I can pretty safely say that Samhain is my favorite of all the Glenn Danzig projects. It was the shortest-lived band, with the least recorded output, but from the moment I first heard Initium, I was fascinated with both the music and mystery surrounding the outfit.
It was actually one of my other Winston-Salem buddies who picked up Initium sometime around our 9th grade year. All we knew at the time was that it was Danzig’s post-Misfits band. I don’t recall what I expected to hear, but I was definitely blown away by what I did hear. Gone were the catchy, whoa-oa Misfits choruses and B-grade horror themes, and in their place were guttural screams; slower, brooding guitars; and macabre imagery and lyrics.
Whereas the Misfits did horror with a little cheese on the side, Samhain felt lawless and disturbing. My friend had the CD, which didn’t come with lyrics, so many an afterschool afternoon was spent playing and replaying that album, trying to understand just what this short, shirtless, bloodied man was trying to say to us.
“There is a human slaughterhouse, up on the hill, the road is red. And those that ignore and those who pretend it does not exist, end up in its hull.” Tell us how you really feel, Glenn.
Then “Archangel,” the album closer. This is the song that Danzig famously wrote for Dave Vanian of The Damned but ultimately recorded himself. Slow and morose, I think this is one of the best album-ending songs of Danzig’s career, unrivaled until “Let It Be Captured,” the last song on 4p, which, coincidentally, Eerie Von himself has said he considers a Samhain record as much as it is Danzig.
Back in Winston-Salem … sometime in the months that followed, one of us picked up November Coming Fire, the more polished but still dark full-length follow-up to Initium. “Halloween II,” which I didn’t realize at the time was originally a Misfits song, mesmerized me with its booming chorus, while Glenn sang “November’s Fire” while standing, apparently, knee-deep in pig’s blood.
The art for that album, just as iconic as Initium’s, perfectly captures the primal mystique that made Samhain so attractive to me.
Here’s the audio from the first-ever Samhain show—March 31, 1984 at the Rock Hotel in New York City. This show features Lyle Preslar from Minor Threat on guitar (Glenn played guitar on two songs that night as well), as Samhain was initially envisioned as a “supergroup” featuring Danzig, Preslar, Brian Baker from Minor Threat and Chuck Biscuits. They never played live with the latter two (not as Samhain with Biscuits, at least), and Preslar was gone after this show. Notice also that several songs (“Samhain,” “All Murder…”) have completely different lyrics than what was eventually recorded for the Initium record.
- Jeff Simms