The Greatest Albums of All Time: SAMHAIN – “November~Coming~Fire” (1986)

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A lot can be (and has been) said about Glenn Danzig- he’s a douche bag, a big baby, egotist pip squeak, hard to work with, etc. (I’ve also heard he’s a very nice guy), but you can’t really disparage his musical legacy.  The MISFITS, SAMHAIN, and DANZIG are all original, subgenre starting or defining bands that were (mostly) ahead of their time.

Of the bands, I like THE MISFITS the best, but my favorite single release of a band he’s fronted has to be SAMHAIN’s November~Coming~Fire.
THE MISFITS were fun and punky, but when they quit making music, he decided to go darker.  Much darker.  SAMHAIN’s debut Intium takes some getting used to (mainly because of the production), but still has some leftover MISFITS sing-a-long punk in it (particularly on songs like “He-Who-Can-Not-Be-Named”), tho interwovern with a much darker edge (and ended with one of my fav songs from them- “Archangel”, which actually was a MISFITS song that went through tons of revisions, re-recordings and re-mixings (the bass was re-recorded at least 3 times, once by Jerry Only and once by Al Pike of REAGAN YOUTH, who also played some of the keyboards on Intium), which I suppose was an ok trade off since Danzig ‘gave’ some songs he had written for SAMHAIN (“Death Comes Ripping” and “Bloodfeast”) to the MISFITS so their Earth AD/ Wolf’s Blood album could be full length), but it’s a solid first effort, and great intro to the new sound.
Their next release, the Unholy Passion ep, was even darker (and featured another of my most fav songs from them- “The Hungry End”), and had even less of the funner MISFITS feel (even in their version of “All Hell Breaks Loose” (now titled simply “All Hell”)).

But when we get to November~Coming~Fire, that’s where the darkness and atmosphere mix with punk and death rock to make a perfect album- punkier than death rock, but much more atmospheric and dark than punk, it’s the best of both worlds.  The guitars are ran through a processor that gives them a haunting, otherwordly feel (I’ve only heard a couple of other bands use this sound, most notably the hardcore band THE SCAM, who only put out one 7″ep and a couple of comp tracks before they broke up), and are laden with spooky sounding feedback.  The keyboards are low in the mix, just enough to provide some dark atmosphere and background noise, and the drumming is very rhythmic, almost tribal at times..  Danzig was 30 years old when he recorded this album, and his voice was in fine form- he was beginning to get the croon he would later be famous for, but still with a bit of a younger, punky edge to it.  The songs go by almost too quickly, (only three songs are over 3 minutes long), and it leaves you wanting more.

This album introduced a new drummer, London May (who came from the similarly punky death rock band REPTILE HOUSE, who had a 7″ep out on Dischord produced by Ian McKay) who didn’t have enough time to learn the songs, so Danzig programmed the drums for five of the songs on his drum machine (tho it sounds so good you couldn’t tell the difference), as well as playing keyboards and second guitar.  It was recorded at Reel Platinum studios (where a lot of MISFITS sessions were also recorded), and produced by Glenn Danzig.

Danzig has written some very cheesy and goofy lyrics, which were fun in the MISFITS but get a little too serious in DANZIG (the band), almost a parody of what would be considered ‘evil’ and sexual, but done completely straight-faced.  However SAMHAIN’s lyrics are a different story- minimalist, filled with rage and deviant dark thoughts, there’s very few ‘evil nerd fullfilment’ type lyrics (well, maybe “Human Pony Girl”), and it works well with the darker nature of the music.
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This album is a masterpiece, and anyone into goth, dark punk, or death rock should love it.  It should be right up there with the darkest of gothy and death rock classics like SISTERS OF MERCY’s Floodland (which came out the same year) and BAUHAUS’ In the Flat Field (even tho it’s much punkier than either of them), but because it came out of a different scene, it was never embraced by the Bat Club crowd (and a good percentage of punks who picked it up just didn’t get it).  So it’s a woefully underheard and underrated album, which is a shame.
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The only other release SAMHAIN put out was the Final descent ep, which was basically the band DANZIG (for the most part), some of it even recorded after DANZIG had formed.  Tho it has a few decent songs on it, it just doesn’t have the feel, the darkness, the atmosphere of their other releases, and for those reasons I find it hard to consider it a SAMHAIN release.  But we’ll always have the first album and ep, plus this monumental release, to enjoy from them.
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Today is Halloween, so it’s a great day to revisit it, or listen to it for the first time if you’ve never heard it.  It’s pretty easy to find on youtube and other places (tho the actual lps and cds are hard to come by), so do yourself a favor and check it out.

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