The Devil’s Rain
When asked about the state of his band shortly after singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud both quit on the same night in 2000, bassist Jerry Only said something to the effect of “Anything concerning the Misfits is between me and my brother, Doyle.” These days, anything concerning the fate of suburban New Jersey’s most storied punk rock band appears to be secured firmly between Only’s ears. Brother Doyle was replaced on guitar by Black Flag legend Dez Cadena in 2001, but it still took a decade for this latest incarnation of the band Only founded in 1977 with vocalist Glenn Danzig to release an album’s worth of new material. Nail-biting fans must wonder—did Jerry Bear spend the Aughts trying to convince Danzig to return to the fold?
If so, he clearly didn’t wave enough money in Glenn’s face. The Devil’s Rain, lucky seven in the Misfits discography, finds Only assuming lead vocals. The monstrous bass player has a commanding and tuneful bellow, but the vampire bite of the two who came before him seems generally absent. Musically, the Misfits have stripped away here many of the heavy metal elements that punctuated their 1990s releases, barreling away in a mid-tempo rockish manner that only occasionally breaks into something Judas Priesty. This proves to be both positive and negative: While it’s great to hear a Misfits record that cruises more or less at the same pace as their dusty ’70s classic Static Age, even that record punched the hardcore throttle once in a while. Nothing on Devil’s Rain comes within a mile of matching the speedy theatrics of that album’s “We Are 138” or “Bullet.”
But what of theme? Anyone expecting The Devil’s Rain to offer biting commentary on the geopolitic or our nation’s planking epidemic will be crestfallen to learn the Misfits are continuing to simply swipe horror movie titles and write songs around them. “Land of the Dead,” “Dark Shadows,” “Death Ray,” and “Ghost of Frankenstein” all offer reasonable if not rousing tributes to their celluloid predecessors, although that last one is almost felled by a handful of corny monster grunts to drive home the point we are listening to a song about Frankenstein (or rather, Frankentein’s ghost). Similarly, “Death Ray” closes with album with—you guessed it—a sputtering of lasery death ray noises.
Only once do the Misfits of 2011 stray ever so slightly from their ooky spooky trick-or-treat tableau: “Where Do They Go” is a do-woppy lost love song centered around infamous murder burg Juárez, Mexico. The band fumbles a tad as they try to address such a shockingly real social horror in their quasi-cartoon style, but there’s enough hook to sink the chorus of “Where Do They Go” firmly into the recesses of your brain. Those gooey female back-up vocals, by the way, come courtesy of Joanna Powers, Jerry Only’s ex-wife.
Producer Ed Stasium gives the Misfits (a trio now consisting of Only, Cadena, and drummer Eric “Goat” Arce) a full, engaging sound on The Devil’s Rain, and there are moments where enough melodic horror flares up to remind skull jockeys of the band’s original intangible magic. Unfortunately, at fifty minutes, this outing is padded with too many so-so tunes that end up running together like trickles of lukewarm blood. Had they sliced the thing in half, the Misfits may have had something strong enough to shame devilocked doubters into corpse-like silence.
Then again, there’s nothing as stupid or embarrassing on The Devil’s Rain as that song Glenn wrote about his penis from the last Danzig record, and here it sounds like they actually paid to have the damn thing mastered. So the point in this round of “Who’s Working Hardest Not To Ruin Their Legacy?” goes to Mr. Only, unless it turns out “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand” is some kind of masturbation joke. In that case, well…anything concerning Jerry Only’s masturbation habits is between the man’s own meaty, leathered paw and his wang.
FINAL SCORE: Two Ghosts of Frankenstein (out of four).