On July 14, 1986, Samhain performed what was to be their final show, at The Ritz in New York City. In attendance was Rick Rubin, who was scouting for potential bands to sign to his record label, Def Jam. Upon viewing Samhain's performance, Rubin was impressed with Glenn Danzig's powerful stage persona and vocal abilities. He met him after the show and propositioned him. At first, he wished only to sign Danzig, with the intent of making him the vocalist for a hard rock supergroup that Rubin envisioned. However, Danzig refused to sign to Rubin's label without Samhain's bassist, Eerie Von, with whom Danzig had become great friends. Rubin agreed to sign Samhain, and he began making suggestions for the new direction he felt the band should take. Rubin felt the music should be stripped down, and that Danzig's vocal talents should become the focal point for the band.
In 1987, the band evolved into a solid hard rock act, with the addition of John Christ on guitar and Chuck Biscuits (ex-Black Flag) on drums. To reflect the change in musical direction, and to avoid having to ever start anew in the event of future lineup changes, Danzig decided to change the name of Samhain to his own surname, Danzig.
Having formed and begun recording as Danzig the previous year, in 1988 the band released its eponymous first album on Rick Rubin's newly formed label Def American (later renamed to American Recordings). The album featured polished production by Rubin, with heavy, blues-based guitar riffs and Danzig's powerful and melodic vocal performance -- a harsh contrast to the gritty, raw-sounding production of Samhain's albums.
In 1990, Danzig released their second album, Danzig II: Lucifuge, the band's most diverse LP. Here the music continued to blur the lines between classic blues and hard rock.
By 1992, Rubin's involvement with the band had waned and Danzig himself took credit for co-producing the third album, Danzig III: How the Gods Kill. The following year the band released the Thrall: Demonsweatlive EP, which contained several live tracks from the band's 1992 Halloween show, as well as three new studio tracks. The EP provided a hit for the band when the live version of "Mother" (a song from the first Danzig album) became popular on hard rock radio stations. A new version of the "Mother" music video was created using live footage, and the video became a hit on MTV as well, pushing Danzig into the mainstream.
With Danzig in the spotlight, controversy surrounding the nature of Glenn Danzig's lyrics and imagery increased. Conservative Christian groups accused Danzig of being a Satanist; Danzig dismissed their characterization in his official response through his publicist: "We welcome their disdain". Danzig has repeatedly denied accusations of being a Satanist, saying that while he is spiritual, he rejects all religions, especially organized religion, but is fascinated by the nature of evil and merely finds Satan to be an interesting figure in Christian theology.
In October 1993, the band entered the studio to record their fourth studio album. Danzig says that he was pressured by executives at his record label to record songs with the commercial appeal of "another 'Mother'", but that he was determined not to backtrack in his musical progression. He also says that Rick Rubin had become increasingly distant from the band and had little involvement in the recording of the fourth album, which Glenn Danzig alone is credited as having produced. On October 4, 1994 Danzig 4 was released, a more atmospheric and experimental album than the band's previous releases, reintroducing elements of production that Danzig had not much used since the Samhain era.
While the album sold well, it did not contain a hit on par with the "Mother" single. The album's second single, "Cantspeak", was also a staple in MTV's rotation (even making the Buzz Bin), and it charted on the rock charts, although (unlike "Mother") it failed to appear on the Hot 100. "Cantspeak" is the band's only single other than "Mother" to chart on Billboard, thus making the band a two-hit wonder of the mainstream scene. Amid accusations of unpaid royalties and broken promises, Danzig's relationship with Rubin deteriorated, and the band left the record label.
Around this time, the band's lineup began to dissolve as well. First, Chuck Biscuits left the band in the summer of 1994 due to royalty disagreements. After he was rejected upon asking to return, and - according to a special issue of Kerrang! magazine, former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl turned down an approach from them, he was replaced by Joey Castillo, who made his first public appearance as a member of Danzig at an in-store signing the day of the fourth album's release. Coincidentally, Castillo would later replace Grohl in Queens of the Stone Age. Though the band had toured successfully with its new drummer during the fall and winter of 1994-95, by the spring of 1995 Danzig was activel