When most of us think of the Misfits, we’re thinking of the legendary Glenn Danzig-fronted lineup that walked among us from 1977 to 1983. The band that single-handedly invented horror punk, and went on to influence a slew of heavy metal bands from Metallica to Marduk. But what about the other Misfits? In 1995, Misfits bassist Jerry Only and his brother Doyle re-activated the group sans Danzig after a protracted legal battle with the singer ended with Only retaining the ability to record and tour using the name, while he and Danzig split the merchandising rights. The brothers recruited drummer Dr. Chud and vocalist Michale Graves and set out to re-establish themselves as an active band over a decade after the Misfits’ heyday.
When I first started thinking about how to approach THKD’s year end shenanigans for 2013, I tried to come up with ideas for different types of lists that would get away from the traditional top albums countdown. Turns out I’m more scatterbrained than creative, because what I ended up with was a bunch of stuff that really didn’t fit together or adhere to any sort of unifying theme. Instead of giving up on the idea, I decided to gather a few of these things together under one banner even though it didn’t make any sense whatsoever, just for the sheer joy of it, in addition to a more traditional year end list. So here it is, the second year end “bonus list” prior to the top metal albums countdown, which will be published on 12/13/13; THKD’s top 10 random-ass things I enjoyed in 2013.
At this point, my status as a Glenn Danzig maniac is far beyond well-documented. Between the Misfits, Samhain and Danzig, I’ve devoted more digital ink to the man’s music than to any other artist I’ve covered here at THKD. The last time I took stock of my music collection, the Evil Elvis dominated it with over twenty releases, not to mention all the t-shirts and other random paraphernalia I own. My one and only tattoo is based loosely on “Thirteen,” the song Danzig wrote for Johnny Cash (my favorite metal singer meets my favorite non metal singer). Cosmo Lee, the founder of Invisible Oranges, even based a post around my admission that I celebrate Danzig’s entire catalogue in my review of 2010′s excellent Deth Red Sabaoth.
Every year as Halloween approaches, I begin doing things to put myself in the mood to enjoy that most horrific of holidays; decorate the house with all manner of skulls, queue up a slew of horror DVDs, revisit the literary genius of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and most importantly, scare up some appropriately creepy tunes to celebrate the Season of the Witch. Though I typically pick out entire albums rather than individual songs, I thought it might be fun this year to compile a morbid mixtape to share with you, my loyal THKD readers. So, grab a handful of candy corn and gather ’round the jack-o-lantern, not for ghost stories, but for a night of unspeakable audio terror. Although there were many tracks from a variety of genres that could’ve been worthy of inclusion, I decided to keep things as much on the metal side as possible, in the true spirit of THKD. The player is embedded directly below this paragraph, followed by an explanation of each track. Enjoy or die.
Heavy metal and alcohol go together like… well, like heavy metal and alcohol. Once a metalhead starts to imbibe, if he’s anything like me, there are at least a handful of songs he will no doubt demand to hear, songs that add to the invincible feeling that only a little bit of the ol’ liquid courage can provide, complete with copious amounts of goat throwing, air guitaring, invisible orange palming, headbanging and living room moshing. It’s a testament to the emotional and physical response that heavy metal can inspire, amplified a thousand fold by mankind’s age-old friends hops and barley (or perhaps something harder, if you’re so inclined).
So pour yourself a pint of your favorite poison and settle in for THKD’s top ten songs for tying one on. While these songs don’t necessarily have anything to do with drinking, they’re the songs I want to hear when I’m drinking.
The Ash Eaters have released a new two track digital EP, The Cruel Side via their bandcamp page. For those not familiar, the band is the new project of former Brown Jenkins mastermind, Umesh Amtey. Amtey is probably one of the most underrated guitarists in metal, his playing a schizophrenic locust swarm that attacks from all sides and encompasses elements of black metal, doom, gothic rock and beyond. But as abrasive as this material may appear on the surface, it is also strangely catchy, the sheets of insectoid distortion burrowing deep into the inner recesses of your mind. I’m listening to the EP for the first time as I type this; I’m already eager to listen further. Amtey doesn’t just write songs, he creates musical labyrinths for the ears to explore.
