Misfits – DEA.D. ALIVE!

For those sour-faced, self-proclaimed arbiters of punk who endlessly declaim that Jerry Only’s Misfits are Not the Real Deal: suck on this. Yes, you there, shuffling in the back, whining about how the Misfits have totally sold out man, they’re not the band they were in the eighties. This is not the record for you. DEA.D. ALIVE! is an album for listeners who love catchy, sloppy hardcore delivered at incredible speed in three minute slabs of impeccably played, gloriously trashy horror punk.

DEA.D. ALIVE! is the third live album from the Misfits, following 1987’s Evilive and the imaginatively titled sequel Evillive II. The audio quality has been improved this time around; no longer do they sound like a Misfits tribute band playing down a well. In fact, they sound more energised and engaged than they have in years, ripping through the songs with a renewed sense of purpose and comprehensively debunking the idea that punks should live fast, die young. Tearing through material from 2011’s masterful The Devil’s Rain, the 53 year old Only has never sounded better.

But first, a confession: the resurrected Misfits are my favourite incarnation of the band. Shock! Horror! Yes, Glenn Danzig’s version had their moments, and left behind an extraordinary catalogue of punk anthems, but the rot had set in by the time they released the hardcore-by-numbers snorefest that was Earth A.D., the aural equivalent of losing a fight with a washing machine. Songs like ‘Bloodfeast’, ‘Hellhound’ and ‘Demonomania’ were straight-ahead gore thrashers that brought to mind Slayer at their worst and sorely lacked the tuneful flourishes of their earlier material. The decline was evident in the song titles and lyrics; where was the wonderfully strange, tongue in cheek imagination that was so evident in ‘Teenagers from Mars’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’? With hindsight, it’s a bloody good thing they broke up soon after. Following the Misfits’ demise our dear Mr. Danzig started his own band, modestly called Danzig, and began his irreversible slide into heartstoppingly shit Satan-worshipping wankery, taking the evil-supernatural vibe so very, very seriously that the whole enterprise became utterly ludicrous. By contrast, the resurrected Misfits know they’re ridiculous, and they go all out to own it.

Here, then, are fourteen live tracks offering a potent distillation of what makes the modern-day Misfits so great. The songs encompass their post-Danzig career; if you want classic Misfits cuts I’m afraid you’ll have to go elsewhere. For those of us who appreciate the knowingly preposterous and incredibly fun melodic hardcore of the Only era, DEA.D. ALIVE! offers a smorgasbord of delights, featuring stunningly vicious renditions of ‘Vivid Red’, ‘Land of the Dead’ and the deliberately absurd ‘Curse of the Mummy’s Hand’, as well as tracks from the poppier Michale Graves era of the band. These include a blissful version of the poisonous doo-wop ballad ‘Saturday Night’ which surpasses the original, a dementedly violent take on ‘American Psycho’ and a grindingly sinister ‘Helena’. Only’s voice serves this earlier material well; although he can’t hold a tune quite as well as Graves, his older, rougher delivery brings out the latent creepiness of the songs, with lines such as ‘if you're bound and you’re gagged, draped and displayed, would you still love me anyway?’ taking on a new uncanny resonance in this context. This is a timely reminder that, for all their apparent goofiness, the Misfits have never lost the ability to unnerve

If you’re new to the wonders of the Misfits, this collection offers a fantastic place to start. Perfectly capturing the raw, vibrant intensity of their stage show, DEA.D. ALIVE! growls, roars and thumps with renewed ferocity, bursting with the force of a band rediscovering their place in a stagnant scene disproportionately focused on their past glories. Shredding through the songs with more energy than a band who’ve passed their 30th anniversary have any right to, the Misfits triumphantly reclaim their crown as the undisputed kings of horror punk, more than living up to their storied past and completely demolishing the popular conception of them as sell-out has-beens. The Misfits are alive, vital, and ready to rip your face off. Let the horror business begin.

Alun Thomas