I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Misfits, Walk Among Us
Label: Ruby/Slash Records
Year Released: 1982
Run time: 24:56
Long before death and black metal re-defined the limits of audio terror, and way before bands like GWAR, Marilyn Manson, and Slipknot took the art of on-stage theatrics to new depths of depravity, New Jersey's favorite group of splatter punks, the Misfits, had already cornered the market on kitschy/cool horror rock.
The Misfits were formed in Lodi, New Jersey in 1977 by Elvis-obsessed vocalist Glenn Anzalone (aka Glenn Danzig) and bassist Jerry Caiafa (aka Jerry Only). Armed with a ghoulish look ripped straight from the pages of "Famous Monsters" magazine and packing an impressive array of short, sweet, retro-flavored punk rock songs inspired by the great Z-Grade monster movies of the 1950s, the Misfits went through numerous drummers and guitar players until the lineup was solidified with the additions of Jerry's guitarist brother Doyle (aka Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein) and drummer Arthur Googy.
After releasing several singles and EPs on their own Plan 9 record label, the Misfits signed to Ruby/Slash Records to release their debut full-length album, 1982's Walk Among Us, which became an instant cult classic.
Like their tri-state area neighbors in the Ramones, the Misfits didn't screw around or drag things out -- they preferred to hit and run, usually in two minutes or less per song. On Walk Among Us, they burn through 13 tracks (an appropriate number, considering their horror-ific personas) in just under 25 minutes! The longest cut on the album is the three-minute, eight second "Hatebreeders" (one of my personal favorites) which is practically an epic by these guys' standards.
Be warned: for some, the sound of early Misfits material is the textbook definition of "acquired taste." The blasting, crunching guitar and bass and flailing drum abuse combines with Danzig's banshee howls and the lo-fi, hollow, fast-n-cheap production quality to create songs that resemble a late-night TV transmission from another world, where zombies roam the streets and aliens are landing in the fields.
What the Misfits lacked in technical finesse, they more than made up for in terms of sheer, pummeling ferocity. Songs like the crunchy opener "20 Eyes," the ultra-catchy "I Turned Into a Martian," and the classics "Skulls, "Mommy Can I Go Out & Kill Tonight," and "Braineaters" will have you pogo-ing and twisting your bangs into a "devil-lock" hairdo in no time. Be sure to stop by the "Devil's Whorehouse" and stay tuned for viewings of "Astro Zombies" and "Night of the Living Dead" while you're at it.
The fun thing about the Misfits is that their albums take a couple of plays before they fully "click." On your first listen, everything blows past in a blur of 1000 MPH tempos and unintelligible, high pitched caterwauling. On the second time through, you're starting to pick up some lyrics and choruses...and finally, by the third spin you're totally hooked, air-guitaring and avidly screaming along with "Hack the heads off little girls and put'em on my wall" (from "Skulls") or "Killed a girl on lover's lane, kept her toes and teeth" (from "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?"), in spite of yourself. It obviously helps to have a sick sense of humor (and/or an encyclopedic knowledge of vintage monster movies) to truly "get" the Misfits, but you can't deny that they've got monstrous (pun not intended) chops and an undercurrent of catchy pop sensibility that will suck you in, despite the horrific goings-on.
Nearly four decades after its release, Walk Among Us is still a bona fide horror punk hoot and an absolute must have for your annual Halloween party soundtrack!
"I Turned Into a Martian"
Sadly, the Misfits were not destined to last long, dissolving shortly after the release of 1983's Earth A.D./Wolf's Blood due to personal and musical differences between Only and Danzig.
Glenn went on to a successful solo career with Samhain and Danzig, while the Misfits' legend continued to grow, fueled by well-received covers of their tunes by superstar bands like Metallica and Guns N' Roses.
Jerry and Doyle re-launched the Misfits in 1997 with new vocalist Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud. This lineup split after two albums (American Psycho and Famous Monsters) but Jerry refused to let the flame go out this time. He took over the lead vocal slot himself and continued to record and tour for the next several years, using a rotating cast of players that included former Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena and drummer Marky Ramone.
In 2016, Only and Danzig made the surprising announcement that they'd buried the hatchet, and appeared onstage together for the first time in more than 30 years (with Doyle on guitar) as "The Original Misfits" at Chicago's annual "Riot Fest" punk extravaganza. The fanatical audience reaction led to more sporadic reunion gigs over the next few years.
The Misfits have been vague about how long they expect the reunion to last. Glenn had hinted that the October 2019 gig at Madison Square Garden in New York might be "the last Misfits show ever," but an additional show in Philadelphia took place in December, 2019. Time will tell if these old ghouls have truly returned to their crypts for good, or if they'll rise again someday ... till then, BEWARE. (Evil laughter)
© 2019 Keith Abt