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An Howling Legacy of the Unholy Passions of SAMHAIN, PART IV: DESCENT; REBIRTHING; LORD OF THE LEFT HAND & THE SONS OF SAM

DESCENT

Click here for Part I

Click here for Part II

Click here for Part III

samhainpt4In 1986’s RICK RUBIN finally approached GLENN after a SAMHAIN performance at that year’s New Music Seminar, largely at the behest of METALLICA bassist *(and main songwriter) CLIFF BURTON *(R.I.P. CLIFF, METALLICA have been primarily awful since your departure into the Veilscape, and you are to this day both revered and missed). So taken with SAMHAIN was RUBIN, that he signed them practically right there, to his DEF AMERICAN label *(RUBIN and RUSSELL SIMMONS were parting ways by this point, DEF AMERICAN being the Rock-based side of the company, DEF JAM the Hip-Hop; eventually RUBIN would pare the label down even further into just AMERICAN RECORDS – – – what does all that have to do with SAMHAIN? Not much, beyond their being signed.) Of CLIFF and METALLICA, GLENN has said “I first met them at a BLACK FLAG gig, and then we became kinda friends. We’d often bump into each other on the road…James and Cliff helped to spread the word about me, and I was very grateful to them.” *(He should be, as in all reality, without METALLICA’S MISFITS covers of the era, as well as their incessant wearing of MISFITS and SAMHAIN t-shirts period, GLENN DANZIG could very well have merely dwindled into some miasma of punk rock obscurity.)

As stated in PART III, SAMHAIN was already in the process of writing and recording their next release, SAMHAIN GRIM. Once again they were back down to a terror trio of GLENN DANZIG/EERIE VON/LONDON MAY, with GLENN taking on guitar duties. The new material was different, however, as GLENN was actively looking to change up the sound, just not entirely sure how. After all, SAMHAIN had just been signed as SAMHAIN, and were now firmly in RICK RUBIN’S grip. What little to be eventually be released from those recordings is fascinating *(if not a bit sketchy here and there), as it truly is the portrait of a band in ultimate transition, as that transition is happening. *(In a sense, you could almost chalk that up to the sum of DANZIG’S career: constant transition, which I do believe was his intent.)

samhainpt4_0Upon being signed, GLENN was well aware he needed a fully capable, full-time guitarist and reliable, stable lineup. After DAMIEN’S ejection from the band a bit after their *(unbeknownst to them) “final show” in 1986, GLENN handled the guitar for the continuing rehearsals, demos, and recordings, until February 2nd of 1987, when JOHN CHRIST had officially been taken into the SAMHAIN fold. *(JOHN CHRIST was in college for music theory and composition with Jazz and Classical Guitar at the time, dropping out to join SAMHAIN – – – he got the gig by leaving an endless stream of guitar solos on GLENN’S answering machine, eventually wearing GLENN down to saying “STOP! You’re in” – – – at the time CHRIST was sharing an apartment with LONDON MAY). It was also around this time, within a week or two, actually, that LONDON MAY decided to leave SAMHAIN *(with no bad blood in a rare instance for a DANZIG band at that time – – – in fact, any time), his style of relentless, unrestrained drumming being virtually incompatible with the methodically-taught stylings of the guitar-god to be. Invariably, this would not be MR. MAY’S final stay with SAMHAIN. *(After his initial tenure with SAMHAIN, LONDON went on to play for DAIN BRAMAGE, DAG NASTY, VOICE OF DOOM, LUNCHBOX **[with RON EMERY from TSOL], DEAD WHITE & BLUE, DISTORTED PONY, TIGER ARMY, SON OF SAM, COLD CAVE, among many others).

SAMHAIN, early 1987, now consisting of GLENN DANZIG/EERIE VON/JOHN CHRIST, continued to rehearse and record, still a trio, now minus a drummer *(there was a machine for that, temporarily). That wouldn’t work, nor last long, for within weeks of MAY’S departure, GLENN would ultimately go to friend CHUCK BISCUITS, former drummer for such classic acts as DOA, SUBHUMANS *(Canada’s, not the U.K.’s), BLACK FLAG, FEAR, CIRCLE JERKS *(you get the idea), enlisting his duties in this virtually brand new band that seemed caught for a brief spell in some kind of limbo.  

