All of these album anniversaries are starting to make me feel old. But with that said, I can think of few better to celebrate than the silver anniversary of what is arguably Danzig’s masterpiece, How The Gods Kill. I can’t remember exactly what year I bought the album, but I do remember picking it up at one of the three record stores that populated the local shopping mall (ah, the good ol’ days), bringing it home and subsequently being blown away. It immediately struck me as one of the deepest, darkest albums I’d ever heard up to that point in my life, and given that I was still an impressionable teenager, I’d like to think it was one of the key albums that helped to propel me down the path of heavy music.
Listening to the album today, one can’t help but feel that everything Glenn Danzig had done previously was building towards the monolith that is How the Gods Kill. More so than any other album he has been involved with before or since, How the Gods Kill ties together threads of Samhain’s suffocating darkness, the Misfits’ raucous attitude and the metallic heaviness of the first two Danzig records, weaving them into a sound that is beyond singular.
This culmination is brought to life by top tier work from all the musicians involved; Danzig puts in one of his most mesmerizing vocal performances, while guitarist John Christ effortlessly peels off riffs that are equal parts Black Sabbath and gritty blues for him to howl over. It probably goes without saying at this point that bassist Eerie Von and drummer Chuck Biscuits were one of the finest rhythm sections in metal; they could pummel with the best of them, but also possessed a wonderful sense of groove and a knack for knowing when to lay off the heaviness and let the songs breathe. Just three albums into their career, Danzig the band was so locked in as a unit that few if any of their peers could even come close.
Indeed, there is much about How the Gods Kill that impresses, but what I appreciate the most about it to this day is the diversity of the songwriting. Danzig is in my opinion one of the best rock/metal songwriters there is and this album drives that fact home again and again, whether it’s with the swampy blues of “Bodies” and “Heart of the Devil,” the surprisingly tender balladry of “Sistinas,” or the haunting quiet/loud dynamics of the title track. There’s a reason Glenn Danzig was once tapped to write songs for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison; in the late eighties and early nineties he was at the absolute peak of his powers as a master of songcraft.
How the Gods Kill remains the ultimate expression of the Danzig aesthetic. It’s the sound of a band firing on all cylinders and exuding a level of confidence as musicians and songwriters that’s off the fucking charts, lead by one of the most distinctive, iconic voices in the history of metal. Although the band has put out a lot of great material since then, to this day How the Gods Kill is still the most complete-sounding Danzig recording, capturing everything that made the band great and harnessing it to create a total sonic environment that is still as immersive today as it was back then. “Out of the night, comes a timeless thing.”