Though he made his reputation with his uncompromising metallic rock and hardcore punk, Glenn Danzig turned heads by debuting at #1 on Billboard's classical chart with 1993's "Black Aria", a darkly beguiling interpretation of the "Paradise Lost" story that blended orchestral, Celtic and other forms to tell the epic tale of Satan's rebellion. On October 17, Danzig will release the eagerly awaited "Black Aria II" (evillive/Megaforce), which takes on another rebel of ancient lore — Lilith, Adam's wife before Eve.
Produced, written and — with a couple of exceptions — performed by Glenn, "Black Aria II" employs thundering organ, otherworldly chants, operatic lamentations, poignant strings, ominous percussion, ritualistic chimes and other mysterious sounds to weave its spell.
Mesopotamian demon, night goddess, mother of abominations, witch, vampire, Satan's paramour, victim of patriarchy's first big frame-up — Lilith is an elusive but endlessly compelling presence in human mythology. Danzig explores the darkest contours of this tradition on "Black Aria II", conjuring sounds of black masses, monstrous processions and fearful births on such tracks as "Dance of the Succubi", "Bridal Ceremony of the Lilitu", "Unclean Sephira" and "The Succubus Feeds".
"The first 'Black Aria' is very Wagnerian, and also has these violent, Scottish-Celtic qualities," Danzig reflects. "This one is more Eastern, because it's about Lilith. It still has a lot of the classic elements I like, but many of the sounds come from elsewhere because of this fascinating story, which has its origins in even older myths and legends."
That story — excised from modern Judeo-Christian tellings — involves the chilling, tragic journey of the first woman. "In the earlier stories, Adam and Lilith were both made individually," Danzig relates. "But Lilith was too headstrong — she had her own opinions and thoughts. Though they loved each other, she was cast out and could no longer be the mate of Adam. The Creator — let's say God, though you're talking about different creation stories — took Adam's rib and created Eve so she wouldn't be too independent. That's why so many women's movements have championed the Lilith character. She's free to be sexual, to have her own opinions, and not be condemned."
Although Lilith and Adam lament losing each other, Danzig continues, "She goes off, has sex with demons, and becomes a demon herself. Because she can't have children of her own, she goes into a murderous rage and strangles children in their sleep. People actually began making amulets to protect kids from her. In certain parts of Europe, they still make children wear these Lilith medallions so they won't be strangled at night. It's just a great story — you couldn't invent a better one. There's a blurring of black and white, where neither one is what you think. That's something I like to write about.
"I just let the story take me," the versatile musician notes. "Each song tells me what it wants. Sometimes I have it all written in my head — every single part. But at other times, I'll be doing the skeleton framework and different parts will come to me. At times, I'll be listening to playback and suddenly I'll hear where another part can go. It tells me what I need to add."
The process even demanded an entirely new composition at the last minute. "The night before I was mastering this record, I was in the studio adding another song, 'Unclean Sephira', which is all vocals and no instruments," Danzig says. "Eventually the layers of vocals started sounding like a keyboard."
Although "Black Aria II" is marked by a striking, atmospheric minimalism, Danzig reveals that some of the pieces boast as many as 30 or 40 individual music tracks. "Even in rock music, sometimes, you'll have a million tracks. You won't necessarily hear them all, but if you took them out, you'd notice a change."
While he admits to a deep fascination with religion in general and with rebellious figures like Lilith and the Satan of "Paradise Lost" in particular, Danzig enjoys the fact that the music of "Black Aria II" can be savored independently of its narrative. "If people want to just listen to the music and not think, I write it on that level," he insists. "But if you want to think about it and learn a little, you can do that too."
In addition to his ambitious work as a composer, Danzig is widely acknowledged as an architect of hardcore and metal; over the course of his 25-year career, he has helped to define both the sonics and — as a graphic designer and photographer — the visuals of these forms in his bands the MISFITS and SAMHAIN as a chart-topping solo artist. But he's also widely admired as a songwriter, having penned material for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison and been covered by METALLICA.
In addition to completing this ambitious new disc, Danzig has been creating on multiple fronts as a typically furious pace, penning the script for "Gerouge", a voodoo film set in 1904 New Orleans, as well as screen adaptations of two graphic novels put out by his Verotik publishing house.
"First I make myself happy, and I hope that's what will make my fans happy," Danzig muses. "It's what I do — if people like it, fantastic. If not, well, I'm not going to change. To me, music is still an art and a craft, and the business should be secondary. That's how I feel about writing and painting as well. If you can make a living out of it and be successful, that's gravy."