TO WALK THE NIGHT
Almost immediately upon the ultimate bizarre-timing drummer LONDON MAY’S *(from IAN MacKAYE’S D.C.-based DISCHORD RECORDS act REPTILE HOUSE) entrance and STEVE ZING’S departure from *(he went on to briefly re-join THE UNDEAD, formed the band CHYNA, played in the titular homage-act SON OF SAM, and eventually formed deathrock band MARRAS DRUG, eventually returning to the DANZIG fold – – – but I’ll get to that) SAMHAIN, no time was wasted whilst in-between members. Writing, rehearsing, and finally, recording, were already in progress for what would be the band’s third release *(in total; this was to be their second full length), and most potent, pounding, pulsating, primal work to “date” *(“date” being then, during that unique era of dark experimental musics, and perhaps one of, if not the, finest examples thereof); this was to be their Opus Maximus, or Magnum Opus *(whichever you prefer), and exactly that to an entire subsect of an *(then) essentially unnamed sub-genre of pitch-black, tribally primal, and very serious occult influenced and themed variations of Rock/Punk/Metal/Goth, these ascendant acts sometimes managing to capture all at once, though never quite so in the way this album does. The singular common theme, if nothing other than Death Worship & Her subsequent inherent sensuality, amongst those certain bands and performers of note whom explore similar philosophies and Veilscapes, you’ll often notice, is the influence of this unrelenting masterpiece of all that, and so much more: SAMHAIN III NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE. Too Punk for Goths; too Goth for Punks; the abject Metal influence enrapturing a wider variety of listeners and rabid fans, while summarily leaving the Metal-elitists of the era scratching their collective heads, but still there, N-C-F resonates something primal and visceral to all listeners to this day, love it or hate it.
Recorded at REEL PLATINUM in Lodi, NJ, and again engineered *(as with both INITIUM and UNHOLY PASSION) by BOB ALLECCA, NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE is an album that sounds and feels like no other, perfectly choreographed, yet consistently improvisational, with songs that manage to strike every emotional chord of the blackened creative-imaginative *(and always sexual) psyche in a way that few can do. It’s SAMHAIN *(and even GLENN DANZIG himself, in my opinion) hitting their absolute highest point of creativity – – – piquing, if you will, in their all too brief a tenure: their sound, performances, and overall philosophies of the Dark Harvest, the Season of the Dead having fully taken a grande, invoked shape – – – while peeking beyond that black and crimson Veilscape just enough for us to slither up into. It’s not just GLENN’S vastly improved, more to-the-point lyrics and truly lupine vocal approach; nor the astonishingly unique and abstractly chaotic song structures, that revel convulsively in their paradoxes of melody and jarring clang, constantly being on the verge of complete collapse *(almost a fitting metaphor for the band itself). It’s played with the adrenaline rush of seeing a climactic event of Old God proportions unfold before your very soul, the musicians damned and determined to not only help bring it about, but see it through as well, with come-hither tri-tones and off-signature rhythmic timing structures being the soundtrack to it all.
This is an album that means a great deal to me. I’ve listened to it ritualistically every October 31st since I’d first heard it *(coincidentally enough, I’d first acquired it on a November 1st). Understand here that these are all my own interpretations of the meanings and philosophies of allegorical tales that, when I first heard them at 15, hit me harder than the MISFITS had two years prior. Being synesthetic, there’s a certain – – – something – – – I’ve always gotten from this classic, in it’s use of sounds and atmospheres that that evoke imagery like no other. The guitar in particular, the ways it’s handled and particularly the sound, are non-replicable. The primordial alternations between the blasts and bleakness of the drumming do indeed paint a portrait *(I’d say conceptual, but the whole act was a concept), one of vile ghouls and gorgeous succubi, fornicating with fierce intent around the tower of flames from which the SAMHAIN Demon-Skull *(inadvertently to be carried over to DANZIG, and the origins of which I’ll eventually get to, as they are somewhat comical) presides with his sneering skeletal ghouls. SAMHAIN being the origins of Halloween *(in some tales, it’s the name of the Demon who rules over the long and cold Nights of the Dark Harvest), that is entirely the focus of this album, from cover and layout to all contained within. *(This was also the first and only SAMHAIN album cover to visually centralize on the iconic mascot.) It was the theme of the band generally, sure, but this is where they absolutely nailed it in it’s purest form. Transformative in too many ways to specify, it helped push me to form my first band of violent, paganistic Goth-Punk *(AGE OF DESIRE), as it did for so many others.
