In the Pantheon of punk, there’s always a special place for The Misfits. Where Black Flag and Minor Threat used crazy, hardcore elements and The Ramones spearheaded elements from pop music like The Kinks, The Misfits were the ones who descended into the darker realm of horror-themed images and creepy-as-hell aesthetics. In comparison to the motorcycle-riding, leather-jacket-wearing rebels in the high school parking lot, The Misfits were the guys dressed in black, goth gear and smoking behind the bleachers. After the multiple restructurings of the Misfits lineup, guitarist Paul Caiafa (best known as Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein) took his time to move back into music. After some appearances with former Misfits singer Glenn Danzig on tour with his band, Doyle finally broke his silence and moved into full-fledged solo work. Abominator is the first record from Doyle’s self-titled band and it’s one of the most surprisingly strong solo debuts you’ll see this year.
Doyle is Caiafa’s outlet to let his inner metalhead loose. While there are moments of punk pacing and rapid-fire rhythms, Doyle is no punk band. The rambunctious punk fundamentals of Doyle’s former band are set aside in favor of some blisteringly heavy riffs more in-tune with the heavy metal world. The title track is a furious opener, with vocalist Alex Story screaming his lungs out seconds into the album. Doyle himself is able to add squealing guitar solos into nearly every track on the album, another stark contrast to the hardcore-influenced work of early Misfits recordings. With the ability to focus on metal melody and virtuosity instead of simply punk endurance, Doyle’s skill as a guitarist is clearer than ever. Even more so is his talent in songwriting; he’s in the spotlight now, so passing off the same power chords and punky tones just doesn’t cut it anymore. Fortunately, it pays off on Abominator. Doyle just shines here.
But while Abominator is still a very heavy album, it doesn’t go too far in that intensity. Story’s vocals are near-guttural, but there’s just a smidgen of melody, one that keeps him in the realm of Pantera instead of Sepultura. That walking of the line between extreme metal and melodic heavy metal allows Doyle to pick the best parts of both without suffering too much from either side’s weaknesses. The catchy “Cemeterysexx” may be as romantic as getting your girlfriend a torn-up Jhonen Vasquez comic compilation for your anniversary, but for a song about getting dirty in a graveyard, it’s tone is surprisingly radio-friendly. “Dreamingdeadgirls” is a bizarre left turn, with a surprisingly lighter chorus, one that’s juxtaposed with some gritty verses about necrophiliac relations with murdered women. As you might expect, it’s a fiendish record.
The grindy, gritty metal sounds, above all odds, don’t outstay their welcome. “Valley of Shadows” has a solid pace, one that lets Doyle experiment with his guitar rhythms while still making the song purely metal. “Land of the Dead” has a tight chorus reminiscent of older Metallica recordings mixed with a low “crush” growl that wouldn’t be out of place in a band like Slayer. Doyle performs a very smart act in adding a plentiful amount of variety in Abominator. Behind a doom metal verse in “Love Like Murder” instantly moving to a thrash metal chorus in the same song, Doyle clearly didn’t feel comfortable in sticking to one subgenre of metal music. That decision makes Abominator a much more appealing record altogether.
If Abominator has a mark against it, it would be in the lyrics, which feel juvenile. While The Misfits were the pioneers of integrating horror themes and creepy imagery into their punk songs, the topics of necrophilia and occult practices don’t seem to hold weight here. They don’t sound dark enough to be taken seriously (even by Hot Topic regulars), nor do they sound ironic enough to joke around with; they exist in this half-parody, half-conviction limbo. It’s never clear why the lyrics are what they are, so it damages Doyle’s aesthetic, adding in an indecisive mystery that distracts more than intrigues.
It’s very comforting seeing how Doyle is able to step outside of the shadow of his most iconic project and finally put his talent in songwriting and axe-rocking into legitimate effect. Abominator is a shockingly tight album with some great musicianship from Doyle, with his fellow bandmates keeping up with him every step of the way. Even better is his yearning for difference, his ability to keep the intensity on high and the variety constant. It’s not easy moving into solo work from one of the most prolific backgrounds in punk and goth rock history, but Doyle proves that it can be done. Abominator is a beast of an album with a little something for any variety of headbanger. It’s one of the best surprises of 2013.
**Editors Note: Hopefully you are all well aware that Doyle is on tour with Danzig and he is even doing a Misfits set with Glenn. When he stops in Pittsburgh on 10/21, Doyle promised to chat with us for a bit, so stay tuned for an exclusive interview from Stage AE!!!