Long before his improbable reunion with the Misfits, back in 1988, Glenn Danzig found his voice as a solo artist when he released the breakthrough debut album that shares his surname. But it was 1992's Danzig III: How the Gods Kill that cemented the iconic singer as a genuine rock star with songs like "Dirty Black Summer" and the title track, which distanced the muscular frontman even further from his punk roots. At the same time, Danzig III was hardly a typical metal album. Sure, the guitars were heavy and distorted and many of the songs were angry and brooding. But the band's Delta blues influences and Glenn's melodramatic vocals, which were equally influenced by Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley and Ozzy Osbourne, fused together into a novel sound.
Not only did Danzig deny being a metal artist when the album came out, but he also insisted that his band existed outside of the boundaries of rock itself. "We're not rock & roll, and we're not good timey rock & roll," he said around the release of Danzig III. "If someone gets the feeling of elation from our music, it's from something else — from an inner spirit or an inner message in there that they relate to and it makes them feel good about themselves and about their life and about the world."
Beyond crafting unique and timeless songs, Danzig built a mystique around himself over the years — part New Jersey–born barbarian, part soft-spoken yet intimidating cult figure — which helped earn him a devoted following. Danzig III: How the Gods Kill played its part, too.
Danzig wrote songs for the album in late 1991 and early 1992 and then entered Hollywood Sound Recorders studio. As on his previous solo albums, guitarist Johnny Christ, bassist Eerie Von (who played with Danzig in Samhain) and drummer Chuck Biscuits (whose resume included D.O.A., Black Flag and Circle Jerks) all contributed to the rock-but-not-rock, metal-but-not-metal vibe of Danzig III: How the Gods Kill.
Here are some other things you probably didn't know about the album.
1. After working on two albums with Rick Rubin, Glenn Danzig decided to self-produce the record
Since Danzig has never been not a big fan of being in the studio, he and his band fine-tuned the songs in the practice room and recorded them quickly to capture the immediacy of the experience. "It was the most enjoyable record we've ever done in our life," the singer told The Box in 1992. "We did the basics for this record in about four days. Working with other producers, it would take us a month, two months."
2. Swiss painter and Alien creature creator H.R. Giger removed a problematic erection from an existing painting for the album cover
As a fan of comic book art and sci-fi, Danzig was deeply familiar with Giger's work and asked the celebrated Swiss surrealist if he could use an image from the artist's 1976 painting "Meister und Margeritha" (translation: The Master and Margarita). To placate the band's record label, Giger revamped the unnerving erotic visual a bit, replacing the erect penis of "The Master" with a dagger decorated with Danzig's skull symbol.
3. Danzig wrote the single "Dirty Black Summer" about growing up in New Jersey
One of the catchiest songs on Danzig III: How the Gods Kill, "Dirty Black Summer" sounds like Black Sabbath crossed with the Doors and echoes with mischief. "Kids can't wait to get out of school," Danzig said of the single. "And when they get out of school, it's just hot, boring and there's nothing really to do except get in a lot of trouble. That's my summer. That's what I did and I see a lot of kids doing the same thing. So I wanted to do a summer song. I never did a summer song before."
4. Blues man Willie Dixon was originally going to sing a verse on "Heart of the Devil"
As Danzig prepared to record III, he contacted Dixon, who agreed to contribute to the record. Sadly, the two never got the chance to work together due to the blues musician's death in January 1992. "I went down and met with him and played him our stuff," Danzig told Headbanger's Ball. "In my opinion, he's one of the great blues singers and songwriters so I was looking forward to try and write a song together. And as we were preparing for the record, he died."
5. The inverted cross in the album's liner notes was not intended to be blasphemous
The booklet of Danzig III: How the Gods Kill unfolded into the shape of an inverted cross, a symbol that most would interpret as being anti-Christian. But for Danzig, who found the image aesthetically pleasing, the upside-down cross wasn't a reference to Satan. "If [you] knew anything about the upside-down cross, [you'd] know it was a very holy symbol," he told Spin. "In fact, St. Peter was crucified upside down because he said that it would be blasphemy to be crucified like his lord, Jesus Christ."