Running through it’s 29 minute course like a twisted three act play of witchy succubi, archaic rituals, wandering spirits, blood, car crashes, Halloween Lycanthropy, and vile deviant sex, NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE opens with the incredibly tribal, adrenaline-rush instrumental ritual-initiation trance of “Diabolos 88,” seamlessly flowing into the seizing, apocalyptic “In My Grip,” which by this point in the album, you pretty much are. These are the kinds of sounds that makes one want to douse themselves in warpaint and blood, frenetically rip apart the seams of the world just beyond, or perhaps within, the raging circle of flame around which you dance, feast, and fukk. The third track, “Mother of Mercy,” essentially a straight-up, mid-tempo rocker *(though definitely one of the crowning songs on an album with no bad songs, fully playing into the whole of the Seasonal vibe that it’s entirely meant to, it’s also interesting to note that it’s a slight look into the territory GLENN would soon be heading toward with DANZIG – – – but we’ll get there) about crawling to your Mistress Muse of Death and begging for Her soothing Succubus kiss. Out of those deviant yet melodically-demonically suave thrusts comes the full-on attack of chimes, feedback, off-kilter pagan beats, and that oddly distorted SAMHAIN jangle-clang guitar-rape of utter brutality, “Birthright.” About just that, a hell-haunt that you will never escape, a blessed curse *(or cursed blessing), with lyrics that delve into the abyss of the obscure-arcane, it also touches on one of the album’s other central themes, the Will. One of the more oddly arranged pieces of the album, it’s one of those tunes that seems forever about to die out in it’s own jarringly atonal rhythmic fury, oddly held together by, of all things, the chime arrangement. That brief blast of chaos smoothly sluices into the beautiful, darkly romantic, and forever forlorn Veilscape that is “To Walk The Night.” I’ve always taken this song as being from the point of view of a lost and wandering Soul trapped in some eternal night of insatiable longing – – – others have claimed it’s about a vampire – – – either way, it’s an hauntingly, different, somewhat softer side, that we’ve yet to hear the band as such expose. However, much like JIM MORRISON’S dick dangling out of a pair of filthy hippie trousers in some Florida (?) arena, that exploration of tranquil darkness was to be short-lived. As we hit the halfway point of the album, all out rage presents itself with “Let the Day Begin,” a classic made up of driving melodic hooks *(and one of the greatest minimalist guitar solos, period) and a virulent lyrical rage toward all Religion-driven falsehoods, cowardice of the Soul of man, the weakness of the follower, and truths of the Power of the Will. *(Flip to B side.)
The second half of the album amps the lunacy up tenfold, featuring an astonishing array of themes and sounds so darkly diverse, they seem like a blood-pact with some Goetian monstrosity has indeed been drawn. “Halloween II” is the culled MISFITS track here, originally on their HALLOWEEN 7” B-side, and being one of their more obscure pieces *(the MISFITS never played it live, the song highly unnerved JERRY at the time, he’s admitted, due to its content, the poorly constructed Latin lyrics being a little too close to actual “satanism” for his sensibilities). SAMHAIN transmogrified it into a thick, squelching metallic dirge, written in Latin by GLENN, that amounts to something of an ancient werewolf incantation. That transition is logically followed by the album’s most rhythmically jangly rite, “November’s Fire,” basically about the beasts at the feasts, attending the sacrificial fires, writhing in sacrificial pig’s blood, stained flesh, and the smoke, iron, and pheromone scent in the chill air of Death’s comely night, the lyrics drawn from actual Druidic practice. Howls, growls, chimes, keyboards, and other assorted off-time and random goodies round the piece out to make this another standout amongst an album of standouts. “Kiss of Steel” rips you from the sex-trance bliss of a sacred blood night and into cruel reality, dragging you quite graphically from one set of flames to another altogether: a vicious car crash. Two Chevies collide, grille-to-grille, a metallic mid-air kiss of death; the occupants of the cars are mangled beyond recognition, and a crowd just stands and stares as the occupants very painfully cease to be. As quickly as we’ve been forcefully yanked out from the Veilscape, we’re pulled back into that World, only to witness Misery continuing it’s job, as we succumb to the mind-numbing speed and sheer, unabashed brutality of “Unbridled,” a reckless song that at one point actually does collapse in on itself – – – only to unstoppably raise back up and trample out to feral exhaustion – – – or into the nethers, only a breath-strained beast-creature left moaning at the end, moaning right into the nightmare-kink filth-sex finale of “Human Pony Girl,” a most ominous and heavy, sensually sadistic tale of sickness and sex-magick, and a very strange concubine *(though if you were to ask GLENN, he’d probably just say “Hey, it’s about fukkin’”). I’ve had some incredibly nasty visuals come to mind while listening to this track – – – it’s all relative, subjective to the perceptions of the listener, and just where the beautifully autumnal nightmare trances, of the album as a whole, take you.