Those of you familiar with The Ash Eaters’ Cold Hearts demo (also available via bandcamp), will instantly notice a distinct progression in playing and composition (as well as the return of Amtey’s Cthulu-esque vocal assault); indeed, the beautiful thing about this music is that it is constantly progressing, changing, morphing into something beyond the confines of extreme music.
I could say a lot more, but I’d rather let the music do the talking. Go grab this now!
I’d also highly recommend stopping by The Ash Eaters’ blog to download their cover versions of the Misfits’s “Angelfuck” and “Death Comes Ripping.”
I’ve been listening to the Misfit’s Earth A.D. for over a decade now. Every time I listen to it, I hear something different. Sometimes I hear a bruising hardcore album. Sometimes I hear proto-thrash. I most often hear the roots of black metal. Is it a mere coincidence that Quorthon started Bathory the same year or that Slayer’s Show No Mercy was released the same month? Sure, Venom’s Welcome to Hell and Black Metal albums had already been released by the time Earth A.D. hit record store shelves. But the Misfits of Earth A.D. possessed several things that Cronos and his cohorts, or just about any of the proto-black metal bands for that matter, severely lacked.
The first of these key components is speed. I recently read in Steven Blush’s book American Hardcore that Glenn Danzig had tried to get the rest of the Misfits to play slower during the sessions. Thank goodness he wasn’t successful. To my knowledge, the blast beat hadn’t been invented yet in 1983 (Mick Harris didn’t join Napalm Death until 1985), but the blistering speed of Earth A.D. often comes close. A huge part of the album’s power comes from the reckless abandon with which the band plows through songs like “Earth A.D.” and “Demonomania”. It’s a ragged, violent speed, the kind of speed that sounds like the band is going to fly apart at the seams at any given moment. Somehow, the Misfits keep it together for the original album’s fourteen-odd minutes (reissues would include the tracks from the posthumous “Die, Die My Darling” single), but the approach lends a sense of real danger, menace and foreboding to the proceedings that would also be present on second wave Scandinavian black metal albums such as Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Burzum’s self titled debut.
The second element that pushes Earth A.D. over the edge is brutality. Unfortunately the word “brutal” (and every permutation thereof) has been thrown around in the heavy music world so often that it has lost nearly all of its meaning as of 2011. This is a brutal album. Primitive, barbaric, nasty. Black and death metal bands surely took a great deal of inspiration from the positively corrosive assault of songs like “Death Comes Ripping” and “Hellhound”. Danzig himself sounds like a snarling hellhound throughout Earth A.D., ready to claw his way through your speakers and “rip your face off” while the rest of the band violates their instruments in a manner that’s probably legally questionable in more than a few countries. Earth A.D. was the first Misfits recording where the aggression of the playing and production scheme matched the violence of Danzig’s lyrics. It’s a level of rubbed-raw vitriol that makes early Venom, Slayer, Celtic Frost et al sound quaint by comparison.
What about atmosphere? Earth A.D.‘s got it in spades. Granted, this probably speaks more to Spot’s ineptitude as a producer/engineer (see also: Black Flag’s Damaged) or the lack of a recording budget (probably both), than it does to any grand design by Danzig and Co. Still, the vibe of the album is pitch black and claustrophobic, it reeks of rage, hate and desperation. It’s a document of a band ready to explode and doing their damnedest to take all of us down with them. The fact that the Misfits broke up only a few months after the album was recorded (on Halloween, 1983) leads me to believe that the palpable fury bursting out of every part of Earth A.D. is much more than just for entertainment value (“and that blood’s so real / ’cause I just can’t fake it”).