samhainpt4_1With the entrance of BISCUITS came the full and complete transition. When in private talks with RUBIN, both GLENN and that bearded-gut of production-cum-destruction *(I am not overly a RICK RUBIN fan, I’ve noticed over the years that he takes the creativity of the bands he works with and tries to mold it into his: initially helping bands, then eventually breaking them down) decided that a name change to just DANZIG would afford GLENN the convenience of not having to change band names with every member rotation: “Rick [Rubin] convinced me it was the way to go, and would also provide me with a lot more artistic freedom. After all, I was now in charge of where we were going musically, so if I didn’t want to do something, it was a lot easier to say so.” *(One day, GLENN would come to eat those words.) So, in all reality, SAMHAIN never really disbanded as such. But along with the name change also came one of sound as well. SAMHAIN GRIM was shelved, done, both in project and name *(though there would be some carry-over, such as the SAMHAIN SKULL, treading upon similar themes, having the same lettering – – – in theory, SAMHAIN really just changed names, or at least that was the initial intention, essentially equating the two as the same band). In September of 1987 they had their first rehearsal as DANZIG.

REBIRTHING

By 1990, DANZIG the band was in full swing, having just released the amazing  DANZIG II: LUCIFUGE that summer, to a great deal of success that would eventually, if only but briefly, hit the mainstream like an atom bomb, only to leave the fallout of “Mother” forever blowing in the winds of alternative gift shop speakers and CEE LO’S lungs *(yeah, he covered it) for decades to follow. However, this series is not about DANZIG *(that’s really a whole other mess for another time), it’s about SAMHAIN.

samhainpt4_2On October 31st, 1990, a mysterious album popped up on store shelves. Featuring a blurry, abstract photograph of what looked to be a demon in the throes of eternal angst and rage *(merely a distorted pic of GLENN live, so I suppose not far from the truth) on the cover, with no writing, no mascots of any kind. I turn it to the side to see – – – lo and behold – – – SAMHAIN: FINAL DESCENT! What is THIS? I pondered. The A-side featured five songs, a few of which were supposed to appear on the unfinished SAMHAIN GRIM album. Four of the five songs were actually from those ‘86/’87 sessions, but one, “Death . . . In It’s Arms,” was recorded by DANZIG *(the band) during the 1990 sessions for LUCIFUGE. Was it ever actually a SAMHAIN song at all, or merely a DANZIG throwaway track *(not saying it’s a bad song, just that it would have in no way sonically fit on DANZIG II)? So, in theory-by-default, that would make CHUCK BISCUITS a one-song member of SAMHAIN *(much like REAGAN YOUTH’S AL PIKE and his guest bass work on SAMHAIN’S debut).

The B-side, however, is a whole different mess. See, after DAMIEN had been exiled from the band, and just before the label-signing, GLENN went back and re-recorded all the guitar *(in June, 1987, almost definitely to avoid legal issues, which were already firing up between GLENN & JERRY, as in that same year GLENN also re-recorded all the bass and guitar tracks to a collection of mostly unheard MISFITS songs titled LEGACY OF BRUTALITY – – – regardless, still one of my favorites) to the UNHOLY PASSION ep, remixed it, added a genuine throwaway soundscape track, “Misery Tomb*(quite literally consisting of nothing more than the bass-line and the “whoas” from “I Am Misery”), rounding UNHOLY PASSION out to six tracks, that becoming FINAL DESCENT’s B-side. If this was indeed the last of anything to be heard from SAMHAIN, I could at least say, at the time *(and probably even now), it was disappointing, a contextless mishmash *(at the time) of previously unheard transitional songs, and a refurbished re-release for a B-side. What I was hoping to hear was at least something of an attempt to rival NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE; what I got was a seemingly quick money grab and a SAMHAIN that bore almost no likeness to what I was so imagining. SAMHAIN was indeed finished, and had been since early 1987. This merely felt like some kind of residue.

LORD OF THE LEFT HAND & THE SONS OF SAM

samhainpt4_4On September 5th, 2000, again seemingly out of the blue, SAMHAIN released the *(admittedly disappointing) BOX SET. It included five discs: INITIUM; UNHOLY PASSION *(as it’s own disc); NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE; FINAL DESCENT *(replacing U.P. with four more unreleased tracks, finally turning it into it’s own album); and LIVE ‘85-’86; a vhs cassette of three different shows *(all of which I’d owned as bootlegs years prior); a SAMHAIN SKULL pin; a t-shirt of the BOX SET cover art *(by MARTIN EMOND, who has done work for subsequent DANZIG releases); a virtually informationless 32 page booklet of photos and lyrics to INITIUM and N-V-C *(not UNHOLY PASSION, interestingly enough); and an inane, cheap, ridiculous comic book.

