The classic Danzig lineup’s third album is an often forgotten, underrated entry into heavy metal’s diverse history.
Whether you like Glenn Danzig or not, his contribution to music cannot be overlooked. How The Gods Kill marked an artistic merging point for the diversity of musical influences Danzig drew on. Even dating back to the Misfits days, you can hear influences of Jim Morrison in Glenn’s vocals. His range was powerful and unprecedented even given the great singers already part of the punk movement. Whereas Danzig II Lucifuge was the start of a directional turn into darker and slower musical territories, Gods completed that turn successfully.
If one were to evaluate Danzig’s poetic output, this record has to rank as his best collection of verse. The opening track “Godless” is an anger-driven directive against religion and the sense of self-discovery. It reads as an anthem of the angry new Atheist discovering freedom away from deities. There is a common thread among Christians who become atheists after years of being part of a religion. There is a feeling of absolute betrayal that often cannot be explained. Reality may leave them feeling godless. Once the smoke clears, an atheist is not godless. The very term means lacking in a God. They are not lacking in a God. Instead, they feel a gain of conscious clarity. It’s finding the certainty of an answer long sought even by a believer. Where was God during times of crisis? The world looks Godless through difficult periods when much of the world leans on religion as a weak crutch for survival. If there was a God, would they not have shown up to prevent tragedies and modern-day horrors that make up the reels of headline television news?
“Anything” and “Bodies” have Glenn Danzig showing a complete vocal range accompanied by complimentary chordal work. The dark sounding guitars carry the backgrounds of each track with a sense of heavy raw purpose. At various points there are bars in the track that punch out with different levels of sharpness. Listening back, you can hear a bit of edge on John Christ’s guitar parts.
The title track is a defining landmark statement against religion as a whole. How The Gods Kill is a statement of truth to everyone who believes religion is the root of much evil. This remains one of my personal favourite tracks of all time. The song should be considered an anthem for agnostics, atheists and anyone who seeks empowerment in order to question faith and reality.
“if you feel alive,
in a darkened room,
do you know the name,
of your solitude?”
This line is a powerful question meant to provoke philosophical reflection. If you feel at peace in a quiet room with the lights off, what is bringing you that peace? God may be the answer for many because they don’t know the real answer so it has to be something they cannot explain. Self-enlightenment and personal empowerment was my personal answer. It took many years to realize that religion was not part of that answer.
In the lines that follow, Danzig suggests if you cannot find the answer to look for it within yourself. If you know the answer but fear the truth, find what is binding you mentally and break/cut it free. If you want the power to set yourself free, let it flow through. Cut it loose. Feel freedom as an individual to question things you might not have questioned before.
“Would you let it go?” Knowing a possible answer, would you then let go of the crutch that religion really is? “Show me how the gods kill”. The song’s title is an opening to answering this request. Turn on the news during any given day. Eventually, a story of destruction will emerge. Fights among many religious groups including Christian denominations are an almost daily occurrence. If they are not happening in person, they are happening online through a content-driven cyberspace holy war.
“Dirty Black Summer” follows the title track with its’ catchy memorable guitar riff. This song remains one of the most recognizable riffs from the Danzig collection. A blistering riff in a song referencing blistering heat. This track with its’ short poetic passage is perfectly recorded because of the music focus. It’s heavy and hard-hitting.
“Left Hand Black” and “Heart of the Devil” expand on the richness of the musical sub-ranges on the record. Left Hand Black contains another crushing set of chords with quick tempo changes. Heart of The Devil is a heavy metal blues song. Glenn Danzig’s opening vocal sets the track’s smoke-filled tinge off before slamming into a unique structure unexpected of a blues-influenced piece of music.
“Sistinas” slows things down significantly for the record. A haunting track of love and loneliness set against muted guitar picking and a great sliding bass line. Drummer Chuck Biscuits goes back into a few strikes of orchestral drum hits. This particular song has moments where Danzig comes through as a doom metal version of Elvis Presley, while remaining distinctly Danzig. The album version is excellent, but I highly recommend the live version from the 1993 release Thrall: Demonsweatlive.
How The Gods Kill is an important chapter in heavy music history. Strong songs backed by some of the strongest musicians in the art. Messages reflected a growing opposition to religion. An opposition which has continued to gain strength in the years since the album’s release.