Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Misfits - 12 Hits From Hell

The Misfits – 12 Hits From Hell

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Halloween
2.  Vampira
3.  I Turned Into a Martian
4.  Skulls
5.  London Dungeon
6.  Night of the Living Dead

Side B:
7.  Horror Hotel
8.  Ghoul’s Night Out
9.  Astro Zombies
10.  Where Eagles Dare
11.  Violent World
12.  Halloween II

This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1980 debut album from The Misfits, 12 Hits From Hell, which was scrapped after guitarist Bobby Steele was replaced by Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein.  Some of the songs were instead released as 7” singles and the remaining tracks were used as a demo to secure a record deal and eventually re-recorded in 1982 as their seminal Walk Among Us.  Although 12 Hits From Hell was given a modern remix and remaster for a posthumous release in 2001, it was again vetoed and scrapped by vocalist Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only because of errors in mastering, artwork and liner note credit.  This reconstruction ignores the posthumous 2001 remix and attempts to collect only authentic mixes to assemble how the album would have sounded in 1980.

Emerging as one of the first wave of hardcore punk acts in 1977 New Jersey, it took a few years and scrapped projects for The Misfits to find their sound.  Harnessing the new-found aggression of hardcore punk, the quartet recorded what was intended as their debut album, Static Age, in 1978.  Following a change in band lineup, image and lyrical subjects—embracing the themes and aesthetic of classic horror movies—the album was scrapped and The Misfits instead focused on touring and single releases.   By 1980, the lineup had solidified with guitarist Bobby Steel and drummer Arthur Googy, backing up Danzig and Only. 

Entering Master Sound Productions Studios on August 7th, 1980, the quartet recorded twelve songs meant to function as their debut album.  All the tracks were initially cut live in one take, except “London Dungeon”, which required two takes.  Unknown to Steele, Only had been grooming his little brother Doyle to replace Steele as guitarist, and Doyle was brought in for his own set of guitar overdubs.  The effect is unique in The Misfits body of work, as the album—provisionally titled 12 Hits From Hell—is the only release with two different guitarists.  The recordings were equal parts energetic and atmospheric and were never replicated later in their career.  The Caiafa Brothers (Jerry and Doyle) would have their way by October and Steele was ousted from the band, relegating the recordings to function as a demo tape to shop the band to prospective labels. 

Luckily the recordings were not left in the vault for long, as “London Dungeon”, “Horror Hotel” and “Ghouls Night Out” were all released on the abbreviated EP 3 Hits From Hell in April 1981, and “Halloween” and “Halloween II” were released as a 7” on Halloween 1981.  The session also did its job as a demo, securing the band a contract with Ruby Records that year and producing their ‘proper’ debut album Walk Among Us in 1982, which featured re-recorded versions of six of the remaining unreleased 12 Hits From Hell songs.  While The Misfits eventually disbanded in 1983, Danzig took the liberty to overdub and remix a number of unreleased tracks for the 1985 compilation Legacy of Brutality, which featured doctored mixes of “Where Eagles Dare” and “Halloween” as well as pillaged versions of some of the Static Age songs.  The original 1980 mixes of “Astro Zombies” “Night of the Living Dead”, “Skulls” and “Vampira” were released the following year on a self-titled compilation that was eventually known as Collection I, with “Halloween”, “Horror Hotel” and “Halloween II” released on the follow-up compilation Collection II in 1995.  Finally, all the aforementioned tracks as well as the original unreleased 1980 mixes of “I Turned Into a Martian”, “Violent World” and “Where Eagles Dare” were released on The Misfits Box Set in 1996. 

Interestingly enough, the scattered tracks found on the box set was not the last word on 12 Hits From Hell.  After the unreleased Static Age album had been successfully issued as a proper posthumous release in 1997, 12 Hits From Hell warranted the same treatment and was remixed from the mastertapes in 2001 for a tentative Halloween release on Caroline Records.  All twelve songs—as well as the alternate first take of “London Dungeon” as a bonus track—received a more spacious and wide-stereo mix, a very modern-sounding mix that was a sharp contrast to the tight and claustrophobic 1980 mixes.  After a number of promotional copies had been distributed to industry insiders, the album was cancelled, promo copies recalled and subsequently destroyed.  Why?  Both Danzig and Only—the two who retained the rights to the Misfits brand—claimed not only a “mastering error” but incorrect credits in the liner notes, as well as subpar packaging and cover design that didn't meet their standard.  On the other hand, former guitarist Bobby Steele had an opposing point of view: that the newly-remixed album was scrapped because of Danzig & Only’s egos, who wanted to erase his guitar parts that were featured prominently in the new mixes.  In a possible retaliation and absurd twist, Steele recorded his own version of the entire album with The Undead in 2007.  But putting aside petty squabbles, what did 12 Hits From Hell originally sound like?   

For my reconstruction, we will focus solely on the original 1980 mixes of 12 Hits From Hell, for better or for worse; while admittedly the 2001 remix sounds stunning, it is not what The Misfits sounded like in 1980.  Luckily all the (presumably) vintage mixes are found on the 1996 Box Set in their best mastering, making our task extremely easy!  The tracklist will follow the planned 2001 12 Hits remaster, as the CD itself followed Danzig’s own handwritten tracklist from 1980, written on MSP Studios stationary.  The final touch is a cover design that borrows from the 3 Hits From Hell EP, an art concept that is as vintage as possible (also included is alternate cover art designed by Jon Hunt of idesignalbumcovers).  So without further delay, put on your make-up… it’s time for an early Halloween! 

Sources used:
The Misfits - Box Set (1996 Caroline Records)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave--> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included