More than likely I will get even more digressive than typical in this post, so I’ll start off with the capper: I’m here reviewing a self-released album, available for free download on Bandcamp, which imagines what the Samhain album Initium might have sounded like if it had been recorded by the Earth AD-era Misfits…and what Earth AD might have sounded like if it had been recorded by Initium-era Samhain.
So at this point you are already either in or out. If the above paragraph makes sense to you – if you are already familiar with those bands and those albums – then surely you are in. Because once this music’s in your blood you can’t shake it. And you also know that the discographies of those two bands are pathetically small…because of course you only consider the Glenn Danzig era to be The Misfits. Anything without Danzig isn’t the Misfits. And there were only two Samhain LPs, one EP, and one half-finished LP. So then you already know there’s sparse material to listen to from either group, so if you’re like me you’re excited to hear something new in that vein.
But if you aren’t familiar with any of this…let me try to encapsulate it, and also explain why this concept album, Initium Meets Earth AD, is so goddamn perfect, and one of the best new albums I have heard in years. Seriously just stop reading and go download the album at Bandcamp – available in a variety of formats, but of course FLAC is probably the highest quality – and tell me if Bloodsong (aka someone named “Chris” who also goes by the handle “I, Misanthrope” – and yes the entire thing was done by just one guy!) hasn’t delivered a perfect replication of Earth AD-era Misfits and Initium-era Samhain.
Okay, here is where the overly-digressive navel-gazing stuff will begin, so feel free to skip ahead thirteen paragraphs(!), to where I will actually share my thoughts on Bloodsong’s Initium Meets Earth AD (which again you should just download and listen to instead of reading the following thirteen paragraphs…)
I first got into the Misfits in the fall of 1989, when I had just turned 15. I decided I wanted to learn more about heavy metal, given that for years I’d been seeing all the long-haired kids at school wearing Metallica and Megadeth shirts and whatnot. The Metallica “Crash Course In Brain Surgery” shirt, with art by the ubiquitous Pushead, was a particular favorite – I remember seeing that one starting around 1987. I had a friend a few years older than me, a guy named Billy Sampson, and in high school he became my go-to person for music info, given that he had a ton of tapes and records and CDs and was really into the metal scene. He was like the prototypical slacker; he didn’t really apply himself in school and didn’t seem to have any grand aims in life, but I thought he was smart, and he definitely had a great sense of humor. He was tall, always wore a Metallica shirt, and I thought he sort of resembled Bill Murray, but that was probably just me. But anyway I remember telling him one day that I was thinking about getting into heavy metal, and Billy gave me this look and was like, “Are you sure, Joe?” Like I was about to get into witchcraft or something. I persisted, and Billy loaned me a pile of heavy metal tapes and records (no CDs, as I didn’t have a player yet).
It was all kinds of stuff: Metallica, Anthrax, Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Grim Reaper, etc. No Slayer – I specifically recall that group was too much for me so I told Billy I didn’t want any of their albums. No doubt the tapes and vinyl Billy loaned me would be valuable today; I recall he even loaned me a Metallica 12” single that had “Creeping Death” on it, which is probably a hot collector item today. Anyway, I played all this shit…and when I reported back to Billy I told him my favorite material on all of it was “Last Caress” and “Green Hell,” a medley of songs on Metallica’s 1987 cover version EP Garage Days Re-Revisted.
Billy nodded knowingly and was like, “Oh yeah, those two songs were originally done by The Misfits.” To which I said, “Who?” Then he was like, “Yeah, that’s Glenn Danzig’s old band.” Again: “Who?” Billy didn’t have any Misfits tapes, but he said it was an old punk band that a guy named Glenn Danzig had been in, and those two songs were originally Misfits songs. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a lifetime of Danzig fandom. I went to the local music store, Camelot Music in the Valley View Mall in nearby LaVale, Maryland, and scanned the “M” tape racks. The only Misfits tape they had was Earth AD. I bought it, excited to see “Green Hell” was on the tracklist. I could hear the original version now!