If all of this doesn’t make for proto-black metal, then I don’t know what does. Add the grotesque, lovably amateurish artwork and black and white band photos, and you’ve got the blueprints for the sound, style and overall aesthetic that Darkthrone would take to the next level almost a decade later with A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Some call Earth A.D. “the speed metal bible”. I’m more inclined to think it’s the goddamn Necronomicon.
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would take a moment to divert from the regularly scheduled THKD programming. Do not attempt to adjust your monitor. I control the horizontal. I control the vertical. Now that I have your undivided attention, I want to take a moment to a talk a little about a band known as the Misfits.
For me, the Misfits are synonymous with the Halloween season and are one of my all-time favorite bands. My reputation as a Glenn Danzig fanboy is well documented. But what might not be so well-documented is that the Misfits represent my favorite phase of the man’s career. Like many folks from my generation, I was introduced to them thanks to Metallica’s “Last Caress/Green Hell” cover. That was a great version, but nothing compared to when I heard the Misfits playing their own songs for the first time. Mind officially blown. It was as if someone combined everything I loved about music into one band, and then added a visual and lyrical aesthetic that represented everything I loved about vintage horror and science fiction films. I remember buying Collection I and listening to it over and over and over again in junior high (especially “Where Eagles Dare”!). Back then, information on the Misfits was scarce (at least in the Midwest), and since Danzig famously hated talking about the band at that time (no doubt due to the legal bullshit going on between him and Only), I could only speculate about the band’s origins. I was so fucking excited to find a Misfits shirt (XL and baggy as all hell on my tall scrawny frame, just how I liked it) at my local record store, before the band’s “Crimson Ghost” logo became ubiquitous. I wore that thing until it disintegrated.
Very few bands are perfect. The Misfits were one of them. I’m not talking about the Jerry Only-fronted abomination that parades around today calling itself the Misfits. I’m talking about the band as it existed from 1977 to 1983. From songs to style to imagery, the Misfits had it all, an often duplicated but never equalled head-on collision of punk rock filth, ’50s rock catchiness and melody, gothic atmosphere and too much horror business. Glenn Danzig’s lyrics were a heady blend of twisted pop culture references, nihilism and misogyny. His backing band, consisting of bassist Jerry Only, a range of guitarists that included Only’s brother Doyle, Bobby Steele and Franche Coma, and a revolving door of drummers that put Spinal Tap to shame, created a sound that was unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. The fact that stories of alleged grave-robbing and excessive violence (the song “London Dungeon” was supposedly the result of Danzig and Steele spending the night in an English jail after a punch up with some skinheads) were part of the Misfits mythos made them even more intriguing, if such a thing were possible.
The Misfits took the innocence of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and forever corrupted it. They bathed Elvis Presley in the blood, brains and skull fragments of the Kennedy assassination. Punk rock was founded on speeding up and ripping off Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore riffs, but the Misfits brought a darkness and foreboding to the style in the same way that Black Sabbath brought it to the blues in the early ’70s. They were also better song-writers than any other punk band ever, writing some of the flat-out catchiest choruses ever put to tape (“I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch, you better think about it baby!”, “Sweet lovely death, I am waiting for your breath…”, etc.). But the band’s real area of expertise is what I refer to as “the whoah-whoah part”. The whoah-whoah part crops up in numerous Misfits songs (“Mephisto Waltz”, “I Turned into a Martian”, “Astro Zombies” and “Some Kinda Hate” to name just a few.) and is the single most infectious aspect of the band’s playbook. The level of craftsmanship the Misfits displayed was so far ahead of the curve in every aspect; it’s a fucking travesty that they continue to be left out of the punk rock history books.
The Misfits might not get the respect they deserve, but that’s beside the point. The fact that they have influenced everything from thrash to black metal to gothic rock to doom says a lot more about the band than some jag-off rock critic who refuses to acknowledge their greatness. For me personally, a lot of bands have come and gone over the years, but the Misfits sound just as exciting, vital and visceral today as they did when I heard them for the first time in 7th grade. They are total fucking anarchy by way of an alien invasion/zombie outbreak, lead by the reanimated corpses of Vampira and Marilyn Monroe. They are the soundtrack to an Autumn filled with “brown leaf vertigo / where skeletal life is known”. They are the Misfits. Beware.