The band embarked on a massive tour and promotional run for this petrified wood-solid masterpiece of Halloween debauchery, in every possible form, that lasted a good portion of 1986. Their shows were frenetic and packed to the gills; the performances filled with energy and vigor, black, Pancake 31, devilocks, and blood. SAMHAIN opened for and played with such a wide variety of bands it boggles the mind, summarily bringing all manner of members from various factioned tribes, crews, and subgenres together, as one. Helping to solidify the variety of the U.S.’ growing deathrock and punk scenes, they were consequently reigning just as much of an influence down upon the underground metal communities. I’d go as far as to consider SAMHAIN more Black Metal than most Black Metal *(to the second wave of which, SAMHAIN was in fact a large influence upon). They’d worked hard, tirelessly writing, rehearsing, performing, recording, rotating members, and touring for most of the short duration of their existence as SAMHAIN, earning the reapings of what they’d sewn, own their own terms entirely *(in all likelihood those reapings being much less so than would be/are now, and certainly without major support, that much harder to maintain).
However, as the title track “November’s Fire” states in it’s lyrics:
“Arms to flail in flame / Waving, trembling / These things breed to flame / All things must come to ash”
This is where the tale gets trickier, as SAMHAIN always kept a deliberate mystery about themselves, as a unit, in any incarnation, throughout much of their incredibly prolific-yet-brief career. Not a lot is known, and reliable resources are hard to come by, even with the interwebs and info on anything in the blink of an eye. There wasn’t much info back in the day. One had to rely on: oral histories; flyers; advertisements; short, not very depthful interviews on bootlegs/college radio stations; and pieces on the band buried among the *(mostly, at the time, I hate to say) detritus in magazines like FLIPSIDE or MAXIMUM ROCK-N-ROLL. Or maybe you met the band and they didn’t fukk with you.
Regardless, NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE was to become SAMHAIN’s final album *(kind of), to the surprise of both band and fans alike. Their bloody last live performance *(at least for quite some time to come) was on July 14th, 1986, at the Ritz in NYC. Up until then, everything was being released on GLENN’S own PLAN 9 RECORDS, and would all eventually be distributed by the LYLE PRESLAR owned CAROLINE RECORDS; there wasn’t much in the way of major label interest. To them this band was just another group of underground guys dressed in black with a satan-gimmick. The labels were scarcely aware of the rabid cult following the band had developed, nor would they scarcely have cared, as they wanted mainstream, at that time mainstream being Cock-Rock. I do know that GLENN wanted to take SAMHAIN further, as well as in a slightly different direction, one to which DAMIEN was not particularly suited for at the time. However, GLENN had already been writing and rehearsing material for the next album, SAMHAIN GRIM, the album being a legend in that it never happened, but may possibly exist in some form. Though most of the album was supposedly recorded, it was never released, at least not until a handful of dubious tracks several years later, then a couple more a bit after. From what I understand, there’s a whole vault of unheard, unreleased SAMHAIN tracks *(Goddamnit I’d love to hear that material properly released.) that really should be opened. Alternately, many of those SAMHAIN GRIM songs would eventually appear, in drastically altered versions to any leaked demo material from the time.
SAMHAIN had whittled back down to a trio of DANZIG/EERIE VON/LONDON MAY, again left guitarless. Little did the band know that throughout a number of shows in 1986 that they had been being genuinely scouted. It was almost totally by accident, as this scout just happened to see SAMHAIN perform in NYC, and began repeatedly attending performances. He saw something there, something powerful, confrontational, but something he thought he could work with. Enter super-producer RICK RUBIN, founder of DEF JAM RECORDS, co-owned with RUSSELL SIMMONS, and RUBIN already producer of the BEASTIE BOYS debut, the RUN DMC-AEROSMITH collaboration-atrocity of “Walk This Way” *(it was RUBIN’S fukking idea, apparently), SLAYER’S REIGN IN BLOOD *(his first metal band), THE CULT’S ELECTRIC, and several rap acts. The vocals and showmanship of GLENN DANZIG, in particular, had caught his attention in a big way.
GLENN DANZIG – Vocals, Keyboards, Atmospheres, Drums on “Diabolos 88, Birthright, Let The Day Begin, November’s Fire, Human Pony Girl”
EERIE VON – Bass, B. Vocals
DAMIEN – Guitar, B. Vocals
LONDON MAY – Drums on “In My Grip, Mother Of Mercy, To Walk The Night, Halloween II, Kiss Of Steel,” B. Vocals
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org