Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Devil's Rain - Misfits - 2011

While there have been near infinite variations of Misfits lineups for recording and touring, including several vocalists who never did make it onto record, The Devil's Rain is the proper debut of original compositions by Misfits Mk3, helmed by original bassist and now lead vocalist, Jerry Only. Longsuffering punk side/axeman Dez Cadena marks his first decade with the "new" version of the band on his second full-length appearance and Eric "Chupacabra (formerly known as Goat)" Arce debuts on drums (based on the 'fits history, don't get too comfortable on that stool, pal).

Expectations were as low as could be yet, somehow, my hopes were high for The Devil's Rain. I did not hate the Project 1950 covers album though I saw no reason to call it a "Misfits" record. Why not "American Legends of Punk" as the exact same band was credited on the Osaka Popstar release? Likewise, I actually enjoyed the recent "Land of the Dead" single. And, besides, the Mk2 Graves era was almost impossibly good. Different, yes, but undeniably good. That couldn't all be Michale Graves, could it?

Yes. It could. And what wasn't Graves was obviously Doyle. And maybe even a little Dr. Chud. It sure as hell wasn't Jerry Only, apparently, as The Devil's Rain is as tepid and hollow a record I have ever heard and a downright abomination as currently labeled with the hallowed Misfits name. Even if credited to a band by any other name it would be, at best, forgettable "sounds like Blitzkid b-side" filler.

What the hell happened to Ed Stasium?  It is almost impossible to believe The Devil's Rain came from the same man who produced a vibrant classic like the Smithereens' 11. Maybe (probably) the source material failed him. I've listened now via online stream, CD, headphones, shelf system and car stereo. No matter where it comes from, it's shallow, muted and only Arce's drums and Cadena's leads (largely just a sad series of sustained notes and trilling travels up and down the scale) pop and Only's bass, never exactly a highlight, disappears beneath his weak, weak voice. The man has tremendous shoes to fill and it is obviously beyond his physical abilities and those of recording technology to cover the gap between him and Danzig or Graves. Jerry Only simply is not lead vocalist material (nor is Dez Cadena, for that matter, mishandling these duties on two of the album's tracks).

And, to kick him while I have him down, Jerry Only is no songwriter. A cult horror film title and plot rehash alone do not a Misfits song make. Danzig had anger and menace - he was the monster. Graves was a poet, narrating the songs from some ethereal disembodied stream of consciousness. Most selections from The Devil's Rain sounds as if Jerry is reading the description off the back of a DVD case against any three 1950s stock chords while adding a "whooo-ooo-oah" in between each paragraph. I cannot imagine any newcomer latching on to any of this regardless of their knowledge of Misfits lore.

I have played The Devil's Rain through several times, desperately searching for high points. The "Land of the Dead" re-recording is fine, though not superior to the original '09 release, and it is the sole inclusion worthy of the Misfits mantle and, still, sounds like a Mk2 b-side at best. "Dark Shadows," while in no way related to the band's punk origins, shines as a bona fide, well-structured song, failing only when it ties back to its title with the clunky "at Collinwood, at Collinwood" refrain. And that, my friends, is it.

If there is a silver lining to be had, The Devil's Rain does feature a nice cover, courtesy Arthur Suydam of Marvel Zombies fame, but even that is countered by some of the absolutely worst photos I have ever seen credited to Mick Rock. Again, maybe it's the source material. With the Misfits, grain and black-and-white seem most successful and Mr. Rock's images come nowhere close to those the amateur Eerie Von captured during the band's prime. The faux-creepy poses and bargain-store Halloween costume colors reveal how very harmless (and, let's face it, old) Jerry Only is and, Dez.... Dez looks like Tracey Ullman starring in the Evil Dead. "Chupacabra?"  Rethink the facepaint, man. Or change your name to "Jackass."

photo by Mick Rock, assuming he really wants credit.

1 comment:

  1. Great in-depth review. It is sad really. Seems like a really shitty circus act now.