I just want to start off this post by saying that if Glenn Danzig has fucking found Jesus, do not even tell me. There is nothing, nothing more distressing to me than learning that the guys whose records the Assembly of God’s pastors in my communities could not wait to burn have come around in their old age.
Or are they Assemblies of God? I don’t know. Anyway…
Danzig. Blah blah blah. I don’t care for Glenn’s voice (oh, I know, just send me the hate mail now). It always feels to me like he’s the Alison Krauss of metal. It’s a nice voice, but he somehow manages to never put any real umph behind it, even though it sounds like he’s capable of it. Thought the more I listen to this song, the more I become convinced that may be the producer’s fault (oops, if one bad mouths Rick Rubin, does one get beat up?). But I do like Danzig’s “Am I Demon.” I also, though, am just totally digging Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s version.
What I find interesting about both takes on “Am I Demon” is that each seems calculated to jar the listener out of his comfort zone (though sticking with “his” might be unfair to Billy, I still am willing to wager that I listen to Danzig at the door). Danzig’s version starts, like many great metal songs, like a wedge. First comes the guitar, all by itself, setting the general rhythm of the song. If we were all teenage boys in our Camaros, even at that moment, our necks would start to rock. Then, in come the drums, same rhythm, and you, as listener, are kind of safe in between them, guitar above you, drums below. But by the time the cymbal comes in and Glenn’s all “yeah”, you start to realize that you’re going to be pushed out of the song. If you succumb to the temptation there where they draw out the notes to turn the music up, you’re probably completely driven out of your mind as well.
It’s just you and the bump da da bump da da bump da da and everything else happening in the song, at least to me, feels like it’s happening kind of extraneously, at the top of the song where, once it’s loud enough, you can’t really register it anyway. You are alone in a cocoon of that beat. And not even alone with your thoughts.
Which, I think, when you’re a teenager, you appreciate.
But then listen to what Billy does. The rhythm is still there, but only on the guitar, only in the background, and the vocal is foregrounded. And, damn, once you can shift your focus to the words, it’s still an isolating song, a haunting song, but it a completely different way. Now it’s about that loneliness of Billy’s voice that kind of matches the background noise but not quite, about the faint hint of a second singer, but not quite.
One version pushes you out of yourself and the other traps you in.