By REID BRITT
Methinks it’s appropriate — looking through 21st century eyes at what the band hath become — that my first exposure to the Misfits in the early ‘80s was as a logo on a t-shirt. Precisely, a t-shirt oft-worn in band photos by one Cliff Burton.
My actual exposure to the band’s music was a bit later as a friend came into possession of a stack of used records from a local college radio station. He kept most of the stack, but I was able to grab one slab of vinyl. Its cover — Sharpie-d up with call letters and programming notes — bore the bat-spider creature from the ‘50s sci-fi flick ANGRY RED PLANET, a fierce/goofy looking band photo, a band logo in “Famous Monsters” magazine lettering, and a title nicked from the third of Universal’s “Gillman” movies.
It’s a bit cliche to say that a song/album/group is “life-altering”.
But WALK AMONG US was life-altering. I was a kid raised on ‘70s radio pop and rock and early ‘80s metal, and although I’d heard some punk, this wasn’t anti-Reagan nihilism and off-key screeching. WALK AMONG US was a distillation of all those black-and-white horror and sci-fi flicks that had filled my Saturday afternoons into couple-minute bursts of crooning and aggression. Twenty-five minutes, thirteen songs: thirteen horror punk classics. Songs about ‘50s horror host Vampira, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (“Ripped up like shredded wheat!”), the wacked-out ‘60s flick Astro Zombies, 20-eyed monsters, and Martians slam-dance with statements of nefarious intent like "All Hell Breaks Loose," "Violent World," and "Mommy Can I Go Out & Kill Tonight." I want your skull ... and brains for dinner. Glenn Danzig’s “Evil Elvis” vocals (I hate that term, but it’s widely used and weirdly appropriate) and B-film-borne lyrics transform songs that are musically pedestrian into gore-soaked anthems.
While WALK AMONG US was the first full-length Misfits album to crawl into the light (in 1982; Static Age and 12 Hits from Hell were recorded before Walk, but very posthumously released), the band would only manage one more full-length — the more hardcore/thrash-influenced EARTH A.D./WOLF'S BLOOD — before Danzig dissolved the group to follow his own darker muse. WALK AMONG US isn’t necessarily the best assembly of the band’s songs (for example, it doesn’t include my favorite Misfits songs: "Halloween," "Die Die My Darling," "London Dungeon" or "Hybrid Moments"), but it was the first and most easily accessible Misfits record until Danzig’s Plan 9 Records partnered with Caroline Records in the late ‘80s to release LEGACY OF BRUTALITY, EVILIVE (an expanded version of the earlier EP) and the Misfits Collection.
Ultimately, what Danzig, bassist Jerry Only, guitarist/Jerry’s brother Doyle and drummer Arthur Googy spawned is THE seminal horror punk album. The subsequent decades would see legions of bands trying to recreate Misfits’ alchemy with decidedly mixed results. But WALK AMONG US is Patient Zero, and, like the horror genre itself, is an uncompromising burst of brutality, gore, cheesiness and monsters.
REID BRITT lives in Scenic Western North Carolina with his wife Alison and his daughter Lily. He has been a Monster Kid from a young age ("There ARE Sasquatches down in the woods, Mom!") and still believes in the Power of Rock n' Roll. When he's not watching horror movies, he likes to paint, and you can check out his paint slinging at spookywolffe.tumblr.com, Instagram as Reiddrorings, Facebook as Spookywolffe. and Twitter as @spookywolffe.