One thing I couldn’t see was how long the tape was. When I got home and opened it up, I was shocked to see that there was hardly any tape at all in the plastic cassette window. Had I paid full album price for an EP?? Then I put the tape in. What the fuck was this? The goddamn thing sounded like it had been recorded at the bottom of a well in a single take. Songs blurred into each other, you could barely hear the instruments let alone Glenn Danzig’s voice, and the tape was over before I knew it. And I wasn’t even aware at the time that the tape I’d bought, despite how short it was, was actually longer than the original 1983 vinyl release; the cassette release contained three additional songs not on the vinyl: “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?,” “Die, Die My Darling,” and “We Bite.” But this was pre-internet Fort Ashby, West Virginia, friends – we didn’t know anything about anything back then, especially out there in the sticks.
Despite how much I regretted my purchase upon first listen, I vowed to “get my money’s worth” and listened to Earth AD again. And again. And again. Pretty soon I was loving the goddamn thing. Everything I complained about in the previous paragraph was now something I loved. You can’t hear Danzig’s voice and have no idea what he’s singing? So what, come up with your own interpretation of the lyrics. The songs are too sloppy and fast? So what, that’s hardcore punk (apparently). I was now a confirmed Misfits fan. Soon enough I got more Misfits tapes: Legacy Of Brutality and Walk Among Us. The latter quickly became my favorite, and I believe it’s universally agreed as the “best” Misfits album, but these things are so subjective…to tell the truth I like the one I’m currently playing the best, whichever it might be. Unfortunately none of the in-print Misfits albums at the time featured “Last Caress;” it wouldn’t be until 1995’s Collection II (more on which anon) that I finally got to hear the original Misfits version. Which of course blew away the Metallica cover.
To correct myself…I didn’t have the actual Walk Among Us tape. I had a cassette dub of it…given to me by Billy Sampson, of course, who got into the Misfits due to my own enthusiasm for them. (It’s funny the things you remember as you get older…I can recall all of this vividly but I literally can’t remember a single thing my wife just said to me.) Billy bought the Walk Among Us CD and made a tape of it for me, filling up the rest of side 1 and all of side 2 with Metallica’s Master Of Puppets. I still have the tape! In fact I probably played this one most of all. At the time I was living with my dad, and he and I have never had much in common: he literally grew up on a farm and he’s into hunting and fishing and all that stuff that doesn’t interest me. But I lived with him when I was getting into the Misfits, and sometimes he’d get me to go along with him when he’d drive around in the woods at night in his Ford Bronco, chasing after deer with a spotlight. (People do this sort of thing in places like Fort Ashby, WV.) So of course I’d bring along my Walk Among Us tape and play it. My dad, who listens to country music if he listens to anything at all, would eventually start singing along to these songs about devil’s whorehouses and Vampira and eating brains for breakfast, brains for brunch.
Because that is the key ingredient that made the Misfits so special: Glenn Danzig. The guy was/is a natural songwriter, with a gift for hooks that just get under your skin and stay there permanently. You could even slow down some of those super-fast hardcore Earth AD songs and give them big production and you’d have bona fide pop hits. And particularly in the Misfits era Danzig turned out lyrics – that is, when you could understand them – that stick with you forever. “Ripped up like shredded wheat,” “The maggots in the eye of love won’t copulate,” “When I sin, I sin real good,” and on and on. And hell, half the time you probably didn’t even have the lyrics correct; for years I thought Danzig was singing “The jaded eyes of peaches” in the song “Where Eagles Dare,” only for the often-wrong internet to one day inform me he was supposedly singing “With jaded eyes and features.” I like my version better; it’s almost William Burroughs-esque. For that matter, the above-mentioned “The maggots in the eye of love,” from “Some Kinda Hate,” might actually be “The maggots in the iron lung.”
The cool thing was that I didn’t know anything about the Misfits, other than that Glenn Danzig, who now fronted his own titular band, had been the singer and wrote all the songs. Those tapes, at least the ones on Danzig’s own Plan 9 label, didn’t tell you anything – you just got the cover and the cassette itself; the cover was just one-sided, with the cover art on one side and the other side blank. If you wanted to know about the band or the song lyrics or anything else, you were shit out of luck. In a way though this just added to the mystique of the band. It wasn’t until 1995, when I discovered the Misfits Central site and became active on its forum, that I actually learned the history of the Misfits, and who was in the band besides Danzig. At the time fans who’d seen the group perform before its 1983 split were there on the Misfits Central forum, telling stories, and also former members like Bobby Steele and Jerry Only would share comments. Of course, I’d never heard of either of them, even though I’d played Misfits music for the past few years – having also heard the self-titled 1988 compilation, now referred to as Collection I, by then. I’d also gotten into Danzig’s titular band over the past few years, with 1994’s 4p being my favorite.
