The work of goth/punk band Samhain may be forever overshadowed by singer Glenn Danzig’s previous and subsequent projects, the Misfits and Danzig. However, it is not for lack of influence, with its prodigious, unconfined sound and horror aesthetics giving early shape to a legion of styles. We All Want Our Time In Hell Samhain Tribute, a new compilation album by a range of emerging and veteran punk, metal and noise bands, is deeply grounded in that history, with a glance to the future.
On the heels of its successful 2015 compilation, Morbid Tales!: A Tribute to Celtic Frost, Corpse Flower Records issues this remembrance of a band borne of the cantankerous split of the Misfits. Ultimately, it is questionable how much resonance Samhain had at the time, but now no one can deny the group its due. Its songwriting, embrace of the visual arts and branding put Samhain ahead of its time. As with Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and others, Glenn Danzig’s musical contributions will be hotly argued for years. Yet whether he’s argued about at all may prove he, and Samhain, were immutable to a scene that would organically give rise to larger than life figures like him. From the opening cover, Joel Grind’s “Night Chill,” it is evident there is a great deal of love and reverence for the band, the man and the era.
Adherents of Samhain are probably just going to luxuriate in the fact that there remains so much appreciation for a band that hasn’t done a real album since 1990’s Final Descent (sorry, 2000’s Box Set and 2001’s live recording). The pickier among you may discover Hell is fragmentary, with the balance of songs coming from 1986’s Samhain III: November-Coming-Fire and its debut. Still the tracks are fetching. Like Rats make “The Shift” a driving and accessible song that taps the menace of the initial version while making it rawer. Ghoul and Acid Witch offer a pair of immersive contributions in their signature (and one might say inspired by Samhain) theatrical veneer via “Macabre” and “Halloween II.”
To its credit, purists may appreciate the fact that Hell is a largely gritty affair, consistent with the 1980s’ recording sensibility for punk. Nil Eye’s version of “In My Grip” and Immortal Bird’s take on “I Am Misery” are some of the best tastes in this regard. Similarly, Danzig’s blunt, obsessive storytelling gets sturdy and faithful interpretation aplenty. Even if the vocals are more in its own style, Ringworm strikes all the right power chords in “Black Dream,” including the shouts and gang chorus you might have adored in the original. Midnight follows the sinews of the 1986 classic “Mother of Mercy,” featuring the line from which Hell derives its title. If you’re a consumer of tribute albums, the inclination to do a cover that is close to the original song may be irritating or enjoyable. Even if many of these tracks do not abjure their progenitors, some of the songs on Hell may still impress.
Nevertheless, the selections are an intriguing lot, with many wry visits of familiar songs. Brain Tentacles distortion and mangled harmonies manage to make the ultra skeevy “Human Pony Girl” a touch less skeevy. Ritual Howls’ synth-heavy, jarring performance of the Initium standout “Archangel” is among the album’s more memorable, an invocation to y’all who missed Samhain before and those who recall them and realized we can still make it even better.