For centuries music has acted as a means of spiritual connection, communal bonding and sonic transportation to another time and place. It has had the power to connect, communicate and heal people through almost religious-like practices and visceral reactions. In 1977 the world saw the creation of The Misfits, a band that would later be credited as the originators of the horror punk subgenre. Despite a fluctuating lineup in their formative years, The Misfits would later stabilize with Glenn Danzig (vocals), Jerry Only (bass) and Only’s brother, Doyle (guitar). This lineup would disband in 1983 and Danzig would go on to start a self-titled project.
On Sunday, October 14, Danzig and his current crew came rolling into Charlotte, N.C. on the “Danzig 25th Anniversary Tour” at The Fillmore in the NC Music Factory. The main allure of this tour was not only the presence of the iconic Danzig himself, or the presence of an incredible ensemble of supporting acts, but rather the added bonus of the presence of the hulking, frenetic monster guitarist, Doyle. Accompanied by the musical madness and ingenuity of A Pale Horse Named Death, Texas Hippie Coalition, and Butcher Babies, this tour was a star spangled cataclysm of metal that definitely shook up this particular Sunday night.
The night opened steadily with the crowd trickling in and filling in the spacious and eclectic venue. Clad with crimson walls, twinkling chandelier lights and multiple elevated viewing levels, The Fillmore was a swankier choice for this kind of even than would’ve been imagined, but nonetheless capable. As more and more people piled in and the crowd began to grow to a measurable size, a hush fell across the room, the lights dimmed and A Pale Horse Named Death (APHND) took the stage. These Brooklyn, NY Goth rockers are led by former Type O Negative drummer Sal Abruscato and they are following a similar path as Type O began years ago. This heavy quintet brought an alternative twist to a dark and serious tone/genre. Their unique blend of alternative rock and doom/Goth metal highlighted by songs with an almost groove metal undertone was definitely something to behold. At first listen it was tough to decide whether it was good or not, but about two songs in it was clear that these guys were onto something. They started out on serious, heavy note with and escalated to songs with more jumping guitar licks and bouncing drum kicks. Standout songs from their set include “Killer By Night,” “The Needle In You” and “Shallow Grave.” The band just released their new album Lay My Soul To Waste in May of 2013, and has been hitting the pavement hard to get their name out there and drum up some attention to this exciting new formation they have become.
Up next was the delightful outlaw metal styling of Texas Hippie Coalition (THC) from Denison, TX. Being the second time seeing these guys, it was a pretty safe bet that they had a fantastic set and energetic stage show planned. Having just recently come off their "Highway Robbery Tour" with New York rockers Eve to Adam this Summer, THC was still hot on the road ripping and rocking across the country. Frontman Big Dad Ritch brought the Southern charm and enthusiasm while young guitarist Cord Pool shredded the stage with his hair-raising, head banging fury. THC played through some of their most crowd-rousing, head banging tracks from their catalogue including “8 Seconds,” “Turn It Up,” and “Pissed Off And Mad About It.” Despite impassioned performances by the entire ensemble, it was the enthralling and insane performance of bassist John Exall that was truly impressive. Roaming the stage, finger picking and his full contact playing made Exall appear as a man possessed and feeling the spirit of rock n’ roll! Pool was also feeling himself on this night as he smiled and waved to crowd throughout the set and threw his long brown locks haphazardly about as he ripped on the strings and proved himself the prodigal son. Drummer Gunnar Molton owned the back of the stage with his furious assault on the snares and bass, all this while also contributing backing vocals. These Texans brought their Southern wits and quips to the Southeast and judging by the looks on the faces of the crowd, they were feeling these “red dirt metal” harbingers.