I was a senior in college at this time and the Misfits Central site was a huge help because it made me aware of stuff that was about to come out; due to legal wranglings there had been no new Misfits releases since Collection I, but I read that Collection II was about to be released. So I pre-ordered it, the first thing I ever pre-ordered online. Fortunately, I decided on the clear vinyl pressing. I’d recently gotten into vinyl, so I thought this particular pressing sounded cool, given that supposedly there would only be a limited run. I believe it cost me fifteen dollars. According to Discogs.com, this clear vinyl pressing of Collection II currently goes for $700. I’m glad I kept my copy! But then, I also still have my original cassette of Earth AD, which according to Discogs now goes for over $30. I mean $30 for a cassette tape? More evidence the world has gone nuts. But I still have mine, even though I haven’t played it since the ‘90s; I mean you never get rid of your first Misfits album… (I also l pre-ordered the Misfits Box Set after reading about it on Misfits Central, in the fancy coffin box, and I still have that, too.)
At this time I also got other Misfits vinyl: the 1988 repress of Walk Among Us and the second pressing on Danzig’s Plan 9 of Legacy Of Brutality, and it was decades until I realized this thing was on transluscent black vinyl. I just thought it was a regular piece of vinyl, but if you hold it up to light you can see through it. My first pressing copy of Collection I is the same. These records cost me a whopping ten dollars each in 1995! Actually I bought Collection I fairly recently, in late 2016, and it only cost me twenty bucks, in mint condition. One of the things I regret is I didn’t buy more Misfits records at the time…and that I didn’t buy any Samhain vinyl, ever. The prices of these records, particularly the Samhain releases, have gone through the stratosphere in recent years.
Which finally brings me to Samhain. Somehow in the pre-internet late ‘80s I learned that Danzig was briefly in a group called Samhain before he started the Danzig band…but for reasons of pure wimpiness I never got any of the Samhain releases. I vividly recall seeing the Samhain tapes and CDs at Camelot Music…I even recall when the post-dissolution final album Final Descent was released in 1990. For some reason I was very put off by this section of Danzig’s musical career and never even considered looking into it, and I want to say it was the cover of the first album, 1984’s Initium, that put me off: Danzig and his fellow bandmates staring at the camera and covered in blood. For some reason I guess this was too much for me? I honestly can’t recall. Maybe I assumed it was “satanic thrash metal” a la Slayer, or maybe my metal guru Billy Sampson implied as much about the group and I just never looked into them.
This of course was my mistake, as Initium is very much in the vein of a genuine Misfits album, perhaps even more so than Earth AD was. It wasn’t until 2000 that I finally heard it, when Danzig re-released all the Samhain material on CD (which themselves are now out of print and very pricey…it seems that virtually anything Danzig releases, in any format, eventually becomes quite valuable). I got all three of the re-released Samhain CDs and played them and realized Initium was the missing transitional link between the Misfits and the later Samhain material. Previous to this my only exposure to Samhain was their 1986 album November Coming Fire, which a classmate in college loaned me in 1995 – he had the tape and let me have it for a bit and I was blown away by the sound of this album…this quirky punk-metal that had almost a Stooges vibe at times and clearly laid the groundwork for Danzig’s later material in his titular band. It certainly didn’t sound like the Misfits, but that’s not a knock; it had its own special sound. Also this guy was the only person I’ve ever met who preferred Samhain to the Misfits; when I asked him why he shrugged and said, “I just think they were a better group.”
