Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Misfits: 'The Devil's Rain' - A Review

The Misfits. A cult horror-punk band so influential, their inspiration can be noted from bands as diverse as Metallica, Guns 'N' Roses, and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Their grinning Skull logo is instantly recognisable (even though it was nabbed from a Marilyn Monroe movie, along with the band name), and they even have their own fan club.

But today, The Misfits aren't 'anywhere near as good as they used to be'. Not since Glenn Danzig left and the band first split back in the 80s. So many die-hard fans disregarded the 90s comeback with new vocalist Michale Graves, and snort with derision at the latest incarnation, which has seen the band's creator and bassist, Jerry Only, singing along to their haunting hymns. Without going into any sort of overlong band-history examination or defence, I'm going to say one thing. Those 'fans' are wrong. The Misfits were great when they came back, and I would argue that now, they're at their peak.

The Devil's Rain is the first full-length, original Misfits album for a Hell of a long time. After Graves was booted from the line-up, and Only took over as singer as well as bassist, the band released a rather good covers album of 1950s rock'n'roll songs, and then a 2 track single in 2009 about zombies, before finally unleashing The Devil's Rain upon the world. This new album lacks the raw, ugly aggression of the Danzig era, or the confrontational punk-metal of the Graves era, instead opting for a heavy-sounding rockabilly record. Apart from a few growling instances here and there, Only croons rather than screams, and there's a lack of swearing and overly-violent themes in the lyrics. This is an album more about the music itself than the shock value, an album that is proud to feature all of the horror hallmarks we've come to love from these guys, but with a new level of musicianship and polish rarely before heard in this band.

The opening track, and indeed the title track, is a mid-paced, melodic rocker. It's absolutely the right choice for an album opener, drawing the listener in with that thunderstorm sound-effect and the rising sound of the drums. Then the riff kicks in and we're off! It's a ridiculously catchy song, the lyrics no doubt inspired by the old-school horror film of the same name, and it's virtually impossible not to sing along to the chorus. We get a lovely guitar solo, courtesy of Dez Cadena, whose playing on this album is top notch, and a pounding and hypnotic drum beat from Eric Arce that drives the whole song. Straight away, the listener knows what to expect, and those after a 'Last Caress' or 'Attitude' will be extremely let down. Their loss!

Things do speed up with 'Vivid Red' though, an edge of thrashy aggression that, alongside the slightly more upbeat 'The Black Hole', wouldn't seem out of place on American Psycho or Famous Monsters. These tracks are separated by re-recordings of the songs from the 2009 EP, Land of the Dead. Both 'Land of the Dead' and 'Twilight of the Dead' are fantastic tracks, and the re-recordings are successful (although I personally prefer the original version of 'Twilight of the Dead'). The songs are catchy, singalong zombie anthems, and listening to them, one has to thank the stars that Jerry Only has retained his love of horror movies over the years in order to keep writing such fun lyrics.

It's all uphill from here, too. 'Cold in Hell', 'Unexplained', and 'Curse of the Mummy's Hand' are all heavy rock'n'roll anthems made for the live atmosphere (no surprise that on their latest tour, the band are playing pretty much every track off this album!), with Cadena really showing off his technical prowess. 'Dark Shadows' (based on the classic TV series and upcoming Tim Burton film) and 'Father' are a pair of Vampire laments that sound so fresh and original, even though Vampires have been done to death just recently.

'Jack the Ripper' picks up the pace a bit, with screeching guitars and aggressive growling from Only, alongside Arce's pounding drums. This is as close to a heavy metal song that The Misfits have probably ever done, sounding like a NWOBHM band in their prime. 'Monkey's Paw' slows things down a bit, essentially a 1950s love song, but about a cursed object that grants three dangerous wishes to its' owner.
'Where Do They Go?' again sounds like a catchy 50s track, with two female backing vocalists adding to the feeling. However, despite the upbeat and nostalgic tone of the song, its' subject matter is actually very dark - Only is singing about the many hundreds, or even thousands, of women found dead or having vanished in the Mexican city of Juarez. Taking something so nasty, and singing about it in such an upbeat way is pure Misfits!

Two of the remaining three tracks are, for me, a mixed bag. 'Sleepwalkin'' is catchy enough, but a bit long, and the same can be said for the album closer 'Death Ray', although kudos must go to the band for recreating all those science-fiction sounds. Between these songs, though, is 'The Ghost of Frankenstein'. All I can say is... gorgeous! Catchy, haunting, atmospheric...this is the clincher, the song that proves once and for all that The Misfits are as good, if not better, than ever before.

This may be a controversial statement, but I would argue that The Devil's Rain is THE best Misfits album ever. A collection of heavy, catchy songs about horror films and murders, with a trio of musicians at the top of their game, and only the barest bit of flab bringing the side down a touch. Go and listen to it with an open mind. You might just like what you hear.... 

Click on the songs below to give them a listen....
The Devil's Rain
02. "Vivid Red"
03. "Land Of The Dead" (album version)
05. "Twilight Of The Dead" (album version)

The Misfits Are:
Jerry Only - Vocals and bass 
Dez Cadena - Guitar
Eric "Chubacabra" Arce - Drums

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