***If you are a fan, or just getting into them, whatever, DO NOT read this comic – – – it will ruin the vibe of the music, the power, the seriousness of the magnitude of the original philosophies and creativities projected forth by the band during the strongest point of their brief career – – – which would be their entire career. It will ruin whatever strength of imagination the music conjures up within one.  

I got to see SAMHAIN live in 1999, when DANZIG opened for himself, and was pushing both DANZIG 6:66 and the SAMHAIN BOX SET. The SAMHAIN portion of the show was something in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d get to witness. In fact a downright impossibility. But there I was, squeezed against the barrier and reveling in every last drop of blood that flew from their heads. The lineup was GLENN, on guitar TODD YOUTH *(of MURPHY’S LAW, DANZIG, SON OF SAM, THE CHELSEA SMILES, D-GENERATION, MOTORHEAD, too many others to list), and the welcomed returns of both STEVE ZING and LONDON MAY, the two on bass and drums, switching instruments mid-set. DAMIEN was invited back on guitar, but had been touring with IGGY POP at the time. However, EERIE VON was not invited to perform. *(After DANZIG 4p, my favorite solo-ZIG release, and oddly the one DANZIG album that sounds like it should have followed NOVEMBER-COMING-FIRE, in sound and vibe, his band basically up and quit on him. I’ve no idea what happened between GLENN & EERIE, but as far as I know they’ve not even acknowledged the existence of the other since 4p – – – sounds like a woman to me, but who knows.) He said then, “That’s it, hope you enjoyed it.”

samhainpt4_5On October 27th of 2014, I saw completely by accident that SAMHAIN was playing on the 29th. NOT a part of the DANZIG LEGACY shows, but part of a very small, eight-stop tour for SAMHAIN only. With lightning speed and palpitating hearts we bought tickets, and it was a one of a kind, absolutely amazing night. *(I reviewed the show early on here in the ROSETTA BONES, so I’ll go no further on that night than to say find the review; the show was glorious.)

Over the years, since their inception and brief incarnation as such, SAMHAIN left a potent impact on those who got it, something that slithered back into the sluicing lesions of the decaying bodies of Punk, Metal, and Goth, from which it had initially sluiced out of, bringing that vibe back to life in so many a way both new and nostalgic. I speak of bands like CANCERSLUG, Japan’s BALZAC *(who’s earliest of material, dating back to 1992, was total SAMHAIN worship), the earlier albums by bands like the VLADIMIRS *(their second lp, NIGHT GALLERY from ‘97, rides the SAMHAIN current hard), FRACAS, THE NERVE AGENTS, THE NECROTICS, and even some more mainstream bands. In the early 2000’s, AFI went through a whole SAMHAIN-styled period, in particular *(the one and only album I can even remotely stand by them) THE ART OF DROWNING Lp. LONDON MAY actually played on the incredibly SAMHAIN-influenced TIGER ARMY II: THE POWER OF MOONLIGHT *(not a band I am overly fond of, but, as with AFI, this is the one album that stands out, pays homage in some fairly interesting ways). Their influence, to this day, can also be found in a multitude of ways throughout the genre’s of Deathrock, Black Metal, Doom Metal, and the webs of Goth, to name but a few.

samhainpt4_6Interestingly enough, in mentioning all of the above, and the webs upon webs of tie-ins, after playing with the SAMHAIN reunion in 1999, TODD YOUTH got hit with an inspirational-nostalgia, writing an album’s worth music that was in direct homage to SAMHAIN. He contacted LONDON MAY and STEVE ZING, whom he’d played in the reunion shows with, and formed SON OF SAM. With AFI’S DAVEY HAVOK on vocals, admittedly I was a little leery, but their April 17th, 2001 album SONGS FROM THE EARTH is total and complete SAMHAIN debauchery at its finest. DANZIG himself even makes a couple of appearances, adding keyboard, backing vocals *(you can tell it’s him), and even a little guitar to the proceedings.

