Misfits, ‘The Devil’s Rain’ – Album Review
As most Misfits fans would guess without hearing a note of music, we’re sad to report that ‘The Devil’s Rain’ pales in comparison to every other record bearing the iconic band’s logo.
It’s impossible to separate a new album from the “Misfits” from the context of the band’s legacy overall. I’m a huge Misfits fan. As I type this I’m sitting at my desk which features a Japanese Glenn Danzig figure and a large Jerry Only toy that’s still in the package. I’ve fronted a Misfits tribute band who has played several shows in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas going back to 2003.
Misfits co-founder and longtime torchbearer Jerry Only fought a legal battle with Glenn Danzig over the band’s name for years. After the incredibly influential and more or less untouchable horror punks burned out brightly in 1983 following a handful of landmark albums and singles that influenced future stars like Metallica, Only was relegated to advertisements in Thrasher Magazine and toiling away in projects like Kryst the Conqueror while Glenn went on to form Samhain and Danzig.
When Jerry and his Misfits guitarist brother Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein finally settled with their former singer, they formed a new version of the Misfits with a young unknown singer called Michale Graves. A new generation of fans were so happy to hear the old songs live that the major label backed Graves version of the band was sort of embraced for a time, even when they released new music under the name.
Since then, however, after multiple lineup shifts (current Pennywise singer Zoli Teglas even sang for a time; Marky Ramone from the Ramones drummed on their 25th Anniversary tour, etc.) including the eventual exit of Doyle from the fold, Only has been fronting the current Misfits himself as a trio that also contains ex-Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena. (Meanwhile, Doyle has been guest-appearing with Danzig on tour).
Which brings us to the latest album to bear the Misfits logo and signature Crimson Ghost mascot, ‘The Devil’s Rain.’ Barring the cover tune laden ‘Project: 1950,’ it’s the first Misfits full-length since the Graves-led ‘American Psycho’ in 1997 and ‘Famous Monsters’ in 1999. Only sings with a “dark Elvis” type croon that lacks the grit and dynamics of his former bandmates, including Graves, who wasn’t half-bad.
The consensus with plenty of fans is that the Graves-era stuff would have worked great as a new band featuring members of the Misfits. The problem was that it just never held up to the stuff that the band recorded back in the day with Glenn at the helm. This new Misfits album doesn’t even feature Doyle. So would ‘The Devil’s Rain’ work if it was released under the name Jerry Only? Not necessarily…
Tracks like ‘Jack the Ripper,’ ‘Ghost of Frankenstein’ and ‘Curse of the Mummy’s Hand’ are so by-the-numbers and overt in their subject matter that they sound lazy and uninspired. It’s as if someone who’s a big fan of the Misfits started a band to emulate their heroes but lacked the creative spark to really make something engaging.
The old chord progressions are there but the tracks (most of which were written entirely by Only) lack hooks. The catchy choruses and dark b-movie thrills that were Danzig’s stock and trade are long gone. What ‘The Devil’s Rain’ leaves us with is a bunch of spooky subject matter that lacks any edge and a lot of stock verse/chorus/verse material that isn’t memorable whatsoever. You get the feeling as you’re listening that Only put these songs together just to get some new Misfits material out, versus any sort of true artistic hunger. You can feel the commodity of it all, whereas the Misfits of the ’80s were dangerous and powerful.
‘The Devil’s Rain’ can be a bit of fun if you’re just absolutely starved for the most basic of horror-punk, but with so many Misfits acolytes doing it so much better than this, it’s truly disappointing these songs bear the famous name of the band that has meant to much to so many of us in prior incarnations. But wouldn’t it be grand if Glenn, Doyle and Jerry could patch up their differences and reunite?