When you hear of bands like Tiger Army or the Nekromantix and terms like “psychobilly” or “horror punk,” the Misfits most assuredly gain a mention in there somewhere. This is the kind of band that punk rock was built on; this is the kind of frantic, explosive rock music where a short set can hold 20 two-minute tracks and a barrage of bloody lips in the mosh pit. The Misfits are royalty, albeit brooding and destructive royalty. We also have lead singer/now sole consistent member Jerry Only to thank for the later-derided “Devilock” fashion statement, but that is talk for another time.
The last we heard from this legendary punk outfit twice rebooted was an album of ’50s cover songs back in ’03, plus a club tour in 2010, so it stands to reason that we’d eventually get a brand-new studio LP to brighten up our dreary, autumnal weekends spent gorging on Halloween candy. What we’ve received is less than amicable and lacking a certain sense of evil pre-Michael Graves, though The Devil’s Rain is definitely still in a campy, late-Misfits state of mind.
The Devil’s Rain is a 15-song roundup kicked off with a vibe unfortunately not too dissimilar from Kiss, only to spiral out and show the new lads of alternative that it pays to be moderately authentic. While the titular track and “Land of the Dead” do not necessarily feel like the Misfits, shorter moments in “The Black Hole” and the screamingly fast beginning pace of “Jack the Ripper” remind listeners who exactly the Misfits used to be, despite regular lineup changes that placed frontman Only next to Black Flag’s own Dez Cadena in no small manner.
As The Devil’s Rain plays onward, semblances of the Buddy Holly-era musical muses and B movie inspirations that mutated into early Misfits material fall completely off the radar; “Cold in Hell” owes more to DC hardcore than oldies radio, and “Dark Shadows” could have easily been a Smash B-side, whereas “Ghost of Frankenstein” and “Monkey’s Paw” throw you backward more melodically than the Misfits have ever been, bordering on Alice Cooper’s original graduation into his own shock rock manifesto. Perhaps The Devil’s Rain is a triumphant return for the Misfits on the whole, but it also utilizes updated elements that may confuse longtime fans.
The Devil’s Rain feels like a 50/50 shot-in-the-dark project, starting in a place unsure of its own existence and finishing strong with the uncompromising “Death Ray”; we’re still so gosh-darned happy with our boys, and whatever happens along the way at least produces a better export for the Garden State than Jersey Shore. Danzig’s Samhain still feels scarier than the Jerry Only-led Misfits brand name of today, but not all hope appears lost.
Essential Tracks: “Death Ray”, “Jack the Ripper”, and “Twilight of the Dead”