Review Summary: “Famous Monsters” breath new life into the classic punk band’s collection of horror.
We’ve all seen that evil grinning skull logo. Whether its printed on a t shirt, a hoodie, a pair of boxer shorts, a dog tee, a sticker, a naval ring, or an arm band. You might find it on pair of black sandals, slippers, socks, a skateboard deck, a keychain, or a beanie. Don’t be surprised if you catch the brand on a magnet, a purse, a backpack, a coffee mug, a clock, a lighter, or an air freshener. There’s gloves, light switch covers, shot glasses, incense, incense holders, temporary tattoos, pillowcases, backpacks, belt buckles, bass n’guitar strings and even CD’s…About these CD’s, are there songs on them? Well all of this merchandise must have some reason to exist. Why do people want it so much? Is there an artist that can be put to this sinister image?
The Misfits were a punk-rock band that formed in New Jersey during the late 1970s and broke up in 1983. They primarily consisted of bassist Jerry Only, his teenage brother Doyle, vocalist Glenn Danzig and a rotating slew of drummers. They created the genre known today as horror punk and played an integral part in inspiring many other bands that would later comprise the modern punk scene. They rose to fame with their unique music that combined speedy aggressive rock with extraordinary vocals and lyrics that dealt primarily with horror movies. With songs like “Skulls”, “Astro Zombies”, “Bloodfeast” and “Spinal Remains” among others, they created primitive quality recordings and and toured, attracting fans with their ghoulish image, not often incorporated with rock music of that era. When they disbanded in the early 80s, their was a legal battle over the rights to “The Misfits” name. As either singer Danzig or bassist Only would be the proprietor of their beloved creation.
Jerry Only won the legal battle, leaving the groups vocalist no rights to the bands name. Glenn Danzig continued his music career with the band “Samhain“, one similar to his previous endeavor but with a darker, less poppy tinge. He gained even more success with his following project “Danzig“, which sounded even heavier and more experimental than his punk roots.
The Misfits achieved ever increasing popularity following their demise, slowly gaining a cult of fans. However, the band was not officially done for, as Jerry Only was secretly concocting a devious plan to revive his old band without their singer.
There are two versions of The Misfits, though they have the same exact name and at least one founding member in them at all times. There is over a ten year gap between the two. The Newfits, or Post Danzig Misfits or Misfit’s A.D. (after Danzig) are a reincarnation of the 80s classic hardcore punk ensemble. The new line up consisted of: Jerry Only (bassist and original member, Doyle (guitar, original member), Dr. Chud (drummer, and no stranger to horror punk), and Michael Graves (singer).
The modern version of the band have released four albums to date. They released the album “American Psycho” in 1997. “Famous Monsters” was a follow up to that. Their third effort, a compilation of rare singles and alternate versions called “Cuts From The Crypt”, was the last. By the time that album was released, the line up had dissolved and Marky Ramone replaced Dr.Chud on drums, and Dez Cadena (of Black Flag) replaced Doyle. Michael Graves left, and Jerry Only became bassist/lead singer. They then put out “Project 1950”, an album of 50s covers.
“Famous Monsters” is the superior release of their contemporary efforts. It showcases a sound the band had become comfortable with, and an overall greater sense of song writing. Pretty much every track on it is a miniature tale of terror, mainly drawing inspiration from a book or a film.
Kong At The Gates
is the definitive instrumental intro, that starts with a heavy build up of drums, Chud‘s toms sounding like thunder. Then Doyle and Jerry come in with the signature crunchy distortion and perfectly balanced bass. It gradually fades into the next song with what sounds like an air raid siren combined with feedback combined with wolves howling, introducing The Forbidden Zone
, (which refers to the barren wasteland where human beings are exiled on the “Planet of the Apes”). Its one of many catchy simple punk songs, with dark lyrics and an even darker sounding ensemble of heavy metal toned instruments that ensue.
Dust to Dust
is an infectiously catchy song about Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, but these days…what isn’t?
Lost in Space
is in the same vein as Dust to Dust
, with a highly infectious hook and a darkly ominous melody. Theirs some guitar fills in it that sound a little like alien sound effects but the true highlight of the song is a well placed slide accompanied by a percussion buildup right before every chorus, an easy trick but so well done and effective here.