As it turns out, the Misfits albums were my gateway drug into heavy metal. Soon after getting those Earth AD and Legacy Of Brutality tapes I was listening to Metallica, Overkill, Celtic Frost, Manowar, Anthrax, and I remember really being into a thrash metal band called Nuclear Assault. (Still no Slayer, though!) Iron Maiden was also a favorite. But there was nothing like the Misfits, which was frustrating. I’d look into other punk or hardcore bands…but none of them “scratched that itch,” as I, Misanthrope of Bloodsong says in the video I’ll hopefully get around to discussing soon. Again it comes down to that key ingredient of Danzig; none of the other punk or hardcore groups were turning out such hooks and melodies. The hardcore groups in particular were just blurs of noise – even when the Misfits went hardcore, in Earth AD, Danzig managed to make the tracks melodic, or at least hook-laden. And speaking of Danzig, when I was getting into Misfits and metal in early 1990 his titular group had so far only released their first, self-titled album…someone (not Billy) loaned me the tape, and I liked it, particularly “Mother” and “Twist Of Cain” (the latter probably being my favorite Danzig song of all now), but it just didn’t have that Misfits vibe and it wasn’t the thrash metal I wanted at the time. Today, of course, I’d rather listen to Danzig or any of the ensuing Danzig albums than thrash metal; by going for a timeless “heavy rock” style with a bit of bluesy groove, Danzig was able to transcend the era and deliver albums (at least the first four albums) that now sound timeless, as if they could’ve been recorded at any time in the past fifty years. I mean Danzig II – Lucifuge sounds like it could’ve been recorded in 1975 or its actual release date of 1990.
Okay so now all that’s finally out of the way, and hopefully all of you have skipped ahead and ignored my banal reminiscing. I’m going to finally write about Bloodsong! I just discovered Initium Meets Earth AD a few days ago, but I have played it obsessively since…and as you can see, it has inspired me to write this endless screed. So creator I, Misanthrope (apparently someone named Chris) has struck a chord with me for sure. One night I was on Youtube after a long day; I must’ve been playing a Danzig video or something the last time I was on there, as recently I’ve gotten into his music again (I’ve discovered his post-2010 material is some of his best stuff ever – 2015’s Skeletons in particular is awesome and at times does indeed have a Misfits vibe), because Youtube was recommending I watch some video by a guy called Frumess which was about Initium meets Earth AD. Now, no disrespect to Frumess, but this isn’t the sort of thing I would generally watch…one of those vlogs, or video blogs, or whatever people are into today, with a guy talking into the camera for a few hours and people commenting in the sidebar. But it appears Frumess’ show centers on the Misifts, hence the Youtube recommendation, and in this particular video he was talking to a guy who had created an album that imagined if Initium sounded like Earth AD, and vice versa.
This is honestly a great idea, as anyone who is into the Misfits or Samhain will immediately realize. I won’t go into the Misfits history here, as I’ve gone on long enough, but the entire story is recounted at Misfits Central. (And also for a great overview on Danzig’s entire musical legacy, I’d highly recommend the informative Danzig posts at The Nostalgia Spot.) But long story short, in 1983 the Misfits had gone in a hardcore direction – super-fast and short songs, with an aggro almost-metal vibe – and released what would be their final album, Earth AD. Per contemporary interviews, Danzig himself hated Earth AD and considered it “the worst Misfits album.” Apparently he didn’t like the too-fast songs and also he definitely did not like the shitty sub-production. As a minor aside, there never will be a “remastered” edition of this album…I read somewhere that Danzig stored the Earth AD master tapes in the basement of his parents’s home in Lodi, New Jersey, and the tapes were destroyed in a flood. The “alternate” mixes/versions of the Earth AD tracks on Collection I and Collection II are the same as the album versions, just with boosted EQ levels.
Due to Danzig’s displeasure with how the album turned out, not to mention internal frustrations, the Misfits soon broke up. Danzig had already been considering a side project with local musicians Eerie Von (who was the official Misfits photographer – and a few years ago released a book about it) and Steve Zing (who was in the local group Mourning Noise…and their self-titled compilation, comprised of a 1982 single and an unreleased 1984 album, has recently been released on Cleopatra Records…and sounds at times like a lost Misfits album). This group, Samhain, now became the band for Danzig, not just a side project. He’d already used some “intended for Samhain” tracks to fill out Earth AD: “Bloodfeast” and “Death Comes Ripping.” With Initium Danzig intentionally scaled back on the hardcore aggression of Earth AD, going for more of an experimental punk-metal vibe – very thunderous, tribal drums throughout the album, and lots of reverb. There was also a weird sonic tapestry of “monster noises” running beneath most of the tracks. Danzig also dropped the comic-booky tone of the average Misfits song and went for more of a “real evil” approach in the lyrics instead of a “B-movie evil” approach, which may be one of the reasons Samhain never achieved the pop cultural fame that the Misfits later did.
