Hybrid Moments: An Introduction to the World's Greatest Horror Band

Well, I got something to say about The Misfits

Alexandre Aimbiré
7 min readDec 19, 2023
Photo by Brecht Bug on Flickr

There are few bands that are as genre defining as The Misfits. Formed in 1976 by the legendary duo Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only, the band was one of the pioneers in the punk rock scene and set the standard for horror punk subgenre. Their original line-up had a very short stint, breaking up in 1983, and put out only two albums. Nevertheless, they became rock icons through their heavy and distorted sound, horror themed lyrics and unique visuals and aesthetic. Their unmistakable logo, a stylized skull and the band name printed in a font that resembles that of a old timey horror film, can be seen in almost any rock concert and is almost as iconic as the Rolling Stone's tongue logo.

While they were not as famous ou recognized as some contemporary bands, such as The Ramones or The Sex Pistols, The Misfits have since become an integral part of the rock musical canon. The band has come to be so influential that their sound has become synonymous with the punk rock aesthetic and many high-profile bands, such as Metallica, Guns n' Roses, Green Day and My Chemical Romance, have cited them as an influence. The late bassist for Metallica, Cliff Burton, even had the skull logo tattooed on his right upper arm and could be seen sporting a Misfits t-shirt on a number of occasions, including many live performances. Arguably, while fronted by Danzig, The Misfits have one of the best collections of songs in the punk rock genre and, possibly, in all of rock.

The band started out with a very different sound that the one that would later define the band, with no guitars and a keyboard, played by Danzig, providing the rhythm. After playing at the legendary CBGB's in New York, they came to find that they were misplaced among the habitual crowd that were patrons of the Bowery club. Hailing from the small suburban town of Lodi, New Jersey, they felt estranged among the stereotypical heroin using hooligans that composed that particular punk scene. Danzig and Only decided to incorporate the horror elements into their sound to distance themselves from what they considered to be New York beatniks.

Their release came in the form of Static Age, an album released independently in 1978 that contains some of the bands most well know songs such as "Last Caress", "We Are 138", "She" and "Hybrid Moments". By then they incorporated a guitar into their line up, in the form of Franché Coma, and shied away from their darker keyboard driven sound to a faster and stripped down version of 1950’s Rock n' Roll. One analogy frequently used to describe the band is that their sound resembles a drunk and faster Elvis Presley. They also started incorporating the visuals that came to become synonymous with the band, such as their logo, Jerry Only's devilock hair style and skeletons painted on their outfits and stage equipment. Static Age is now considered a classic by fans and critics alike, however, it was not released in it's entirety until 1996 with the release of the Misfits Box Set.

Their first proper album, Walk Among Us, was released in 1982. The LP since become a punk rock staple and many consider it to be the definitive Misfits album. The songs feature fast paced drums and overdriven guitars and Dazing's instantly recognizable deep baritone vocals, as well as many backing vocal harmonies which have become an integral part of the punk rock sound, specially within the Californian scene. Walk Among Us shied away from their first releases classic rock n' roll roots into a more punk rock territory. The album's cover was designed by Danzig himself and, true to their B-Movie inspirations, features flying saucers from the 1956 film Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as well as the creature from the 1959 film The Angry Red Planet.

Only two full length albums were released during their original run, with 1983’s Earth A.D. being their final album. This album's sound changed towards a more Heavy Metal influenced sound, but still features fan favorites such as "Die, Die My Darling". The band broke up a couple of months after the release of the album during their traditional Halloween show in Detroit, Michigan. With the exception of Danzig and Only, the band had passed through several changes in their lineup and the current drummer Brian Damage became so intoxicated before the show that Danzig fired him on the spot and declared to a flabbergasted audience that the band was over. Danzig later declared that he felt as if the other member did not put in as much effort in the band as he did, refusing to practice and not being as involved in the band's affairs as he felt they should.

Over the following decades, The Misfits were involved in a long legal battle between Danzig and the other former band members, particularly Only, about the use of the band's name and the songs. Danzig had formed the band Samhain, named after the Irish festival that would eventually become Halloween, and had no interest in reviving his former band. Samhain would feature a sound that evolved from Earth A.D.'s heavy metal roots and take inspiration from the occult and paganism in it's themes, featuring lyrics much darker that The Misfit's B-Movie inspired songs.

Eventually, the legal dispute would be settled out of court and Danzig agreed to allow Only and guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein to resume performing under the Misfits name. They would record two albums with drummer Dr. Chud and new lead singer Michale Graves, 1997’s American Psycho and 1999’s Famous Monsters. Both albums were generally well received by critics, but the addition of Graves as the new singer alienated a lot of the band's fans. This revival of the band would end in 2000. Graves and Dr. Chud quit the band in a walk out during a concert in Florida and Doyle would resign soon after citing health issues and wanting to spend more time with his family.

Danzig and Only would not speak to each other for many years. While Only took on singer duties and continued to perform under The Misfits name with several well known musicians, such as former Ramone's drummer Marky Ramone, Danzig had his own solo career with a band that carrier his own name, Danzig. Their first single, 1988’s "Mother" peaked at number 43 in Billboard's Hot 100 and 17 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Other former member, such as Graves, continued to perform with other bands. Danzig and Only would only perform again together in 2016 when they reunited under the moniker The Original Misfits for a couple of shows. They would eventually take the stage together during the following years, with the last concert taking place in October 2022 where they headlined a Halloween concert in Dallas, Texas, sharing the stage with the legendary Alice Cooper.

The influence that Horror Movies and comic books had on the The Misfits cannot be understated. For example, the band's mascot, The Crimson Ghost, was lifted off the poster of a 1946 film with the same name. The band's original releases were put out by their own record label, Plan 9 Records, named after the Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, regarded by many critics as one of the worst movies of all time. Horror films appear in many of their lyrics, such as "Astro Zombies", "Return of the Fly" — which cites star Vincent Price by name in the lyrics — , and "Night of the Living Dead", inspired by George A. Romero's genre defining zombie film.

The Misfits could have been cult heroes, one of those bands that were known and cherished by a small group of fans if it wasn't for their work ethic. During their short stint with their original formation, their two only albums were self produced and released independently by their own record label. Also, the band mad their own merchandise, setting up an improvised operation in Dazing's family home's basement, and created their own fan club, The Misfits Fiend Club, which exists to this day.

It is also important to note how pivotal Metallica was to bringing the spotlight to The Misfits. As mentioned before, bassist Cliff Burton was a great fan of the band. The band would regularly cover Misfits songs during live shows and would even record Last Caress and Green Hell in their legendary Garage Days Re-Revisited EP. Cliff Burton himself and lead singer James Hetfield would be instrumental in bringing The Misfits to the mainstream. Dazing said that they were instrumental in bringing awareness about The Misfits to the mainstream.

Horror and Rock have an intimate history, with artists such as Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper drawing inspiration from it in their lyrics and style. However, it was The Misfits who brought Horror to the center and the front of the stage and before they came along these influences were unheard in Punk Rock . While other punk bands before them, such as The Cramps, had flirted with Horror, The Misfits were the first to go all in into the B-Movie and Horror imagery and themes, a decision that influenced many and continues to bring attention to them to this day.

This article is the unabridged version of the article originally published in the 2023–2024 Fall Issue of The Issue, USA Nijmegen’s Student Magazine in December of 2023.



Alexandre Aimbiré

Sociólogo de boteco, estudante de Letras, guitarrista ocasional, pai, marido e leitor ávido de caixas de sucrilhos. Leio e escrevo sobre o que me dá na telha.