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Although not the best known of Glenn Danzig's musical projects, the short-lived Samhain helped bridge the gap between the fierce punk of his Misfits days with the Sabbath-y metal blues of his solo band, Danzig. As most Danzig disciples know, the New Jersey-born singer first made a name for himself with the aforementioned Misfits, a group that merged a horror/comic book image with punk rock. Although an "underground" band during their tenure together in the late '70s/early '80s, the Misfits obtained much more attention after their split, no doubt due to the over the top admiration of Danzig and company by Metallica (whose members seemed to wear an endless stream of Misfits T-shirts at one point), which led to the continuous growth of their large cult fan base.
Some expected Danzig to launch a solo career right after the Misfits (he'd issued an obscure 7" single during his tenure with the band), but he instead decided to form Samhain. Although Samhain was basically a solo vehicle for Danzig (he was the group's singer and songwriter, and also played an assortment of instruments on subsequent recordings — guitar, bass, piano, drums, etc.), he was joined by a variety of musicians during their existence. Initially, Danzig and onetime Misfits photographer and roadie Eerie Von (on drums) began rehearsing and writing for Samhain during the summer of 1983. After only a few months, however, Von decided to move over to bass, as Undead drummer Steve Zing took his place. With former Minor Threat guitarist Lyle Preslar signing on soon after, Samhain recorded their debut album, Initium, which was issued in 1984.
But Preslar's tenure with the band was incredibly short, as Pete Marshall, better known to Samhain fans as "Damien," replaced him. This lineup remained together for a lone release, 1985's extremely limited-edition four-track EP Unholy Passion, before another lineup hiccup occurred when Zing was replaced with London May. This would turn out to be the longest lasting of Samhain's many lineups, and was the one that appeared on 1986's November-Coming-Fire. By early 1987, Damien was handed his walking papers, and was interchanged with newcomer John Christ. The new lineup was supposed to issue a recording in 1988 (under the title of Samhain Grim), but the recording was ultimately shelved, as Danzig opted to change the name of the band to Danzig (Samhain Grim was eventually released two years later, retitled Final Descent).
Although Danzig had repeatedly squashed reunion rumors regarding his former bands, he briefly resuscitated Samhain in late 1999 for live shows, as a mammoth five-CD box set entitled Samhain was issued the following year. Samhain collected all four of their releases as well as a live disc that combined tracks from a 1985 show in New York City and a 1986 show in Chicago. This fifth disc was given a its own separate release in 2002, under the title of Live, 85-86, by which time Danzig had put Samhain back in mothballs and returned to solo work. However, Danzig did reunite in the studio with Zing and "reunion-era" Samhain guitarist Todd Youth for the project Son of Sam and their 2001 release, Songs from the Earth.