black Laden Crown won’t be much help in restoring Danzig’s increasingly memetic reputation.

Black Laden Crown has the same stripped down style as Deth Red Sabaoth, but it definitely isn’t the bluesy throwback that album set out to be. It may actually be the most doom-oriented Danzig release to date, as the majority of songs are based on slow burn tempos and building structures. Songs like “Eyes Ripping Fire” and lead single “Devil on Hwy 9” are upbeat exceptions to this rule but they’re based more on the chugs associated with Circle of Snakes or I Luciferi than the rock stomps of the early 90s classics.

Unfortunately, this promising direction is let down by the rather pedestrian songwriting. Songs like the title track and “Last Ride” show potential and achieve some sense of atmosphere, but the vocal lines aren’t very engaging and a lack of memorable riffs results in the dynamics largely coming short of any explosive highs. There are still some pretty enjoyable songs on here but even the best like “But a Nightmare” and the closing “Pull the Sun” feel more like past album castoffs than true highlights.

And as others have already pointed out, the production quality and performances will definitely be a turnoff for most listeners. The rough mix that proved detrimental to Skeletons sticks around as the tinny guitar, nonexistent bass, and flat drums make this sound more like a demo than an honest to god album. Danzig’s voice is thankfully not as shot as I had feared but it sounds incredibly thin on the heavier songs and standoffish everywhere else. This combined with the black-devil-skull mad libs continuing to masquerade as lyrics really highlights the phoned in nature throughout.

Whether you only know Danzig for his Portlandia cameo or you’re an old school fan still spurned by the loss of John Christ and pals, Black Laden Crown probably don’t do much for you. It isn’t an experimental failure like Blackacidevil, but the shoddy production and songwriting are as hard to sell as the wretched album art implies. Until Danzig can make nice with a professional producer or at least take a crash course in music production software, even the blackest of the black can only enjoy his modern output based on what is hiding in the muck.

Highlights:
“Black Laden Crown”
“But A Nightmare”
“Pull the Sun”

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