Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CD REVIEW: The Misfits - "The Devil's Rain" (2011)

Jerry Only and Pals Decide to Hit the Recording Studio for One More Go-Around...But Should They Have Even Bothered?

A few weeks ago, I was strolling down the aisles of Best Buy when I stumbled across something that genuinely shocked me. Granted, it may not have been a surprise on par with finding out Ron Artest changed his name to “World Peace” eight months ago, or finding out that Death is going on tour this summer without Chuck Schulinder, but it was pretty unexpected, regardless.

So, apparently, The Misfits have a new album out. Actually, a more fitting description would be Jerry Only has a new album out, but since he was the one guy in the band that apparently had the business sense to apply for the trademark, more power to him.

All right, so, technically, “The Devil’s Rain” really isn’t a new album per se, seeing as how it was released last October, but by gum, it’s new to me, and that’s all that really matters. Taking a gander at the back of the CD, the only original member of the group that’s still around is bassist Jerry Only, who this time around, is also providing vocals. On guitar, it’s that one dude that used to be in Black Flag, and on drums? Some guy you’ve never heard of. Admittedly, it’s not exactly the dream act we all envisioned, but it can’t possibly be worse than the tag team of Metallica and Lou Reed, can it?

Of course, I like the Misfits. Everybody does, even people that generally can’t stand punk music. “Static Age” was a CD that rarely left my disc changer back in high school, and “Walk Among Us” was one of the few full albums I carried around on my MP3 player in college. Hell, in middle school, I used to sit around watching The Box every afternoon after school , just hoping that somebody would request “Dig Up Her Bones” when that was a selection come Halloween time. Shit, I even kind of liked the post-Danzig era stuff, and to this day, I think “American Psycho” is one of the more underrated pop-punk offerings of the 1990s. The Misfits is a band (or at the least, a branding) that I’ve held in high regard for quite some time, so consider this latest “offering” something that assuredly caught my full attention.

That said, if you pick up the disc (or download it off Amazon, whatever you kids do with music these days), what should you expect? Well, as the music appreciator I am, I decided to do the next best thing to purchasing the album and listened to every single track on the disc via the magic of YouTube. Below is my full, song-by-song review of the album, complete with all of the stream-of-consciousness musings that all first time listens generally provoke. So, is “The Devil’s Rain” a worthy addition to The Misfits’ cramped discography, or a musical travesty on par with Blaze Bayley’s Iron Maiden run? Twist your devil locks ‘round, kiddos, ‘cause it’s time to pass some final judgment on The Misfits’ latest.

Track One  – “The Devil’s Rain”

I guess the first thing you note about the title track is that, for all intents and purposes, Jerry Only is a horrible, horrible vocalist. You know how a lot of times, you’ll hear a singer’s voice tracked over two or three times over the course of one song in order to create the illusion of depth and power? Well, on this song, I’m pretty sure the producers layered Only’s voice around the track a good 10 or 12 times. Go ahead, give the track a spin, and tell me that it doesn’t sound like a veritable choir of Onlys going through the motions. What you hear, I guess, isn’t too bad, but it’s glaringly apparent that the dude’s NOWHERE near being in Michale Graves’ league, and if the opening salvo here is any indication, Only isn’t even breathing the same element as Danzig when it comes to vocals.

Track Two – “Vivid Red”

Well, this one is a catchy song, inspired, apparently, by that one Dracula movie from 1992. Once again, the chorus of Onlys is in full force here, which is something that’s going to irritate a lot of old school Misfits fans. So far, the CD seems to have more of a symphonic metal feel to it than anything you would have heard on “Earth, A.D.” – so if anything you’ve read thus far has absolutely infuriated you, you might as well stop reading this review and find the nearest hard thing to begin punching in fanboy rage pronto.

Track Three – “Land of the Dead”

This one sounds a lot like the Graves-era incarnation of the band, so take from that what you will. Every now and then, Only and his 18 looped over robot voices attempt to throw in a Danzig-esque doo-wop howl, and the results are…well, less than exhilarating, not surprisingly. Still, it’s way better than the movie that inspired its namesake, which, yeah, really isn’t saying too much. At all.

Track Four – “The Black Hole”

Despite the namesake, this one isn’t about attending an Oakland Raiders home game, nor is it about a “Star Wars” rip-off produced byDisney in the late 1970s. On this track, Only and the boys are trying real hard to imitate the Misfits vibe of the early 1980s, and it’s without question a feeble attempt to replicate such an idiosyncratic sound. If you’ve ever heard a shitty high school band try to cover “Astro Zombies,” this song is ostensibly no different…although it’s a turd of a more polished quality, of course.

Track Five – “Twilight of the Dead”

You know, the prog rock-choir-power metal sound really isn’t gelling, guys. Once again, Only tries his damnedest Danzig impersonation here, but it falls flatter than a tortilla tossed off the Empire State Building. Probably the worst song on the album…so far.

Track Six – “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand”

Maybe my taste in music is just as horrible as my taste in movies, because heaven help me, I actually kind of liked this one. I guess the best way to describe the track would be the world’s shortest Mercyful Fate song – and instead of King Diamond on vocals, you have that dude from Rammstein shrunken down to midget form. So far, it’s the best sounding track on the album – and incidentally (or not?), the least Misfits-sounding tune yet. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.

