Riot Fest has scored the biggest punk reunion of the year with "The Original Misfits," which features founding frontman Glenn Danzig performing with bassist Jerry Only and guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein. At the fest's Denver installment, taking place September 2nd through 4th, the trio will appear onstage together for the first time in more than 30 years. In the decades since the original Misfits split, countless metal, punk and indie-rock groups have kept the group's legacy alive with passionate covers of their anthemic horror-punk classics. Here are a few of our favorites.
In 1986, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett told Thrasher Magazine his initial interest in the Misfits grew after seeing photos of the band: "The imagery that they used was like some of the stuff I've seen in old horror comics." Metallica's motorboat thrashing and James Hetfield's over-enunciated vocals on the conjoined covers of "Green Hell" and "Last Caress" pump up the horror camp Hammett found endearing.
As Guns N' Roses worked on what would become The Spaghetti Incident? in 1991, Slash talked to Rolling Stone about some of the covers they had in the works: "The Misfits song was Axl's idea." Axl, however, ultimately handed vocal duties for "Attitude" to bassist Duff McKagan, whose ragged singing anchors the song's flourishes in rambunctious punk fury.
This straightforward cover also served as a singing telegram to Metallica. The thrash-metal legends celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2011 with a series of shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco. With trademark Green Day snark, Billie Joe Armstrong rolled out the welcome wagon in this original home video: "Happy birthday to you," he sings wryly into the camera, "You old-ass heavy-metal motherfuckers."
In 2010, Alkaline Trio singer-guitarist Matt Skiba told the Dallas Observer that his band could play most of the Misfits' catalog, and he wasn't shy about explaining why: "I love the Misfits, but it's not brain surgery." Still, it took some skill for Alkaline Trio to mutate "Halloween" into a piano-driven ballad without losing its force.
North Carolina indie-rock standard-bearers Superchunk have covered the Misfits a few times. In 2013 singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan told Noisey that great Misfits songs share a certain quality: "It's just so timeless." Superchunk's lean, reverent version of "Horror Business" rockets along with the bubblegum bounce that connects great rock songs of the past and present.
Swedish punks Refused hit the gas pedal on this rare, lo-fi thrasher from 1997's This Album Contains Old Songs & Old Pictures, Vol. 1. Since the band was unable to secure the rights to the original song, this cover would not make the Epitaph reissue in 2002. The version is a far cry from the group's experimental leftist tantrums, but it's fun to imagine them teleported back to simpler times, before the advent of post-hardcore and late capitalism.
The Misfits' zombie-apocalypse nightmare gets resurrected by fellow Jersey devils My Chemical Romance. Frontman Gerard Way beefs up his tenor and nails each line with laser-like precision. "I learned about the Misfits from the tattoo on [late bassist] Cliff Burton’s arm," Way admitted to Alternative Press in 2012. "Me wondering what that tattoo was on Cliff Burton’s arm was kind of the beginning of that."
Lawrence, Kansas, indie-rockers Minus Story turn this catchy Misfits classic into a starry-eyed lullaby. The toy piano gives way to fizzy electronic mayhem – what the band likes to call their "wall of crap" sound – leaving trails of moondust in its wake.
Fuzz-pop heroines Dum Dum Girls take to the beach in their shimmering, reverb-bathed rendition of "Last Caress." In her deceptively fragile siren call, Dee Dee Penny (now going by Kristin Kontrol) delivers a girl-group-influenced take on the famously profane track ("I got somethin' to say/I raped your mother today") that's no less homicidal than the original.
Feminist-punk lifer Allison Wolfe and Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon broke out their best Danzig impressions on this treat from 1994's The Real Janelle. For a first-wave riot grrrl band, Bratmobile were not afraid to clown around every once in a while, but while you can hear Wolfe and Moon teasing out the bubblegum qualities of this Legacy of Brutality cut, the chorus doubles as a warning. "I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch," Moon wails, as Wolfe answers, "You better think about it, baby!"
The Misfits cast a long shadow in Louisville, Kentucky – Will Oldham and Slint connections run particularly deep – and the influence even yielded a couple covers compilations under the name Louisville Babylon. John King, who helms a label called Louisville is for Lovers, released the second volume in 2007, and it contains a version of "Hollywood Babylon" by local heroes My Morning Jacket; only 666 copies of the Louisville Babylon double CD exist, and digital files are hard (if not impossible) to find, so this track is a rare treat by default.
On 2003's aptly titled Winter in the Belly of a Snake, Canadian electronica artist Aaron Funk managed to out-spook the Misfits with this take on their Patty Hearst ode. Subbing out guitars for stern strings and churchlike organs, Funk's Stygian rendition is less of a song and more of an invocation.
In his younger years, enigmatic singer-songwriter Will Oldham received a package from Glenn Danzig containing the Misfits' 1977 debut seven-inch, "Cough/Cool" b/w "She" – at least according to a 2009 New Yorker profile. Oldham covers the Misfits like its part of his heritage, and even though his "Die, Die My Darling" begins in an unrecognizable place, his anguished howl at the song's end should do Danzig proud.
More than a decade after the Lemonheads tacked an acoustic cover of "Skulls" at the end of their 1991 EP, Favorite Spanish Dishes, frontman Evan Dando told the A.V. Club, "I always thought it would be funny to have a really sensitive, folky version of that." Sure, Dando's forlorn vocals sound absurd when he sings about using skin like wallpaper, but the grain of his voice gives the cover magnetic weight.
Among the many projects Pinback co-frontman Rob Crow has cycled through over the years is DevFits, which melds Devo and the Misfits into insane creations, but Crow will bust out Devo-less Misfits covers in his live shows. His stripped-down interpretation of the scorched-earth anthem "Astro Zombies" reveals a pathos and vulnerability hidden in the original.