If you have the privilege (or shame perhaps) of self-identifying as a true fan of horror culture then you most likely possess at least a passing familiarity with the music of Glenn Danzig.  Maybe your knowledge is limited to his early work with the Misfits and you don’t care a fig for his Evil Elvis antics with his solo act.  Maybe you’re a hardcore Samhain fan who scoffs at everything recorded after “November Coming Fire.”  Whatever your preference, you know the man and his work, even if you revile every note of it.  Good ol’ Glenn is the Vincent Price of horror rock.  Hard as it is for me to believe, there are some people who love horror and don’t care for Vincent Price (Blasphemers!).  But even those who can’t stand that bard of horror at least acknowledge his lasting influence.  Similarly, Danzig (the man and the band) cast a long shadow in the world of music.  So rather than pick one moment and dissect it, I’ll present for your (dis)approval my thirteen favorite moments in Glenn Danzig’s oeuvre.

1. “Tired of Being Alive” by Danzig (from Danzig II: Lucifuge): This isn’t just my favorite Danzig song, it’s one of my favorite songs, period.  With a main riff that is equal parts AC/DC and Eddie Clarke-era Motorhead, this song sums up the aural aesthetic of Danzig: an evil cocktail of bluesy machismo and arena-sized rock ‘n roll.  The lyrics contain all the boasting (“I’m fear, I’m your  heretic, I am your doom”), occult claptrap (“seven up seven to a six on six”), and downright wicked wordplay (“It’s never easy, never clean to be a beast among human sheep”) that are the hallmarks of Glenn’s solo era.  This song is so catchy that it could be on classic rock radio.

2. “Halloween” by Misfits (from Collection II and Legacy of Brutality): This track is every bit the horror anthem that “Monster Mash” is.  With a simple, pounding riff that segues into a slightly dissonant bridge before blossoming into one the best sing-along choruses in the history of rock, this is THE anthem for the best day of the year.  “Bonfires burning bright, pumpkin faces in the night…I remember Halloween.”  Poetry indeed.

3. “Skulls” by Misfits (from Walk Among Us): This is the closest that Misfits came to the early pop-punk formula of the Ramones.  Hilariously deadpan lyrics about the pleasures of decapitation are set to a four-on-the-floor riff in a so-simple-it’s-genius song.

4. “Long Way Back from Hell” by Danzig (from Danzig II: Lucifuge): This propulsive rocker opened what for me (and lots of fans) is still Danzig’s best album.  The bare bones bridge exemplifies what made American Records-era Danzig so special: the band’s willingness to let the space between the notes really breathe. 

5. “Astro Zombies” Misfits (from Walk Among Us): Horror punk as we know it would probably not exist without this song.  The 1950s rock influence stands front and center in this anthem to Drive-In classics.  The “whoah-ohs” that make Misfits tunes so fun for drunken sing-alongs pop up here as well, and there are few lyrics more fun to bellow than “Prime directive, exterminate the whole human race!” 

6. “Thirteen” by Danzig (from Danzig 6: Satan’s Child): Glenn Danzig possesses formidable power as vocalist, but even greater than the power of his pipes is the power of his songwriting.  Johnny Cash may have recorded the most widely-known version of this song, but Danzig’s version has a demented country-blues feel that shows the breadth of Danzig’s range.

7. “On a Wicked Night” by Danzig (from Deth Red Sabaoth): Many fans had written Danzig off as a musical force after the disappointing Danzig 7: I Luciferi and Circle of Snakes albums*, but this single from his 2010 album shows how wrong those people were.  This is a quiet-loud anthem in the vein of “Anything” or “How the Gods Kill,” and it has a certain swampy vibe that makes it an ideal track for summer nights.

8. “How the Gods Kill” by Danzig (from Danzig III: How the Gods Kill):  This song starts quietly before erupting into a Sabbathy dirge and then fades back into a more subdued finish.  Danzig’s voice reaches into its upper register here.

9. “Halloween II” by Samhain (from Samhain III: November Coming Fire):  I won’t claim to be Samhain’s biggest fan.  I find a lot of their sound to be a mixture that just doesn’t work.  Glenn Danzig’s vocals mixed with a sort-of goth/sort-of punk soundtrack is a combination that isn’t exactly unpleasant, but it never really coalesces into a satisfying whole to my ears.  But I do enjoy most of their third album, especially this re-working of a Misfits track.  The chunky, minor-key main riff almost drowns out Danzig’s Latin chanting until the chorus kicks in, a dreary, dragging version of the classic “Halloween” sing-along.  This track is a signpost of what was to come with Danzig’s solo band, and it is a creepy, ritualistic song that rocks in its own way.

10.  “Twist of Cain” by Danzig (from Danzig): This song opens the first album of the Rick Rubin era of Danzig, and it is a shot fired across the bow of those who wondered at the direction the singer would take after the dissolution of Samhain.  The ultra-dry production and the sparse riffing lift Danzig’s vocals to the forefront.  This first album was pure, evil rock ‘n roll, reminding us all why fundamentalists are so scared of “devil music.”  This little tale of murder features James Hetfield doing some uncredited backing vocals 

11.  “Until You Call on the Dark” by Danzig (from Danzig 4p): Danzig’s (the band) fourth album is an odd one.  On one hand, it contains tracks like “Sadistikal” and “Cantspeak” that foreshadow his experimental wanderings on the following two albums, but it also contains classic-sounding tracks like this one.

 12. “Death Comes Ripping” by Misfits (from Earth A.D):  The final Misfits album is a vicious, angry slab of hardcore that trades in the monster movie anthems for bloody rave-ups like this song.  Faster and more violent than anything since “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?” Earth A.D. is almost thrash metal in its delivery.  This little minute and a half of rage showed the Misfits at their most chaotic.

 13. “Her Black Wings” by Danzig (from Danzig III: How the Gods Kill): A lot has been made over the years about the Stone Temple Pilots lifting the main riff of Danzig’s “Snakes of Christ” for their “Sex Type Thing,” but Danzig can hardly complain when the main riff of his own “Her Black Wings” seems a near perfect copy of Black Sabbath’s “Zero the Hero.”  But who cares?  This song, with its propulsive main riff and infectious chorus, is a Danzig classic with lyrics full of dark, sexual imagery and brooding evil.

*Not me!  I actually enjoy those albums (especially Circle of Snakes), but none of the tracks made the cut for my Top 13.  If this had been a Top 30,  “Night Besodom” and  “Black Mass” would have shown up.  “Come to Silver” from the controversial Danzig 5: Blackaciddevil would have been there too.

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