Track Seven – “Cold in Hell”

All I can say is, this would have made for an AWESOME Misfits song…circa 1979, anyway. The track, lyrically and compositionally, sounds like something that could have been yanked off “Static Age,” but sadly, Only’s less than towering voice makes what could have been a killer tune just a mildly amusing one instead. All right, but nowhere as great as it could have been (which might just be the best way to describe this album as a whole.)

Track Eight – “Unexplained”

Yeah, it’s pretty much impossible to tackle any track on this CD without thinking about the vocals of one Glen Danzig, but had Michale Graves been the frontman for this one, it probably would have elevated the track from “just sort of there” to “mildly ass-kicking, pending nobody I know is around while I listen to it.” It’s not really an awful song, but man, does Only’s voice(s) really take this one down a peg or two. Shit, you mean you couldn’t have gotten Zoli Teglas to step in instead? Or hell, what about that dude from Bleeding Through? It’s an obvious complaint, but had Jerry had the ability to digest a little bit of pride, we probably would’ve walked away with a far superior offering than what we ended up with.

Track Nine – “Dark Shadows”

Not to be confused with the upcoming Tim Burton film, which really shouldn’t be confused with the British soap opera this song is based upon, either. This track has a very upbeat tempo, which is something you really wouldn’t associate with anything related to the old school Misfits catalog. If you ever wanted to hear the shittiest Devin Townsend song ever, this will probably do your fix.

Track Ten – “Father”

Get it? Because Danzig has a song called “Mother!” Only difference is, while that song was about being pissed off at Al Gore’s wife, this song is just some more hogwash about vampires and stuff. This song HAD to have been a leftover from the Graves years, because it sounds just like something that would’ve been recorded for “American Psycho.” Probably the second best track on the album, next to “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand.” And I guess now is as good a time as any to remind you that if your girlfriend finds any of this stuff on your iPod, you’re probably not going to get laid that evening

Track Eleven – “Jack the Ripper”

You know, it just dawned on me who Jerry Only almost sounds like – that dude from NoMeansNo! Of course, Only doesn’t have the vibrato that Rob Wright has, but come on, who amongst us does? It’s an OK track, I suppose, but you could do a whole lot better…like this. Or this. And damn, with all of this talk of Canuck-punk, do I need to check out some Mr. Wrong, and soon.

Track Twelve – “Monkey’s Paw”

This is a very old school Misfits-sounding song, but it’s WAY too light and poppy, even for an early, early ‘Fits track. Call me crazy, but the tune is so bouncy that it sounds like something that could be culled from the soundtrack of some early 1990s cartoon, like Rover Dangerfield or Rock-a-Doodle-Doo or something. There’s nothing wrong with sock-hop inspiration, but, jeez, does this song take it too far for its own good. 

Track Thirteen – “Where Do They Go?”

…and speaking of songs that take the pseudo sock-hop sound too far, get a load of this shit right here. Odds, are this could have made for an awesome Danzig-led track, but with Only in front of the mic, the results are just sort of meh. And what the hell is up with those bored-ass female vocalists in the background? [POST-EDIT: I just found out those vocalists are Only’s ex-wife and daughter. So, if you ever think your dad is embarrassing again…]

Track Fourteen – “Sleepwalkin’”

An appropriate title, because this song is dull enough to lull anyone into a narcoleptic state. This is far and away the slowest song on the album, and a track so bland that you’ll probably tune out completely by the one minute mark. If you’ve made it this far, you ‘ll probably wish you hadn’t by now.

Track Fifteen – “Ghost of Frankenstein”

The album’s penultimate track, and a very, very Graves-era sounding tune. It kind of reminds me of “Dig up Her Bones,” only way less riveting. And excited. And energetic. And worth a damn. Unless you thought “Famous Monsters” was an album on par with “Pinkerton” or “Siamese Dream,” you probably won’t find much to cheer about with this one.

Track Sixteen – “Death Ray”

The last cut on the CD is the album’s longest, and it’s a rather lackluster final hurrah. An overlong track with a way too lengthy intro that leads into a less-than-exhilarating bridge, the track just kind of lingers on, with very little to distinguish itself from the last three or four songs on the CD. Next to “Sleepwalkin’,” probably the worst song on the album, and anything but a preferable way to end the set.

Needless to say, this album didn’t exactly set the music world on fire last fall, and if you want to know what the critical reception was like…well, the results should be pretty obvious. As harsh as the critical reception was, I assure you the fan reception was about twenty gajillion times harsher, so if you really want to wallow in some nerd furor, just try heading over to the message board on Danzig’s website and ask people if they’ve heard the “new” Misfits album, and guffaws a plenty should soon follow suit.

All in all, I can’t say I was too impressed by Jerry’s outing here, although I do think there are about three or four tracks on the CD that are pretty catchy. Clearly, this thing isn’t going to have the shelf life of a “Walk Among Us” or “Static Age,” but it’s serviceable enough, pending you really need something moody for an all-night “Splatterhouse” marathon or something. So, does “The Devil’s Rain” suck? Of course it does…it just so happens to suck a little less (and in a different way) then you think it would. 



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