The Misfits: Walk Among Us (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on July 23, 2009  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Cover Art
Producer: The Misfits
Band Members: Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, Doyle, Arthur Googy
Label: Ruby Records/Plan 9 Country: USA
Track Listing
1. 20 Eyes
2. I Turned Into A Martian
3. All Hell Breaks Loose
4. Vampira
5. Nike A Go Go
6. Hate Breeders
7. Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight (Live)
8. Night Of The Living Dead
9. Skulls
10. Violent World
11. Devils Whorehouse
12. Astro Zombies
13. Braineaters
Rock'n'roll occasionally throws up some bands, the likes of which you just don't expect. Sometimes it throws up the kind of band that the horror fan can latch on to – bands like The Misfits. Born in Lodi, NewJersey in the late 70s and led by buffed-up leather-lunged and Southern-Fried Jim Morrison/Elvis-soundalike vocalist Glenn Danzig, The Misfits blazed a brief but highly influential trail through 50s-style rock'n'roll, speed metal, punk and a flat-out hardcore assault that few other bands could ever lay claim to, though many indeed have tried. Walk Among Us is to me the greatest distillation of their horror-punk approach, marrying their 50s pop sensibility with blistering guitars, and truly sick, bordering on and often teetering over into the offensive lyrics with a complete love of oddball sci-fi horror (look at the song titles, people!) and a look that was guaranteed to send the average human being running screaming into the night – kind of like if a bunch of zombie juvenile delinquent bikers from the 50s came back from the grave, with ghoulish make-up and the band's trademark 'devilock', an illogical extension of the rockabilly quiff, but gelled down in front to a point from a widow's peak, guitars adorned with skulls and the grinning Crimson Ghost emblazoned on anything that stayed still long enough to be screen-printed, stencilled or painted.

Preceded by the almost-great-but-not-quite Legacy of Brutality, the almost non-horror related Static Age, and a whole slew of singles that hinted at the awesomeness contained within these grooves, Walk Among Us is a horror fans' wet-dream come true of mixing horror-savvy sensibilities (after all, there are tracks named for Ed Wood horror starlet and TV horror show hostess Vampira, Romero's classic zombie film which launched a thousand imitators, not to mention some Ted V Mikels low-budget fright-fests – and the fact that their own record label was called "Plan 9") with singalong pop hooks and melodies, and an in-your-face hardcore intensity brought to the fore by Doyle's razor-sharp guitar work, and the powerhouse rhythm section of Arthur Googy (who sadly didn't last beyond this record, to be replaced by Robo from Black Flag, who has since become the new Misfits drummer), and Jerry Only, the only other founding member of the band, who keeps a version of The Misfits alive to this day. Although good, they just miss the mark through missing something of the magic of albums such as this, or the immediately following Earth AD/Wolfsblood (a number of songs of which were actually written for the debut LP of Danzig's next project Samhain, a band whose approach took out any of the more light-hearted touches that The Misfits might have had, and despite some surface similarities to the music, were a much blacker band indeed), which pummelled its audience into submission via its hardcore blitzkrieg, at the cost of the band's more singalong, as opposed to shout-along, trademark gang-chorus harmonies and generally more melodic approach.

With almost every song clocking in at less than two minutes Walk Among Us is truly one of the great early hardcore albums, savaging its audience sonically as well as lyrically. The LP addresses that very audience from the cover down, with its image of flying saucers hovering over the head of the Rat-Bat-Spider-Thing from hokey sci-fi/horror flick The Angry Red Planet, with the band positioned threateningly at the front (in red and black on the original cover, purple and black on my late 80s re-issue) – equal parts cheese and menace, which the music then emphasises. As a matter of fact, that's about as good a description of The Misfits as I could possibly give: they are indeed equal parts cheese and menace – the slinky harmonies and general melodic nature of the band, including their brash horror film fan-boi charm, are off-set by Doyle's savage punk-metal guitar attack. While you might singalong with the toons, you might want to revisit the actual lyrics you're belting out; the melodies might be distracting you from the lyrical beauty of that moving paean to the maternal: "Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?" You could almost imagine Norman Bates singing it. Or Ed Gein...