So that’s the history. Apparently what this guy Frumess discussed in one of his earlier Youtube videos was the similarity between Earth AD and Initium; I would imagine that one of the main draws here is that, as mentioned, two of the Earth AD songs were intended for Initium, so it would be interesting to imagine what they might’ve sounded like had they actually been on that album instead of Earth AD. There was also Glenn Danzig’s repeated statements in contemporary interviews of his dissatisfaction with Earth AD. So Chris, aka I, Misanthrope, watched this Frumess video and decided to do his own recreation: Initium done Earth AD style and Earth AD done Initium style.
To say he nailed it would be an understatement. From the first moment of Initium Meets Earth AD you realize what a labor of love this is. Now in the Frumess video with the interview, ie this video, the only part I’ve watched is the actual interview with Chris aka I, Misanthrope. He talks about the “critical listening” he employed to recreate the production of the albums, using modern software to break up the vocals and instruments of the original Misfits and Samhain tracks into separate channels so he could study them individually. He also talks about the difference in the recording styles – the reverb-free Earth AD and the reverb-heavy Initium. I mean it’s clear as hell that this guy gets it, and not just that but he’s able to do the music himself, which is incredible. I mean I wish I had a gift for music, it’s the one thing I’ve always wished for. But I’m happy to just listen. Especially to something as fun as this.
And man I had a smile on my face the whole way through this album on my first listen. I still smile when I play it, even though I’ve played it about twenty times now in the past few days; there’s always something new I’m noticing. Running to 47 minutes and 11 seconds, Initium Meets Earth AD features 22 tracks and is essentially two albums in one: tracks 1 to 10 are Initium songs done in the aggro hardcore style of Earth AD, and tracks 11 to 22 are Earth AD songs done in the experimental-tribal-punk style of Initium. And happily Bloodsong (ie I, Misanthrope, ie Chris) has done the “extended” version of Earth AD, which is to say the same release I had on cassette as a teen, with the extra three songs not on the original vinyl release. This is especially fortunate, as his version of “We Bite” is one of the highlights of the album – a much-too-fast track on Earth AD that is finally given room to breathe in this Initium treatment, revealing the melody only briefly glimpsed in the original version.
While doing Earth AD in the style of Initium would’ve made sense to me, prior to discovering this album, I have to admit I never would’ve thought about doing it the other way around. And to be honest when I first played this Bloodsong album it was the second half, ie the Earth AD tracks slowed down and given the goth-punk vibe of Initium, that I thought was the best. But now that I’ve played the album so many times I love the first ten tracks just as much. Bloodsong has flat-out nailed the sound of the genuine Earth AD release, from the production to the way the songs themselves are performed. Distorted guitars complete with occasional squeals, the crazy drum fills, the “recorded in the bottom of a well” sub-production. No Misfits-inspired band I am aware of, from Japan’s Balzac to the aforementioned group Mourning Noise, have come so close to replicating the sound of the Misfits. It’s almost uncanny.
Now one thing to point out is that the vocals don’t always sound exactly like Glenn Danzig…but then that would be asking for a bit much, wouldn’t it? Danzig has one of the most distinctive baritones in rock music. All things considered, Mr. I, Misanthrope actually does an admirable job of mimicking Danzig, particularly in the Initium tracks that are given the Earth AD treatment; Danzig’s vocals were barely audible in the actual Earth AD release, anyway, given the shitty, sub-par production, and Bloodsong perfectly replicates that here. He also nails Danzig’s intonation; the way he screams “Now is the pain!” on opening spoken-word track “Initium,” you could almost think it was Danzig himself. In particular I love the random unhinged screams of “Go!” in the backing vocals of the Earth AD-style Initium tracks – identical to the way they’d pop up so frequently on the genuine Earth AD album. Actually the intonation and vocal delivery are spot-on for the Initium tracks – “My mirrors are black” being another great example, on the Earth AD-style “Horror Biz,” ie the song that inspired the name of everyone’s favorite horror novel blog (or maybe it was the Misfits original that inspired Mr. Will Errickson). The more I play Initium Meets Earth AD the more I realize how perfectly the style of the actual Earth AD was recreated by Bloodsong: “The Shift” in particular is a masterpiece, so perfectly transformed that it comes off like a bona fide Earth AD track. I also appreciate how some of the Bloodsong recreations nod to other Misfits songs: the Earth AD-style “The Howl” starts off a little similarly to “All Hell Breaks Loose,” from Walk Among Us…a double nod, at that, given that Samhain did its own version of this song, retitled “All Hell,” on the 1985 Unholy Passion EP. “The Howl” is another masterpiece; you could fool someone into thinking it’s a legitimate Earth AD song.
