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:: Spotlight :: Book Review - Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009)

By: Justin Donnelly

As a recording artist, Eerie Von’s reputation amongst fans is something akin to legendary status, namely through his part in both Samhain and Danzig. But aside from his music, followers also know that Eerie Von shares an even greater passion on the side. And that’s photography. After two years in the making, Eerie Von has finally unveiled his long awaited visual tome ‘Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009)’.

As the dates indicate within the title, this lavish hardback coffee table book (one-hundred and sixty pages) provides an insiders look at the early days of The Misfits, an in-depth profile of Glenn Danzig’s post-Misfits outfit Samhain, right through to his eventual progress into the classic era of Danzig.

After some welcoming (not to mention very funny) foreword pieces from Mike D’Antonio (Overcast/Killswitch Engage bassist) and Lyle Preslar (Minor Threat guitarist), Eerie Von sets the scene with some of his old high school photos. Not surprisingly, his friends at the time include Craig Richardson (who would play guitar in Eerie Von’s band Rosmary’s Babies) and Paul Caiafa (who would eventually change his name to Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein when he became The Misfits guitarist).
After introductions are over, the book gets down to serious business, with Eerie Von’s first photographic sessions with The Misfits in August 1981. It’s from here on that fans of The Misfits are given something to really salivate over, with many of the shots of the band previously unseen. While many are either set up shots or ones that capturing the band in full flight on the stage, there’s also many that show a completely different side of the band, with the rather candid and relaxed shots lifting the veil of mystery over the band.

Concluding the first chapter of the book is a focus on Eerie Von’s band Rosmary’s Babies, which inevitably closes with Danzig’s offer to Eerie Von to join him in a new project. Cue in chapter two, which focuses on Eerie Von and Glenn Danzig’s venture into Samhain. It’s here that Eerie Von’s role as a musician starts to take on a more prominent role, with both the photos and text (which, while short and to the point from someone closely involved in the whole movement, is both enlightening and fascinating with its random pieces of trivia) fleshing out Samhain’s dark and mysterious and gloriously short-lived time together.

After a bridged text heavy piece (‘Out With The Old, ’86, In With The New ‘87’), the book then moves into its third chapter (‘1987 – 1995: At The Top Of The World’), with the introduction of producer Rick Rubin, and the eventual formation of Danzig. It’s at this point that the book takes a bit of change in direction, with Eerie Von’s role as a photographer taken a backseat to his role as the performer. It’s around this stage of the book that the content takes a change of direction, with most of the remainder of the Danzig chapter centred more on the band’s lengthy tours than their studio work. While it’s understandable (given that between the years of 1988 and 1994, Danzig as a band were untouchable), the content of the latter half of the book seems a little too rushed and thin on the ground in a sense, with the years documented with more photos of the band on the road (And their well known friends, including Metallica, Slayer and White Zombie), rather than life behind the scenes. Sure, there are some great images of the band captured in unguarded moments (Pages 115 and 118 – 119 are priceless/stunning shots, and are a testament to that fact), but the Danzig era appears to be a little rushed towards the end of the book, and ultimately disappoints.

The concluding chapter (‘Chapter 4 – And Then There Was One… 1995 – ‘09’) only reinforces the rushed feel of the previous chapter, with Eerie Von’s life for the next fourteen years summed up in a measly three pages. Starting off with a bang, ‘Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009)’ is one hell of a read from start to finish. But while it's great, it does lose much of its momentum with the burgeoning success of Danzig. Although it’s understandable (you can’t be in two places at once), the book does seemed to finish up in a big of a rush, which is a little disappointing.

Despite its flaw, ‘Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009)’ is still a compelling read. His photography is absolutely amazing, and his words used to describe the associated chronological history of the shots taken are truly fascinating. So overall, this really is a must have for true Danzig fans.

Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009) is published by Dark Horse Books

For more information, visit

www.eerievon.com