MUSIC REVIEW: The Misfits – The Devil’s Rain

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The Misfits have had more line-up changes than the Friday the 13th series has  changed the stuntmen playing Jason. It’s really only the big names in the group that matter much in the grand scheme of things; the Misfits have a huge history that hasn’t really been properly told, and many of the past members have gone on to have their own success, like prolific punk drummer Robo. It’s the main story of the Misfits, though, that divides fans and critics when discussing the band’s quality, output, and sheer validity. It basically boils down to the band breaking up, and frontman Danzig and bassist Jerry Only fighting for control of the Misfits name. The case, settled out of court, awarded Danzig songwriting credit over all past Misfits output, and gave Only the right to tour and record new material under the name “The Misfits.” The new incarnation of the group, fronted by Michale Graves, released two studio albums and one live album before disbanding mid-gig, leaving Only to reform the band again. Another incarnation of “The Misfits” was resurrected, this time as a punk supergoup featuring Black Flag’s Dez Cadena and The Ramone’s Markey Ramone, with Only pulling double-duty as bassist and vocalist – this incarnation led to the release of a collection of 50’s covers, aptly titled Project 1950. Finally, Markey Ramone left the band and was replaced by Eric “Chupacabra” Arce of Murphy’s Law, and the Misfits are once again in the spotlight with the release of their newest offering (and first full-length release of ORIGINAL material featuring Only on vocals), The Devil’s Rain. If you think that’s complicated, you should check out the full history.

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The Devil's Rain

This newest collection of haunted tunes finds the Misfits, and their listeners, in familiar territory. The Misfits have always stomped along the border between punk and metal, and The Devil’s Rain is no exception to this precedent. It’s this dichotomy of genres that have made the Misfits an interesting band, but when they stray too far in the metal direction, the result is a more generic sound. We should get one thing out of the way before we progress any further: just because they remain in similar tones, this incarnation of the Misfits shouldn’t be compared to the original Misfits line-up. It’s not the same band – hell, it’s really not quite the same band that Jerry resurrected in 1996, but I’m not here to debate the values of Misfits vs. “Newfits” – there is no comparison. It’s like comparing a remake to an original film – it’s never going to replace the older version, but, with an open mind, you may find something to like in the new.

That being said, The Devil’s Rain is a mixed bag that, while not without its strong points, doesn’t always work. The opening title track is jarring at first; Misfits-style atmosphere with stadium-rock guitar licks…then Jerry Only’s voice kicks in and it gets even weirder. Only is a fantastic bass player, and the man has to be commended for his connection to the fans and sheer determination to keep The Misfits alive, but he’s definitely the weakest singer in the Misfits legacy. Only’s voice seems to have two levels – bellow and croon – and while the same argument could be lobbed at Danzig, he did it much, much better. That’s not to say that Only’s voice doesn’t work – the Misfits vocal sound has always been a bit of the meathead aesthetic mixed with horror crooning – but, in the title track, the effect is disconcerting. As for the generic-sounding guitar licks, they’re mostly used at a minimum, as with the closing track, “Death Ray.” This doesn’t detract too much from the whole album, but it worries me when Only talks about moving to a more mainstream sound and employs uninspired metal riffs.

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Eric "Chupacabra" Arce, Jerry Only, Dez Cadena

That being said, when you get to the good stuff in The Devil’s Rain, it’s a lot of fun. “Twilight of the Dead” and “Land of the Dead” were two songs previously released as a single/b-side; both appear here in re-recorded/remastered forms, and both kick much ass. “Unexplained” covers newer territory for the Misfits as it takes a look at real-life unexplained phenomena. “Where Do They Go?” keeps up the true-to-life subject matter, setting cartel kidnappings in Mexico against girl-group background vocals and a bubblegum chorus. “Dark Shadows,” which details the vampire soap opera/Tim Burton film, steeps itself in amazing, traditional Misfits “whoa-o-o” vocals. Other tracks, such as “Monkey’s Paw,” “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand,” and “The Ghost of Frankenstein” all satisfy to varying degrees, and all reflect the Misfits’ obsession with Saturday night, b-grade movie subject matter.

The Devil’s Rain, an enjoyable yet hardly groundbreaking album, will probably go down as one of the weaker entries in the Misfits discography, but don’t let that stop you from checking it out. Though the Misfits are hardly the brute punk powerhouses they were in their Danzig days, and lack some of the vocal punch of their Michale Graves days, they still offer a solid, spooky album with The Devil’s Rain. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely more solid examples of horror rock available today, but the Misfits are the grand-daddies of horror punk, and their legacy shouldn’t be ignored. Check out The Devil’s Rain on vinyl, CD, download from Misfits Records, or your local record shop.

Rating: 3/5 ★★★☆☆ 

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About Nathan_E

Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.

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