Daniel's SSR Pick: August 18, 2022

Chuck Biscuits’ Drumming on the First 3 Danzig Albums

Scarecrow didn’t visit too many record stores in Europe (I guess our schedule was too tight and there were other sites we wanted to see more), but between Scarecrow’s trips to Philly and New York earlier this summer and the handful of record stores we visited in Europe, I have a massive stack of recent purchases that I haven’t listened to yet. There’s also so much work to catch up on with Sorry State that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by music and records. My first instinct would be to sit down with a big pot of coffee and try to listen to everything, but I’m trying to give my brain some space to breathe.

One record I was excited to pick up at the great Static Shock Records in Berlin was an original European pressing of Danzig II: Lucifuge. Lucifuge is the record I’ve spent the least time with out of Danzig’s first three. The third one, How the Gods Kill, I got when it came out after seeing the video for “Dirty Black Summer” on Headbanger’s Ball, and the first one is just an all-time classic. It’s the kind of record that, if you’ve hung around punks and metalheads for a significant portion of your life, you can sing along to every word of even if you’ve never owned a copy.

When I threw Lucifuge on the turntable, I was struck by a feeling of deja vu, as I had the same sensation as the last time I’d listened to How the Gods Kill. I put the record on excited to hear catchy tunes, but as soon as I started listening, I found myself enraptured by Chuck Biscuits’ drumming. I’m not a drummer so I only have so much I can articulate here, but Biscuits’ drumming sounds like no one else’s. I’ve always loved drummers who play way in the pocket (especially when they play fast and in the pocket), and Biscuits is deeeep in there. Further, by stretching the beats so far, he’s able to generate what seems like a massive amount of space for his vast library of fills. A track like “Killer Wolf” could be a tepid blues rock jam, but Biscuits keeps me hanging on every bar, wondering what he’s going to pull out of his bag of tricks next.

I think Rick Rubin must have felt the same about Biscuits’ drumming, because the drums are right at the front of the mix, particularly on Lucifuge and How the Gods Kill. When I blast those records, I feel like my head is right in the middle of Biscuits’ kit, and the sound is sublime. I have a soft spot for big budget rock recordings from the late 80s and the 90s. This was the era of recording budgets that ran into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, and when you spare no expense at getting big rock sounds, you can end up with some pretty incredible results. The drum sounds on Lucifuge and How the Gods Kill are a case in point… I can’t imagine how Biscuits’ drums could sound any better.

When I pull back and take my focus off the drumming, Lucifuge is my least favorite of the first three Danzig albums. While “Long Way Back From Hell” and “Her Black Wings” are undisputed bangers, certainly part of the canon of great Danzig tracks, the rest of the record leans too far toward blues for my taste. I don’t know where I picked it up, but I’ve always had trouble getting into rock whose blues influences come too close to the surface. Plus, I think How the Gods Kill is just a better record. On that album, Danzig leans even further into the diversity you hear on Lucifuge, but rather than focusing so much on bluesy and rootsy influences, you hear Danzig’s love for pop crooning come out on tracks like “Sistanas,” which is just a fucking gorgeous song.

Until I was reading up on Biscuits for this piece, I didn’t realize that he also played drums on Danzig 4. I don’t think I’ve heard that record, because by the time they released it in 1994 I had immersed myself in underground punk and had no interest in Danzig. I’ll have to check it out.

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