The Butcher Babies clamored their way to the stage to deliver an unrelenting metal assault that sent much of the crowd into a head banging, neck snapping frenzy. Fronted by Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd with Henry Flury (guitar), Chris Warner (drums) and Jason Klein (bass) this is a band that has some serious ferociousness powering its sound. Shepherd and Harvey attack the stage like wild animals, clawing and scratching at the crowd like rabid animals. Flury, Klein and Warner demonstrate concentrated dedication to their playing and display wildly animated expressions. Covered in dripping blood paint and streaky black make up, the intensity with which this quintet performs definitely pays homage to their metal roots in the style of The Plasmatics and the always outrageous Wendy O. Williams. Having just released their monster debut album Goliath, the band ripped through several songs from it as well as some BB classics. Songs like their newest single “Magnolia Blvd,” “I Smell A Massacre,” "Mr Slowdeath" and “The Deathsurround” slashed through the audience like razor blades of sonic wrath. The ladies even made a point to get up close and personal with the masses by standing on the barricade on opposing sides of the stage and encouraging fans to sing along. Closing out their set with the piercing and rage fueled “Axe Wound,” the Butcher Babies shrieked and crooned their last notes into the dark oblivion of the packed venue before making their leave.
Then, it was time for the main event, the reason so many were gathered on this fateful night- Danzig. As room went dark and the stage lights and set began to glow, the crowd cheered in anticipation. The audience when ballistic when Glenn Danzig walked onstage, thrusting his fists in the air as if to rally the troops before battle. Short in stature by nature, Danzig’s actual presence was less than overbearing, but it was obvious he felt 10 feet tall at this moment. Accompanied by Tommy Victor (Prong) on guitar, Steve Zing (Samhain) on bass and Johnny Kelly (APHND/Ex-Type O Negative) on drums, Danzig’s band was bursting with years of musical experience from across the decades. Despite showing obvious signs of aging, Danzig himself seemed to still be in remarkable shape overall. Still pumped with energy and excitement, oozing machismo and running from one end of the stage to the other. The band tore through songs from Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge and Danzig III: How the Gods Kill as the masses jumped, screamed, sang and swelled in feverish adoration. “SkinCarver,” “Hammer of the Gods,” “Twist of Cain” and “Blood and Tears” were just some of the massive set list Danzig and company performed that night.
“Let me introduce you to my monster man. Oh, Doyle!”-Glenn Danzig introducing Doyle onstage.
It wasn’t until “Death Comes Ripping” that fans got what they’d really had been waiting for that night- the man, the monster, the legend- Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. Doyle recently released a new album, Abominator, with his own self-named outfit at the end of the Summer to rave reviews, and it was obvious from the crowd reaction that his presence was more than welcome on this tour. As he lumbered across the stage, a sculpted hulking beast of a man, the masses cheered and screamed in exaltation. The air was electric as the men in horde felt the zing of rock n’ roll nostalgia coming to life before their eyes and as the women in the audience struggled to keep their tongues in their mouth. Clad only in black platform shoes and tight, form fitting pants and full face paint, Doyle appeared onstage shirtless and glistening in the stage lights. Seeing him it was as if time had stood still, he had managed to avoid the aging process altogether. His dynamic and dramatic playing style was just as vicious and unrelenting as it had ever been. Shredding do hard it seemed as if he were moving in slow motion at times, Doyle’s impeccable playing was just as mesmerizing as his legacy has long implied. The beauty of live music is the ability to see the sonic fury and musical mayhem in person that you would otherwise only be able to imagine on record. His combination of heavy down strokes paired with reverberating guitar slams made his performance that much more entrancing to watch. The technique, the fervor and his overall presence make Doyle not only an incredible guitarist, but a dominant persona with a devout following.
Danzig and Doyle would go on to play several more songs from his independent repertoire as well as previous Misfits covers including “Vampira,” “Skulls,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and “Last Caress.” Of course no Danzig set would be complete without the performance of his debut hit single “Mother.” As can be imagined, the entire venue rang out with the voices of masses singing along to the 1988 metal classic. The cast would close the night with one more appearance from guitar giant Doyle with a cover of the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies.” At the conclusion of the night Zing, Kelly and Victor alongside a few stage hands tossed guitar picks, set lists and a signed drum head out to the clamoring remaining horde. The air was dense with the smell of fake fog, popcorn and sweat-both the performers’ and fans’. As the crowd disseminated one thing was crystal clear, all in attendance had just witnessed something truly unique of epic proportions. The blood, sweat and passion that had been poured all over that stage had seeped into the very pores of ticket holders and they would all be taking home a night to remember. A few in the throng were checking another thing off their bucket list, some were finally popping their Danzig cherry and others were merely seeking to get as close to the Misfits glory days as reasonably possible. Whatever their reasons, several were captivated, many were mesmerized and all will now have a moment in rock n roll history to claim as their own.