But as mentioned it was the second half of the album, the Earth AD songs done Initium style, that initially threw me for a loop. Good grief this stuff’s even more uncanny in how perfectly it’s done. I mean Initium sounds like the work of a songwriter who had advanced in his craft and had to start a new group to get the sound he wanted, but honestly – and per Danzig himself in contemporary interviews – Samhain could have been the Misfits. And if so, maybe this is what they might’ve sounded like. Those hardcore thrash Earth AD numbers are slowed down, played less sloppily and given a heavy reverb and tom-tom treatment, somehow becoming heavier and more menacing in the process (the latter likely due to the “monster noise sound tapestry” Bloodsong has faithfully reproduced in the background of most tracks). “Earth AD,” “Queen Wasp,” “Death Comes Ripping,” and “Hellhound” are reborn as riff-heavy punk-metal monsters…and hell, if you poked me with sharp punji sticks I might even say some of Bloodsong’s interpretations are better than the original versions (“Devilock” and “Wolf’s Blood” being two such examples). Another thing that brought a big smile to my face was that Bloodsong also brought in the synthesized chimes of Initium, which to tell the truth have always sounded to me like the “gong” noise they always play at the end of Taco Bell commercials. These chimes frequently punctuate the songs, totally mimicking the genuine Initium release…and making me think of Taco Bell.
Another track to call out is “Bloodfeast,” which as mentioned was originally intended for Samhain, anyway. But even though Danzig did the song with the Misfits it still sort of sounds out of place on Earth AD, lacking the aggro hardcore vibe and coming off more like…well, like a cut from Initium. What Bloodsong does here is given an indication of what the song might’ve sounded like if it really had been on Initium, adding those chimes and monster noises to wonderful effect. In the Frumess video linked above, Chris of Bloodsong/I, Misanthrope only appears for a few minutes, telling how he recorded the album. After this Frumess plays the album with his reactions. I haven’t watched all this – again, not a fan of those “reaction” videos people seem to love these days – but I was happy to see that Frumess was appropriately enthusiastic about the material, telling Chris what a great job he had done. I do disagree with Frumess that “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” doesn’t work; maybe the first time I played the album I would’ve agreed, but after several more listens I think Bloodsong’s recreation works just fine. The entire album works damn fine, and I love the little touches…the extended snarling that caps off some tracks being another thing that brought a big smile to my face, as it’s just so Misfits/Samhain-style Danzig.
So again, one last time, here is the Bandcamp link where you can download Bloodsong’s Initium Meets Earth AD for free. If you’ve managed to make it through this neverending post without doing so…well I mean, why the hell haven’t you? Seriously the only thing we need is for this album to be pressed on vinyl…colored vinyl of course, in pure “Plan 9 Records” style. The question is whether the entire thing should be put on one LP, with the Initium tracks on one side and the Earth AD tracks on the other, or if it should be split up into separate releases. But this is just cloud talk; by making the album free – Bloodsong even specifcally asks that you not pay for the download – the messy issue of royalties and whatnot doesn’t come up. Which of course brings me to Glenn Danzig himself. You have to wonder what he’d think of Initium Meets Earth AD. If I know anything about Danzig, he probably wouldn’t give a shit. But then, maybe he might. You’d have to think that somehow somewhere the guy would at least be a little moved that his music can inspire people in such a way. And besides, Danzig recently did his own fan letter to an artist who has inspired him: the 2020 release Danzig Sings Elvis (which I got on “pink haze” vinyl).
