The Devil’s Rain
The current band performing under the moniker “Misfits” has little to do with the band that reinvented punk rock thirty odd years ago. Sure the current Misfits has original bassist Jerry Only, but without original singer Danzig and guitarist Doyle (the drummer never really mattered), it’s not the Misfits. With that idea out of the way, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Misfits album The Devil’s Rain. Alongside Jerry Only, legendary Black Flag guitarist/one time vocalist Dez Cadena and drummer Ed Arce bang out some catchy fifties flavored hi-octane punk rock. The album feels like the band might be trying to leave their past behind them without denying their history.
The Devil’s Rainis a fast paced album but with a lot more texture and structure than a standard Misfits record. The blitz guitar smashing has given way to some pure rock riffage, some cool solos and even time changes. How much you enjoy this record depends largely on getting past the fact it’s not the Misfits reunion we all long for. If you can do that then you’ll be greasing up your zombie quaff and drag racing with the rest of the undead. The band announces their variation on the original formula from the first lick of the guitar. The opening title track is incredibly groovy. Arce lays down an AC/DC beat that allows Cadena to inject a throbbing riff that should have beer spilling all over stadium floors as people shake to the tune.
Coming out of that is “Vivid Red”, which rides the old style Misfits formula of quick punk rock chord damage. I give Cadena credit, he kicks out some tasty tricks with less then two minutes to play. “Land Of The Dead” is the sing along, the dragster full on fifties rockabilly tune. It’s heavier than the rockabilly you’re used to but it still swings that way. Imagine if Social Distortion decided to do Misfits covers and the idea will come to you. The Devil’s Rain establishes a vibe early on and doesn’t stray from it. There’s mid-tempo and fast, the Misfits got two sizes so choose one and dig in. If you’re looking for anything more challenging then step away, this is good time horror rock that’s not here to impress.
What works best for the Misfits are the long form songs, the more rock tinged stuff that allows Cadena to get his groove on. “Dark Shadows” is a larger-than-life tune that plays like the end credits to a film like Return Of The Living Dead or Night Of The Comet. The chorus is another huge sing-along that compels you to join in. “Jack The Ripper” is a more metal addition, one that comes across like old Kill ‘Em All Metallica. When the Misfits forget themselves and just write cool jams the record takes off. The songwriting is strong enough here that the band could drop the make up, rename the band and step up as their own thing. I doubt the fans would head out without the guarantee of old Misfits covers, which is too bad because the new material on The Devil’s Rain is kick ass fun.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 7.5/10
For anybody who grew up listening to industrial or the many offshoots the genre created, Skinny Puppy is a familiar name. Formed in 1982, Skinny Puppy were part of, if not the major force behind, the creation and rise of the electro-industrial sound. Their pedigree is undeniable and their early work is some of the best-recorded sound in the history of the medium. This month sees the release of their latest album HanDover, a record that is a never-ending flow of cool ideas that don’t manifest into the greatness you’re expecting. The album is harshly unfocused, which is saying something in the industrial world. Ideas abound here, good intentions and cool parts are constantly buzzing by but nothing ever solidifies and chirps, beeps and blips that feel forced in, bog down the music.
Skinny Puppy open HanDover by taking us back in time via some serious retro electronica with the tune “Ovirt”. I don’t mean fad retro, I’m talking about the old Casio keyboard and cassette deck drives style stuff. A beat stumbles in, then come the distorted vocals. For an opener “Ovirt” sounds like it contains every trick the band could think of. “Ovirt” is followed by “Cullorblind”, which has an unusual pop flavor to it. For those outside the Skinny Puppy box think Depeche Mode but meaner. “Cullorblind” could have been a stand out track but Skinny Puppy won’t leave it alone. Background screams, more bleeps and a beat that come and go with no rhyme are reason unite to drag the energy down.
Nothing going on here is bad, it’s just muddled. I see what Skinny Puppy was going for and they only miss the mark by inches. A bit of restraint in the control room when it came to additions might have turned this into a classic. Instead it becomes frustrating trying to read the song through all the various electronic tidbits. I know fans will argue that this is what Skinny Puppy do but my retort would be that they should have done it in a less boring and distracted manner. Take the song “AshAs”. It has the skeleton to be a love song from Blade Runner. There’s real drama in the mix but it goes astray with all the unnecessary noises.
HanDover improves as it goes on. “Icktums” is a sick dance-floor jam. The repetitive boogie beat is uplifted by the busier beats beneath it. You can’t help but bounce around and start looking for your coolest vintage dance club attire. “Point” is a dirty and raw song that sounds like the marching theme for pissed of outer-space robots gone mad. “Village” is another gem. The groove behind it pulsates and gives the whole tune a twisted danceable vibe. The kind of never-ending song you’d love to experience in a sex club while ecstasy coursed through your system. When HanDover hits it hits hard, the problem is that it doesn’t hit enough.
I expect greatness from a band like Skinny Puppy and I won’t apologize for it. With HanDover the band has given up one third of a great album and left the rest to wallow in how good it could have been. The sloppy use of sound, the unrealized songs and lack of direction could be excused from a lesser band. Not Skinny Puppy, these guys should know better.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 6/10