You’ve got to admire Misfits mainstay Jerry Only. Anything bearing the legendary punk band’s name released after 1999’s “Famous Monsters” album – or possibly anything after 1983 in some hardcore fan’s eyes – has usually been met with a cynical sneer from the general populous, amid cries of fading credibility and people bemoaning the fact that the band don’t have a ‘proper’ frontman. The spectre of Glenn Danzig still looms large over this band, and in recent years there has even been something of a greater appreciation for the Michale Graves-fronted years of the late-90s, and dogged trooper that he is, Only has bullishly kept things going in the face of the line-up changes and record label hassles the band has encountered over the last decade.
Which brings us to this point – a live album featuring the current line-up and recorded in front of a baying crowd of fiends on All Hallows’ Eve in New York. The band’s second official live album – the third if you count the limited edition fan-club only “Evillive II”, a messy affair featuring the Michale Graves-fronted line-up – the awkwardly titled “DeA.D. Alive!” attempts to lay some of those old ghosts to rest by only featuring material from 1997 onwards and totally omitting the Glenn Danzig years, which is a brave move and certainly backs up Jerry Only’s attitude and enthusiasm for the more recent material.
Backed by long-time guitarist Dez Cadena (ex-Black Flag) and drummer Eric “Chupacabra” Arce (ex-Murphy’s Law), the band sound in good health as they belt through seven tracks from their most recent studio album – 2011’s “The Devil’s Rain” – before launching into a handful of tracks from “Famous Monsters” and 1997’s brilliant comeback album “American Psycho”. Only’s vocals lack the richness of Michale Graves or the tortured howl of Glenn Danzig but his understated rock n’ roll croon perfectly suits the newer material, especially on the faster numbers like the pacey ‘Vivid Red’ and the wonderful zombie romp ‘Land of the Dead’.
What’s more interesting, though, are his takes on the Michale Graves-era material, with songs like ‘Scream’ and ‘Saturday Night’ having a looser feel than their studio counterparts. They’re also boosted by the fact that Arce’s drumming is a lot more precise than previous drummer Dr. Chud’s and the decent mixing job means that you can actually hear how busy he is behind that kit. Cadena’s guitar work is also spot-on but so too are his backing vocals, an all-too-important part of the Misfits’ core sound, and his “whoa-whoa” melodies support Only’s vocals nicely.
Live punk rock albums aren’t known for their subtleties and this one is no different. It’s loud, brash and warts n’ all, but unlike “Evillive II” somebody thought to give it a decent mixing job and every instrument is there for you to hear. The performance is excellent, as is Jason Edmiston’s ghoulish artwork featuring a mummified Jerry Only in a coffin, and about the only negative comment to throw at it is that there aren’t enough tracks from “American Psycho”. Maybe next time…