Released: 2015, Evillive/Nuclear Blast
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
You know who Glenn Danzig is, and you know that he’s been teasing this covers album since Skippy was a pup. But what you may not know is that SKELETONS sounds more like a drunken Minnesota businessman who wandered into a karaoke bar after a rough day at the convention than the hulking, fiendish figure that gave us “Mother.”
The proto-punk “Devil’s Angels” opens up strong, sounding like an almost-Misfits anthem. The guitar mix is a little mushy, but Glenn’s vocal charisma rings true of classics like “Horror Business” and “Night of the Living Dead”; less about hitting the mark than the feeling it sends. From there, it gets pretty sketchy; it becomes clear very quickly that all is not well with Glenn’s voice and that hitting the mark isn't much of an option. Danzig (the man) struggles to hit some basic notes as he warbles through “Satan”, overcompensating for the lack of range with barrel chested bellows. A Sabbath cover should be pretty straightforward for the guy at this point, but he talks his way through most of “N.I.B.” By the time he gets to the “your love for me” break, there’s not even an attempt at vocal inflection, deflecting with lower notes that sounds like a lesser man stumbling on a loose step. Aerosmith’s “Lord of the Thighs” takes an even harsher beating, as all of the pump and swagger of the original version is stripped away for a rather pedestrian take and an over enunciated chorus. Seriously, why tackle Aerosmith if you’re not going to have any fun while you’re doing it?
Lather, rinse, repeat – much of SKELETONS suffers from the malady of Glenn trying to sing songs that require more melody and/or dexterity than he’s able to muster. He still gives it all he’s got, but it’s hard not to cringe a little bit as he wails “I’m…Ahhh…rough boyyyyy”. The rest of what’s in actuality a totally capable band gets stuck for the entire ride. Depending on the tune, the instruments are either over modulated into musical porridge or are thin enough to sound like a poor quality digital backing track. In either scenario, John Kelly and Tommy Victor sound like they’re going through the motions like a house band on a Thursday night, just waiting things out until they can pack up and go home. I actually played SKELETONS through a few different stereos to make sure the mix wasn’t an issue on my end; as much I’d hope for my systems to be the cause of concern, it was not to be the case.
SKELETONS isn’t all bad. For the few punk/hi energy tunes that require more vibe than accuracy, the band delivers. The opening “Devil’s Angels” and the Troggs “A Girl Like You” recall the snotty, middle finger salute of the ’77 New York punk scene, and The Litter’s “Action Woman”, with its pounding insistence and Glenn vocally solid, sounds like it could’ve been a leftover from the SATAN’S CHILD sessions. But for as long as SKELETONS has been gestating, I expected a helluva lot more than what I received.
I can’t imagine Glenn Danzig rushing to do anything he doesn’t want to do, but I also can’t understand why he’d release an album that sounds like a collection of iffy demos. Maybe he’s insulated enough at this point that he thinks it’s genius and no one will tell him otherwise, maybe he just doesn’t care what you think (more likely the latter). There’s no denying that the guy is a legend, and there’s no shortage of fans across the globe that’ll eat up whatever he’s selling. For those that may be reading this, caveat emptor - SKELETONS is scary, but not in the way you'd hope it would be.