Over the weekend, I picked up a used copy of Napalm Death’s Smear Campaign. While preparing to file it in my CD rack, I noticed that I now owned nine total releases from Napalm Death. This, combined with a recent article about bands with very long discographies, got me thinking, which bands/artists do I own the most releases from? I decided to take stock of my music, including all physical formats and all types of releases (EPs, singles, collections/best-ofs, etc) to see which bands dominated my collection. In my estimation, the results were not particularly surprising…
Darkthrone – 15
Danzig – 14
Misfits – 12
Six Feet Under – 11 (I like them, fuck off.)
Johnny Cash – 10
King Diamond – 10
Megadeth – 10
Napalm Death – 9
Cannibal Corpse – 8
Metallica – 8
Neurosis – 8
Vader – 8
Darkthrone, easily my favorite band ever at this point, leads the pack. However, if you study the results and analyze them further, things get more interesting. Technically, my favorite singer of all time Glenn Danzig dominates with a whopping 22 releases if you combine the Danzig total (14) with the number of Misfits releases I own where Danzig was the vocalist (8). Danzig’s total jumps up to 24 releases if you include my Samhain boxset and the Black Aria album. If you really want to stretch, throw in my Danzig VHS and you’ve got the undisputed king of my music collection at 25.
Chris Barnes’ much-maligned Six Feet Under comes in 3rd with 11 releases owned. I’m bound to get flack for this since about everyone I know seems to hate this band. But, there is something about their bludgeoning, uber-simplistic sludge-laden caveman death metal that I love, and fuck you if you can’t understand me. Mr. Barnes’ total increases to 14 if you include the Cannibal Corpse albums I own that he sang on (3).
Johnny Cash obviously sticks out like a sore thumb here, but I’m not afraid to admit that I have been fond of classic-style country music since high school, which started with Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series and working backwards to At Folsom Prison. I am from the Midwest after all. My grandmother’s favorite singer was the great Patsy Cline, so a little of that was bound to rub off on me. I’m glad that it did.
King Diamond and Megadeth tied with Cash for 5th place. I’ve loved Megadeth since junior high, so I’ve had plenty of time to pile up their releases (I’m excited to finally be seeing them next week, even if it is just MegaDave and some hired guns, but that is neither here nor there). King Diamond took me a while longer to embrace, but once I did he quickly became my second favorite metal vocalist behind Danzig. Of course, much like Danzig, ol’ King jumps up several spots if you include my Mercyful Fate stuff, which would bring his total to a fairly impressive 17. Only falsetto is real.
In my opinion, Napalm Death are one of extreme metal’s most consistent bands, and have not lost any of their potency over the years in spite of stylistic evolution and a lack of original members. I can always rely on ND when I’m in the mood to get some aggression out and headbang myself into a severe neck-ache. Even their so-called “experimental” phase has its merits and all their albums are pretty much essential.
Finally, we come to a 4-way tie between Metallica, Neurosis, Cannibal Corpse and Vader. Four bands that in my opinion couldn’t be more different from one another. Neurosis is probably one of the greatest and most important metal bands to come out of the ’90s and I wouldn’t mind picking up the rest of their releases. Metallica is one of the bands I listen to the least these days, but of course their discography (specifically the early releases) is heavy metal bedrock and pretty much essential to any collection. As for Cannibal Corpse and Vader, well they’re basically my two favorite straight-up classic death metal bands so I’m bound to own a lot their releases, although I still have several more albums to go for each one. Again, the theme of consistency pops up, since I can’t think of many DM bands with more consistent discographies than Vader and Cannibal.
