with Eyes of Fire and Kataklysm
Orlando, FL • March 6, 2005
Many people forgot about Glenn Danzig after he left the seminal hardcore punk outfit, The Misfits, in 1983. To bring you up to date, he formed a metal band called Samhain which eventually evolved into the more blues-inspired punk metal of his self-titled band, Danzig. Officially formed in 1987, the original lineup included John Christ on guitar and Chuck Biscuits (of Black Flag) on drums. The members have since numbered in the dozens, ever-changing, with the only constant being Danzig himself. The current lineup for the Circle of Snakes Tour 2005 has Johnny Kelly (of Type O Negative) on drums, Tommy Victor (of Prong) on guitar, and Jerry Montano on bass. In Orlando, they played to a socially diverse crowd that illustrates the flexible styles of the band’s music.
With the Danzig skull logo backdrop and set design — which included several elaborate skull sculptures — already in place, opening band Eyes of Fire snuck out into the dark of the stage. This southern California band’s metal is along the uninhibited lines of Tool. Vocals are shared by the melodious Matt Fisher, who also handles the bass, and guitarist Dan Kaufman whose sound is more guttural. The opposing voices create a tension that the heavy drumming and the ethereal keyboards push into a collision of light and dark. This worked especially well on the song “Empty,” off their debut album Ashes to Embers. A song which explodes when performed live.Canadian quartet Kataklysm play heavy Death Metal in the tradition of the band who arguably created the genre, Death. Their long hair is a throwback to the old school days of metal, which becomes its own part of the act — being constantly spiraled around by each band member while they play. Do they practice this trick? They must — because any normal human being would get dizzy, lose balance and fall on their asses. Instead, these guys seem to be winding themselves up with every hard hair toss. The energy they put out is just what was needed to charge up the already eager, sizable crowd.
Danzig’s entrance was slow and dramatic. A recorded track, “Intro,” off last years Circle of Snakes, was played while the backdrop was lit, then the sculptures, and then slowly each member walks out. By the time Glenn Danzig entered in view the crowd was roaring with anticipation. Opening with “Skin Carver” off their latest release, Danzig’s presence was immediately formidable. Like a comic book villian breathed into life — he’s big, he’s dark, and he looks ready to bite your head off. I would expect nothing less from the man who wrote the lyric, “I put an axe in my baby’s head” (from The Misfits’ “American Nightmare”).Framed by dramatic lighting and the spooky set design, the band plunged into a set that covered new and old. The audience grew louder each time a track off Danzig 1, 2, or 3 was tossed in. Particularly when the opening track off the first album, “Twist of Cain” is performed. When Danzig talks about the reunion shows he performed with Doyle (The Misfits’ guitarist) recently, and then launches into “Skull,” it’s the moment half the crowd has been aching for.
What surprises me about Glenn Danzig is how approachable he is to the audience. He repeatedly leaned into the crowd to touch hands, and drank from water bottles that were then fought over when he tossed them into the pit. Even the crowd surfers who got pulled into the security pit beneath the stage were awarded a touch before being ushered back into the audience. It seems like he genuinely loves what he’s doing, instead of just going through the motions like a lot of other musicians his age (he’s 49).
The hour-plus set built up to the final moment when he broke out with his only mainstream hit, “Mother.” The crowd sang along, as Danzig held the microphone out to them, and shook a last bunch of hands before making his exit. For the encore, he asked, “Do you want to hear something from Danzig I?” The crowd roared. “How about Danzig II?” They roared again. “Danzig III?” An even louder roar. Drummer Johnny Kelly then led the band into a song off of the third album.Metal and punk fans unite in their love for Danzig. He was combining the two genres long before Alice in Chains, or Godsmack, or any of today’s bands attempting to unite these very different styles. He has done so with unmatched skill, and that’s why his popularity has never faltered. Danzig is the Ozzy Osbourne of the underground. He’s gorier, more twisted, and would never be caught dead on a reality TV show. There’s a rumor that this is the band’s last tour. See them now before he disappears into the darkness.