While countless bands around the world have dedicated their work to horror and shock cinema, none of them will ever have the same resonance as The Misfits. Formed in the late ’70s, the Lodi, New Jersey punk act, led by inimitable crooner Glen Danzig, created music that perfectly combined punk rock’s devil-may-care attitude and grindhouse cinema’s entertainment-at-all-cost ethos. At the same time, the band addressed these fun aesthetics with total seriousness, so that even their songs about Vampira and Halloween had an occult menace to them. And while their legacy didn’t get its due until the ’90s, their influence could be felt among the truer denizens of rock’s underground, with diehard fans including Henry Rollins and Metallica’s Cliff Burton.
With Halloween on its way, we decided to go where eagles dare rank the Misfits’ albums from worst to best. This proved a little difficult, as much of the band’s legacy is spread across EPs, singles, and compilations, but for this exercise, we narrowed it down to just their studio albums (hence no Legacy of Brutality or Collection I and II — vital listening to be sure, but cobbled together after the fact). Here’s how the corpses lie…
7) The Devil’s Rain (2011)
Ho boy. After countless line-up changes and a zillion pieces of merch, Jerry Only released his Misfits record, complete with his own vocals. Which is why this album just doesn’t quite work — by any of the Misfits many imitators, this might be fine, but under the band’s banner, it feels like self-plagiarism. More so, it embraces a more middle-of-the-road rockabilly vibe without the rabid horror-metal pace and structure present on the Michale Graves albums. Technically part of the discography, but a shoe-in for last place.
6) Project 1950 (2003)
Though a covers album, Project 1950 marks an important moment in the Misfits’ evolution as artists. It was with this record that the band fully transitioned from punk outsiders to horror convention rock, turning away from the last bit of metallic attitude on Famous Monsters and embracing their doo wop side. In practice, this isn’t all that bad a thing — who doesn’t love a spooky rendition of “This Magic Moment” or a cover of “The Monster Mash?” — but for the band’s more punk rock contingent, it was a turn away from what made them rad. Not bad, but not great.
5) Famous Monsters (1999)
Now this is more like it. Famous Monsters was a huge release for the reinvented Michale Graves Misfits, who were hot off the critical acclaim of American Psycho and excited to explore new avenues with their thick-riffed horror-metal sound. The result is an album that could perhaps use more edge — a song like “Die Monster Die” is just a little too upbeat — but which brings the big singles in the form of “Dust to Dust,” “Living Hell,” and the 1950s-ish earworm of “Descending Angel.” Though it foreshadowed the band’s move away from punk rock and into pure Universal Monsters worship, its bigger moments make it impossible to ignore.
4) Earth AD/Wolfs Blood (1983)
Earth AD/Wolf’s Blood will be remembered as the moment when The Misfits transitioned from horror punk to hardcore. Though tracks like “Die, Die My Darling” and “Death Comes Ripping” have a bit of that smirking spring in their steps, it’s the skeletonizing frenzy of “Green Hell,” “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?,” and “Demonomania” that truly sum up what this record was about. In that respect, though it’s an excellent and vastly important piece of Misfits history, it’s a little aimless, and doesn’t possess that sleazy, schlocky heart that has made this band so timeless.
3) American Psycho (1997)
This one’ll probably get us some grief, but we stand by it. The Misfits’ return with new vocalist Michale Graves breathed fresh life into the band. And while Famous Monsters showed them taking a more polished hard-rock sound, American Psycho was still a weird, wily horror-punk record. Tracks like “From Hell They Came,” “Resurrection,” “Hate The Living, Love The Dead,” and the monster single “Dig Up Her Bones” are spooky classics, even if punk purists might claim they don’t deserve the Fiend Club stamp of approval. As much fun as you’ll have celebrating Halloween with something that’s not a Danzig Misfits records.
2) Static Age (1978)
Though only released in 1996, Static Age was recorded in 1978, and contains much of the material that would cement the Misfits’ legacy. The offensive bop of “Last Caress,” the disillusioned cruisin’ music of “Some Kind of Hate,” the last-day-of-school vibe of “Hybrid Moments” — the songs on this album help discern the Misfits from their spooky peers, who got the darkness and horror films but not the rebellion and rage. As such, this one’s for the punks, as much about loving weird shit as it is about the weird shit itself. If you’re gonna scream, scream with this.
1) Walk Among Us (1982)
Holy shit, where to even begin. From the frantic singalong kick of “20 Eyes” to the linked-shoulder bar chant of “Braineaters,” this album is nothing short of pure enjoyment. With outlaw attitude, brash catchiness, and late-night double feature subject matter, Walk Among Us hit hard with listeners all over the world who were looking for something morbid, sleazy, and undeniably fun. Goth moped, hardcore brooded, and rockabilly combed prodigiously, but this mixture of the three leapt forward with the glee of a misunderstood kid on Halloween. Though much of the Misfits legacy may be scattered across a series of EPs and compilations, this is the studio effort that fans of the band will take to their graves.
Words by Chris Krovatin