Seven years later, TODD YOUTH got hit again, this time only able to round up STEVE ZING and himself for this next album, INTO THE NIGHT, released September 16th, 2008. IAN THORNE’S vocals I personally find much more fitting to the music than HAVOK’S, and they round-out the lineup with legendary Swedish drummer KARL ROQVIST *(STEEL PROPHET, DANZIG, MICHAEL MONROE, THE CHELSEA SMILES and more). You can hear DANZIG’S backing vocals on the album’s best track, “Sons Of New.” Apparently they did a small tour and that was that. All said, they are both decent albums that fairly well capture some of the more diverse and obscurely arcane of sounds of SAMHAIN, but not quite so the philosophical abstractions *(CANCERSLUG and BALZAC are the only two I can think of that have managed at times to be able to invoke those as such).

All in all, SAMHAIN was a musical Veilscape creation like no other: it’s own thing, with it’s own look, in it’s own time and place *(those being simultaneously both none and all), forever to lurk like a wounded Dingo dog, but never to truly decease; it’s influence left to forever walk the night in the darkest of minds and headiest of sex-magick, death-worship philosophies for generations to come.  

samhainpt4_7Oh, those SAMHAIN fun-facts I mentioned a couple Parts ago:

— The SAMHAIN SKULL/DANZIG DEMON comes from the cover of the 1984 Marvel Comic, THE SAGA OF CRYSTAR, No. 8, drawn by artist MICHAEL GOLDEN.

— The SAMHAIN font/lettering comes from the 1959 cult-classic THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.

As I think I stated in PART I of this honorarium, I was initially was going to cover the career of GLENN DANZIG from 1976 to the present. It would have been a monumental undertaking, considering not just working on both new fiction and putting my first anthology collection together, but the endless time consumption of TWO IN THE SAME BOAT + 1, writing bits for other shows, doing promotional work for various collaboratives, this column, and the other, ever-extending tendrils of endeavors I’m involved in. Time constraints being what they are, I figured I’d go with the most underappreciated, overlooked aspect of the man’s Legacy, for that’s exactly what it is *(I also thought, for whatever reason, it would be both easier and shorter). SAMHAIN was also most fitting, given the time of year. However, the research involved here, to find genuine facts and timelines, was a lot trickier than you’d think, and I thought. But it was worth it; I’ve been wanting to write this for years. *(I’d also like to mention that, while SAMHAIN GRIM never came to be, DANZIG’S 4p sounds like it would be N-C-F’s logical follow-up; also, being the dork I am, I’ve made my own mixes and variations over the years as to what GRIM may have sounded like, using both released and long-culled demo materials.) If you read and stuck through the entirety of the 2016 edition of my annual Horror Rock Icons of Halloween series, Vol. III,  I both thank you and commend you. People, gather round the flames of this Season of Death, this *(perhaps) Final Harvest, crank-up the SAMHAIN, and spiral-dance with me into the flames of that most Hallowed of Nights; Be safe, my friends, for here the Werewolves bite.

samhainpt4_8FINAL DESCENT *(2001 release; recorded ‘86-’90) lineup:

GLENN DANZIG – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Drums *(Machine)

EERIE VON – Bass, B. Vocals

LONDON MAY – Drums on “Twist Of Cain,” “Lords of the Left Hand*(original fast version), “Possession”, “Trouble”, B. Vocals

JOHN CHRIST – Guitars on “Descent”, “Death … In It’s Arms”, “Lords Of The Left Hand*(2nd, slow version), “The Birthing”, B. Vocals

CHUCK BISCUITS – Drums on “Death … In It’s Arms

ANY BANDS  WHO WOULD LIKE TO HAVE YOUR WORK REVIEWED  HERE, PLEASE CONTACT EITHER MYSELF OR THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE. THANK YOU FOR READING.

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 vdaemon13@gmail.com1 

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About vincentdaemon (99 Articles)
Writer of the weird and macabre; columnist for The Intestinal Fortitude; film and music critic and historian/buff; musician; visual artist; photographer; bibliophile/book collector; student of the bizarre, the occult, cryptozoology (and related topics); liver of life and the necessity of experience; loather of ignorance; seeker of knowledge; believer that we need to work together to achieve our common goals.

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  1. MACABRE: An Howling Legacy of the Unholy Passions of SAMHAIN, PART III: TO WALK THE NIGHT; NOVEMBER’S FIRE; BIRTHRIGHT By Vincent Daemon – THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE

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