Bloodsong also has an original track on Bandcamp, “I Want Your Blood,” from 2018. It’s very much in the Samhain/Misfits mold and also highly recommended. I’d say we need more original material from Bloodsong, and soon! And release it on colored vinyl!!
So finally, thanks to Frumess for doing a video on this and bringing it to peoples’s attention – and thanks to the nameless Youtube Bot that put the video up as a suggestion for me! The biggest thanks of course goes to Bloodsong; I would’ve “lost my shit” (as the kids say today) if I’d heard this in 1990. With this album Bloodsong makes me feel like I’m a long-haired 15 year-old punk again…quite an accomplishment when you’re a 48 year-old father who only wishes you could still grow long hair. I could just imagine jamming out to this on my Sony Walkman and excitedly talking about it to Billy Sampson the next day in Phys Ed; the two of us opted out of “actual sports stuff” in gym class and instead would walk in endless circles around the basketball court as part of the ”physical fitness” regimen we were required to take as high school students. Of course, we spent the entire time talking about heavy metal. And somehow I’ve gone this long without mentioning the “band” we started together, which was just Billy on his out of tune electric guitar and me shouting Celtic Frost-style vocals into a boombox; random noisefests, not “songs” per se, that we’d give titles like “Tears For The Decayed King.” We called ourselves “Subjugator,” and in true heavy metal fashion we also had a skull-faced mascot, cleverly named “The Subjugator,” who totally wasn’t a ripoff of Iron Maiden’s Eddie.
Billy was three years older than me, but he graduated two years before me, in 1990 (the reason he was only two grades ahead of me was because my mom – who was the teacher – put me in kindergarten when I was only 4, so I was always the youngest kid in my class). I think the last time I saw Billy was probably the summer of 1991 or so. He’d had a kid with the girl he was dating and so he was busy with life, and also around this time I was losing the long-haired heavy metal-listener look and going for more of a clean-cut image (because I’d discovered this was how you actually got girls to like you, at least in Fort Ashby in 1991). So in the typical fickleness of a teenager I was likely trying to distance myself from Billy. But then again he wasn’t even in school anymore, so it’s not like I could still hang out with him in Phys Ed. Probably the last time I heard from Billy was a letter I received from him out of the blue in 1993, when I was in college. This was a particularly memorable letter because Billy actually put a photo of his face on the envelope. I hung onto this letter for years, because in all my life no one had ever sent me a letter with a picture of their face on the envelope, but apparently I lost the letter at some point in the dim past; I just searched for it, to put it up on the post, but couldn’t find it. I did find Billy’s 1990 senior class photo, though:
Note the “stay subjugated” on the back! Unfortunately I have no recollection of Billy’s other “band,” the so-called “Plastic Jesus.” A few months ago I made one of my rare forays onto Facebook and checked out the “Growing Up In Fort Ashby” page…and happened to see the note that William “Billy” Sampson, Jr had passed away, at only 50 years old, this past July. There was a picture of him there, the same Billy I knew back in high school, just a bit older; apparently he had still been living in Fort Ashby even after all these years. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in thirty years, but knowing he was no longer around really upset me, and again took me back to my high school metal days. Now that I think of it, this is no doubt the reason why I’ve suddenly gotten into Danzig’s music again…but then I go into mini-obsessions with Danzig every few years, so that’s nothing new. I guess this time it just has more emotional background to it. I’ve mentioned Billy a lot in this review, because he was the key to all of this; if Billy had not loaned me his heavy metal tapes in the Fall of 1989, I might never have discovered the Misfits. Not to sound too cliched, but I will always be grateful to him for that.
As a final note, here’s a photo of the 15-year-old yours truly in early 1990, right at the height of my Misfits/Metal faze – it has to have been around that time, given that this was when I sported my lamentable long hair. I’m even wearing a camo shirt, for cryin’ out loud…you can’t get more “Fort Ashby, West Virginia” than that:
The beer was my dad’s; he had a ton of it in the fridge and it was years old because my dad has never been much of a drinker. I stacked it on the kitchen table for this stupid photo. A photo that was taken by…you guessed it: Billy Sampson.