So how about you guys? Which bands do you own the most releases from? Are there any of you out there that have ridiculously obsessive collections of a single band? What does it say about you as a fan/listener? Tell me about it.
I admit it, I’m a complete Danzig fanboy. When someone says “They could put out a recording of their bowel movements and someone would buy it”, that “someone” they are talking about is me. I celebrate the man’s entire catalog, from the Misfits to Samhain to Danzig. I even own two different versions of the much maligned Danzig 5: Blackacidevil (the original Hollywood Records pressing and the E-Magine/Evilive re-issue w/ bonus tracks). I defended Danzig’s honor with the fervor of an angry pitbull when that morbidly obese douchebag from a d-list hardcore band sucker-punched him. Glenn Danzig doesn’t have the first clue who I am, but dammit I would walk through hellfire ‘n’ brimstone for him.
But even I can’t argue with the fact that Danzig seemed to have fallen on hard times ever since Blackacidevil. Choosing to bury his biggest asset (that Jim Morrison meets American Werewolf in a London Dungeon set of pipes) in distortion and trading his hellhound on my trail mojo for synthetic beats were poor career choices that he never seemed to be able to fully recover from. His voice appeared to be weakening on subsequent albums (6:66 Satan’s Child and 7:77 I Luciferi) and the songwriting was largely hit and miss. 2004′s Circle of Snakes showed signs of life though, with some even claiming that it sounded like a Samhain record (I beg to differ). But just when it looked like Danzig was on the comeback trail, things went quiet. I started to wonder if Circle of Snakes would be Danzig’s last hurrah, which seemed like a shame considering how much of an improvement it was over the last few albums.
Enter 2010 and Danzig has come back from the netherworld with Deth Red Sabaoth. This is the sort of record that we critics like to refer to as a “return to form”. The minute Danzig starts howling on opening track “Hammer of the Gods”, it all comes rushing back. The swagger, the grit, the beguiling, blues-based power are all present and accounted for. It’s almost like albums 5-8 never happened and Danzig is picking up where he left off on Danzig 4, albeit with a different lineup.
And what a lineup it is. Prong’s Tommy Victor does his best to approximate the squealing, bluesy style of long lost original Danzig six-stringer John Christ and Type O Negative’s Johnny Kelly brings the thunder on drums. Danzig himself plays bass along with keyboards and additional guitars. GD even jumps behind the kit for “Black Candy”, another signature stripper anthem along the lines of “She Rides” and “Her Black Wings”.
The album is memorable from front to back, with the Elvis-on-steroids voodoo of “Ju Ju Bone”, the Sabbath-ian heaviness of “Night Star Hel” and the enormous choruses of “Deth Red Moon” being the immediate standouts. Danzig sounds completely rejuvenated vocally, especially on “On A Wicked Night”, “Rebel Spirits” and the spine-tingling closer “Left Hand Rise Above”. That is the real triumph of Deth Red Sabaoth. There are vocal moments on this album that give me the chills, the same chills I felt discovering Danzig for the very first time. No matter what you think of Danzig the man or how he is portrayed, few can argue that when Danzig the singer gets behind the mic, there is nobody better. He is as mesmerizing on Deth Red Saboath as he’s ever been.
My one and only complaint with Deth Red Sabaoth is the production. The sound seems overly compressed and I would have preferred a more spacious, organic production like those found on the classic Danzig recordings. The record is extremely heavy, probably the heaviest sounding album in the Danzig catalogue, but I can’t help but think these tracks would benefit from being allowed to breathe a bit more.
Overall though, what we have here is a certified barn-burner of a Danzig album, something fans haven’t been able to say since III: How The Gods Kill. Whether or not Deth Red Sabaoth will endure the test of time and sit alongside Danzig’s classic albums, it’s too early to tell, but there can be no doubt that he’s redeemed himself. As an extremely biased fan, I think I’ll just be content to have another great album from one of my all-time favorite vocalists and worry about the rest later.