Based on the film about a remote Switzerland Mountain resort that is terrorized by extra terrestrial creatures from a radio active cloud, Crawling Eye’s
thrash around intro lets up with a clever chord progression and the shear speed that gives The Misfits their place in punk legend. Coolest part: rhyming the words “dying and decapitzing”.
has a very foreboding sound to it. Beginning with eerie slides down six strings buzzing with thick distortion, the slow tapping of the high hat and the “whooooas” lets you know its about to turn rapid-fire. The chorus is simultaneously dark and catchy, a trait of the album apparent throughout. Evidently, this song was written for the soundtrack of the film "Scream 3". However the producers were dissatisfied with it and cut it. Personally, I think just the songs intro is better than that entire movie.
is the best track on the CD. Its also the slowest, and the ballad of “Famous Monsters”. Lyrics about teenage love, serial murder and the drive in movie theater compliment a punk rock doo-wop arrangement. The rolling triplet 50s rhythm and heavily heavenly melodic guitars and vocals sound perfect together. It goes to show that even monsters cry.
starts with sharp sounding guitar feedback, crow caws and the creepy spoken line of “How Bout a Little Fire Scarecrow?" The guitar chugs and the vocals sound like a 1950s vintage echoed croon. Theres even a rare solo at the end, where Doyle pinches, slides and plays at the dusty high end of the fret board he usually never even touches. Any song about a scarecrow mutilating and eating people gets a thumbs up in my book.
is an ode to that one special girl saving your tainted soul from damnation, where Die Monster Die
is about Marilyn Monroe rising from the grave and killing hoards of evil monster henchmen…Nonetheless it has a toung-in-cheek happy harmony to it. The chorus has a rapid falling sound put to consistent smashing of the drums.
is one of the better songs, as its the only track that abandons its B-horror movie homage formula and acknowledges the ones who keep The Misfits thriving; their fans. It speaks from the heart of the outcast, based around the whole misfit of society mentality. The lyrics make it kind of tacky, but Doyle’s custom built annihilator guitars shredding tone saves it. A great fist in the air anthem.
is one of the mediocre songs. The overall atmosphere of it is a little subdued without it picking up and becoming a sing along anthem of the living dead.
is a standout track. Its based on a movie about a psychopathic man dismembering the woman he loves. Its magic is in the three spaced out power chords and emphasis on percussion that’s brought into the lead. The tempo then speeds up and Doyle goes ape shi’t on guitar. An array of notes, thrashy drums and near growled vocals take it to the realm of a poor man's modern metal-core outfit. The three magic chords take it back full circle and a modern classic is born.
1,000,000 Years BC
is a favorite of mine, with it’s beautiful opening verse that causes it to soar along with its highly energetic chorus, using the dropping out of all the instruments right before the vocals come in. An old trick, but still effective.
, about giant man-eating ants, showcases low end audio and could pass for death metal if not for Grave’s melodious singing. Witch Hunt
packs an airy sounding guitar, but looses its flavor with an odd rhythm and slightly irritating vocals. Living Hell
fades in fast and sounds best at it’s high impact chorus. Pumpkin Head
probably has the worst singing, and dullest hook. It has it’s moments, but generally it’s a miss
is basically a refrain of Kong At The Gates
, except more abrupt. The whole Kong intro and outro is a nice touch though.
The overall cohesiveness of the sound is distinct. Doyle sticks to basic, infectious chord progressions, not going off on too many soloing tangents. It gives the songs a tight, direct sound. Their isn’t one instance where you can hear Jerry’s bass by itself, as it’s perfectly blended with the guitar (which is also played through a bass amp). Behind the razor sharp string section, the rumble of drumming is splendid. The heads are loose, as Dr. Chud’s kit has a thud to it, adding to the overall well to do murkiness. Grave’s singing is really what make the songs work. The Misfits have always been known to have high quality vocals to accompany the hard edge instrument ensemble. However, Michael Graves is no Glenn Danzig. Period. Danzig is a household name.
The Misfits are basically a pop punk-rock band with Halloween masks on. They take catchy simple hooks, and they darken them, making them sinister and heavy. All in all, Misfit’s A.D goes to show that they can stand their ground. The songs on both “American Psycho” and “Famous Monsters” breath new life into the classic punk band’s collection of horror.