Danzig returns with a new album entitled Circle of Snakes, breaking from the tradition of numbered albums. His work always has had both a serious and fun exploration of dark horror themes and here the band’s sound returns to its goth-rock roots, getting away from the industrial sound of the last few albums. The opening track is “Wotans Procession,” a dark, regal dirge accompanied by moaning souls that announce his arrival. A good fit for any dark prince.
The album then has three upbeat rockers: “Skincarver,” the title track and “1000 Devils Reign.” “Skincarver” begins with Tommy Victor’s guitar alternating between crunchy strumming and high-pitched squeals. He is joined by the heavy rhythm section of Jerry Montano on bass and Bevan Davies who stomps the hell out of his two bass drums. Victor’s solo during the bridge is good, but it’s nothing special, a phrase that regrettably captures the essence of the entire album.
The title track starts up and Victor’s playing is very similar with the strumming/squealing alternations. If you didn’t notice the fade between songs, you’d think they were playing the same song until Danzig started singing. The vocals aren’t clear and at times I thought “Halfway to Hell” sounded like the more familiar quote, “Highway to Hell.”
The album slows down for “Skull Forrest,” an attempt at a spooky number, but neither the music nor lyrics capture mood properly, and the song comes off as laughable. This is in sharp contrast to the brooding “When We Were Dead,” which comes closest to capturing the quality of the early Danzig albums. Glenn performs his best vocal work on this track. The song is dark and serious, taking personal despair and making it accessible through the strong, sullen lyrics. The strength of lyrics is a highlight on “Night, BeSodom” as well. There they capture the sexual power a woman has over man, or is given by a man, as if she were a succubus. No judgment is made, just a word of warning offered.
Unfortunately, they can’t sustain that quality. “My Darkness” starts off well as the narrator of the song explores the darkness inside him, but the song lost me with the line “wanna creepy-crawl across your town.” The mood vanishes when I hear those childish words. The song’s music is weak and Victor brings back the guitar squeals.
I didn’t care for any of the album’s artwork. The cover by Dorian Cleavenger is a poor homage to ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery, which was created by HR Giger, who did work on Danzig III. The CD photos are corny. Danzig wears goofy-looking rubber gloves that belong to the Creature of the Black Lagoon. I don’t even get the woman inside, the model for the cover. The only thing scary about her is what she has done to her lips and face. I was expecting more from the packaging.
I was torn because while enjoyed some songs, others fell flat. Circle of Snakes is tolerable when I listen to the entire thing, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Danzig set such a high bar of quality with the first three albums that it’s a disappointment when he makes an average album. There’s nothing horrible here, yet neither is there anything that blows my mind and makes me replay it incessantly. You might enjoy it, but this album shouldn’t be your first introduction to his work. I recommend sampling some tracks before buying it.