The Misfits - Earth A.D. (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Misfits

Earth A.D. (1983)

Plan 9

Glenn Danzig has never stood still. Although he was a front line soldier with the earliest American punk rockers, and although he created an entire sub-genre in punk that bent melody around a three chord smash with a spooky core, by 1982, hardcore was supplanting its bouncier parent. Wisely employing the David Bowie method, Danzig looked to see what was driving the modern trend, and built that into his own style. Therefore, just as Damaged and Minor Threat were opening up new worlds to punk fans, Danzig drafted Black Flag’s producer, Spot, and even snatched up Black Flag’s abandoned drummer, Robo. Of course, the result was the band’s most vicious and aggressive release.

Clocking in at a berserk 14 minutes, Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood was a loose concept album with two components- one side looked at a post nuclear war Earth and the other dealt with being a lycanthrope. Danzig was always a fan of flexing 50s troupes into a realistic and often sadistic, commentary and Earth A.D. was the Misfits apex of this skill. “Death Comes Ripping,” riding a freight train smash, delved into extremely gory lyrics about blasting somewhat apart with a shotgun. “Bloodfeast” started off with a paean to ripping out someone’s tongue and eyes.

Upon its release, Earth A.D. was shocking for its sheer intensity. Before, the Misfits had focused on a melodic, almost poppy core and often kept their tongues in their collective cheek. Not so much with Earth A.D. Songs felt twice as fast as before and the hardcore influence was obvious. But, whereas the may have been threat of the band trying to imitate hardcore, the viciousness and violence of the sound fit the band like a skeleton glove, naturally. With the gigantic Doyle pounding the guitars, the album was chaotic, noisy, and messy. The lyrics often dealt with frantic attacks and crazed insanity and that’s the sheer sound of the album emulated. Danzig, too, rises to the occasion. The man’s voice is unparalleled in punk, with its Italian tenor croon, suggesting that maybe the white noise of hardcore would wash away the nuance. Perhaps this was so, but to counter, Danzig double, triple, and quadruple tracked his vocals (and other instruments) building the album into a wall of noise, evil Phil Spector style. Perhaps one of Earth A.D.’s least appreciated elements is that throughout the release, random noises and growls rise from the din, giving the album a sonic depth unseen in most hardcore albums.

Lyrically Danzig was darker than ever before, which is a trend which would continue with Samhain. Tellingly, at least two tracks here were rumored to be for Samhain, which at the time, was supposed to be a Misfits side project. To a degree, the loving sendups to b-horror movies were gone, replaced with hatred and rage. It worked. Earth A.D. was bleak and mean by design. But, whereas other hardcore tracks might place the song subject in the role of the victim (Black Flag’s “Police Story,” Poison Idea’s “Just to Get Away,”) Danzig usually placed the song’s subject as the aggressor and saluted him for that. The entire side of Wolf’s Blood is about running around ripping people’s throats out and honestly, he makes it seem fun. That is to say, Danzig pulled the interesting trick of taking the energy of hardcore, the bleak world view of the occult, and merged them into an invigorating charge. It’s hard to find anyone who did this before him and most people who did it after don’t come close to these heights (or depths).

As is the classic punk story, the band didn’t actually release the album until two months after they broke up- though most of the tracks did get played live during the band’s final year. The record served as the band’s epitaph and it was a fitting one at that. It showed how the band had evolved from their earliest, doo wop influenced track into something learner and more wild, all while retaining what made them so unique in the first place. Few punk bands were really able to evolve with the times, but if anything, Earth A.D. served as a harbinger that this was Danzig’s specialty over the next decade plus. But perhaps even more interesting is that while Earth A.D. was one of punk’s most surprising evolutions, in evolving, the band boiled themselves down to their core essence and demonstrated just how powerful that essence was.