Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Son of Sam's INTO THE NIGHT is a bloody huge success


Hot on the heels of 1999 reunion tour of Glenn Danzig’s first post-Misfits band from the ‘80s, then-Danzig/Samhain guitarist Todd Youth was so bloody inspired by the NOVEMBER COMING FIRE-ness of tour that he cobbled together an album’s worth of songs inspired the band’s sinister sounds. He then enlisted former Samhain members London May (drums) and Steve Zing (bass).  AFI’s Davey Havok contributed lyrics and vocals. Thus, Son of Sam (see what they did there?) was born. In 2001, SONGS FROM THE EARTH (on AFI’s label Nitro Records) was unleashed, complete with the blessing and a guest appearance from Danzig his-damn-self.

But that’s another album for another column.

By 2008, Youth was out of Danzig. Davey Havok and AFI had moved on to major label/Hot Topic success.

And Son of Sam was back.

Joining Youth and the returning Steve Zing was then-current Danzig drummer Karl Rosqvist. Havok was too busy with alt stardom, so Youth brought in Chelsea Smiles bandmate Skye Vaughan-Jayne (billed on the disc as the more ominous “Ian Thorne”) on vocals.

Released on horror rock indie Horror High Records, INTO THE NIGHT is a dark gem of an album.

What’s surprising about INTO THE NIGHT is just how un-Samhain-y it is at times.  Oh sure, “Suffer” and “Death Baby” could sit comfortably on a Danzig album.  But the lead track, “The Bleeding”?  If you want precedent for that sound, that vibe, that churn, you have to look to a different source...

The Damned. The Damned were one of the UK’s original punk bands. In their nearly four decades, they’ve dabbled in three-chord punk, psychedelia, metal, goth and dreamy pop.  What they’ve never really been — in spite of the name and singer David Vanian’s vampiric stage persona — are a horror band. (There is a “however” here, but I’ll address it in another column.)

“The Bleeding” and the titular “Into the Night” both take pages from the Damned songbook, circa MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE (see “Love Song”) and the “Nasty” single.  “Twisted Soul” could have oozed very comfortably onto any number of Damned ‘80s albums (THE BLACK ALBUM might’ve been the best fit, but I could hear it on PHANTASMAGORIA, as well).

The Damned, however, aren’t the only non-Danziggy influence to be found on the album.  Witness “Dark Life”, which channels the diabolical stylings of...

The Cult?

More specifically, Death Cult, the band that served as the immediate precursor to the “She Sells Sanctuary”/”Love Removal Machine” Cult as we know them.  In spite of the same, Death Cult weren’t horror in the least; they were “positive punk”, more spiritual in nature, and sorta goth without the trappings. “Dark Life” mixes Ian Astbury’s vocal stylings, Billy Duffy’s guitar style, and the “tribal” percussive patterns of Death Cult’s “Horse Nation” with a peppering of the ol’ darkity dark dark and cooks up a true death rock anthem.

Son of Sam.
But lest we get too far off course, “Sons of New” and “Darkness Calls” bring the album back to the source with slices of Samhain-soaked sounds reminiscent of SONGS FROM THE EARTH.

So what to make of INTO THE NIGHT?  As a strict Samhain tribute, it fails from being overly ambitious and not sticking to script.  However, as a sophomore album from a project band that probably didn’t even NEED a second album, it’s a bloody huge success.  By bringing in influences from less obvious sources, INTO THE NIGHT succeeds.  By recruiting a singer that plays the Vocal Chameleon role enough to honor the influences while still pulling the songs together as the work of one band, Son of Sam succeeds.

INTO THE NIGHT has been the “road trip” soundtrack to many nocturnal journeys. Through the sheer force of being “dark” and accessible, INTO THE NIGHT compels repeated listens. Son of Sam has never released a follow-up — doubtless never shall — leaving INTO THE NIGHT as an unheralded epitaph to a legendary band’s unholy offspring.

The album is still available for download from Amazon, and presumably iTunes. Horror High still maintains a Facebook page, but the website link leads back to the FB page, so I’m not sure if physical CDs are still around. I encourage my horror rock loving readers to seek it out, enjoy, embrace the Dark Life.

REID BRITT lives in Scenic Western North Carolina with his wife Alison and his daughter Lily.  He has been a Monster Kid from a young age ("There ARE Sasquatches down in the woods, Mom!") and still believes in the Power of Rock n' Roll.  When he's not watching horror movies, he likes to paint, and you can check out his paint slinging at spookywolffe.tumblr.com, Instagram as Reiddrorings,  Facebook as Spookywolffe. and Twitter as @spookywolffe.

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