Standout tracks? There are plenty of them, almost all of them in fact. Despite the relatively disappointing opening track, 20 Eyes, which almost seems like Misfits-by-rote, once you hit the one-two punch of I Turned Into A Martian and All Hell Breaks Loose, you've heard what The Misfits repertoire is all about – melodic punch and then simply hardcore hell (All Hell was later covered in a different form by Danzig's next band, Samhain, and was much more sinister, if you can believe it, having read the already grotesque lyrics...). Vampira is definitely one of their best, and if you can watch Romero's Night of the Living Dead without thinking of The Misfits song of the same name (or the new Misfits track Hunting Humans), then you're a better man than I. Skulls is a track I once heard desecrated by Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, a disgrace I hope to never hear again done to a good song, but the pow-pow-pow finale of Devils Whorehouse, Astro Zombies and Braineaters should have you punching the air and thanking whichever being you believe in that you bought this record. It's a fucking ball-tearer.

Melodic yet savage, clever but playing at being dumb (much like their forebears-in-crime the Ramones), The Misfits slashed and bludgeoned their way into the hearts of many a punk fan at the time. Then, later, after their inevitable implosion, due partially to Metallica's championing of them and their covers of iconic tracks such as Last Caress, Green Hell and the totally anthemic Die, Die, My Darling, the memory of The Misfits stayed alive beyond the grave and found an ever-increasing audience – mind you, it was also due to the fact that they wrote really, really good music, and bands that can do that (The Velvet Underground, Big Star, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, for example) are always going to find their audience – it might just be a matter of time. Gruesome black humour and a rich love of the horror genre was always at the core of The Misfits key to success, and is one of the reasons that while they sold fuck all LPs while they were around, their legacy has lived on, more than 25 years beyond their original incarnation's grave. And it's also why, to the chagrin of myself and many old school 'Fits fans, the band's logo, the skeletal face of the sci-fi serial villain the Crimson Ghost, still turns up on the shirts of emos across the world and other non-Fits fans, who've probably never heard a Misfits track in their lives, but the strength of the imagery does indeed live on. It's also the reason why I can't wear a Misfits t-shirt in public anymore, in case somebody thinks I'm a noob, as opposed to a card-carrying member of The Misfits Fiend Club for over twenty years. I still wear that badge proudly, by the way on the front of my leather jacket; rusting though that badge is, my fandom for The Misfits most definitely isn't.

Listening to The Misfits is kind of like reading an old EC Tales From The Crypt comic, but with a much blacker heart – and with none of the poetic justice. The violence is there, the grotesquerie is there, the sinister subversive evil, too, but it was always kind of leavened by their blackly humourous approach. Walk Among Us (with its title referencing the old 1950s Universal monster film, The Creature Walks Among Us) is most definitely the perfect melding of each of those characteristics together into one LP that is probably the most identifiably Misfits title out of their back catalogue – it also has the best production – loud, raw and full; the earlier records were often a bit tinny or muffled, depending on the individual release, and the later Earth AD/Wolfsblood just too murky – kind of like Black Sabbath's Master of Reality, it tried too hard to epitomise the sound of the band, and ended up falling by the wayside somewhat. Mind you, as with any of The Misfits LPs, just turn the damned thing up as loud as your stereo can go, and any sound issues immediately disappear...

13 stabs at the heart of the mainstream, or 13 love-letters written to the horror underground – it doesn't matter which way you view it, really. Even if you listen to the very hard-to-get alternate version 12 Hits From Hell (it doesn't include the live track and has totally different guitar work from Bobby Steele, the previous Misfits guitarist, and a slightly different track listing), you're hearing a seminal underground horror-punk band do their wild (at some times very wild) thing. Wednesday 13, Murderdolls, Balzac, The Dead Walk, Ghoul Squad and the rest of todays pretenders to the throne: sorry fellas, you'll never beat perfection.

Definitely one of the greatest punk rock/death rock LPs of all time by the best punk rock/death rock band of all time, Walk Among Us is still a blueprint for awesome and savage music that weds horror films with 50s pop and 80s hardcore (there's a surprising amount of it about). Rob Zombie once said that Black Sabbath wrote all the best riffs ever – the implication being that Sabbath wrote all of 'em and there were none more to write – The Misfits give the lie to such a statement. This LP is a snapshot of a brief moment in time when the stars were right and musical genius was created. The Misfits left a strong legacy of excellent punk rock and death-rock, but nowhere near as strongly as they did on this blood-splattered disc. R.I.P. the greatest horror-punk band of them all. Walk Among Us is an album any band would have sold their souls to have written. You need to own this album.
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