Monday, May 9, 2022

"Abominate" the Empire State: DOYLE Destroys New York

Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein live at The Chance, 4/9/2022

Author’s Note: The following is a companion piece to this feature from 2015.

In April 1977, a trio of musicians from New Jersey calling themselves The Misfits hit the stage at CBGB in New York City to perform in front of a live audience for the first time. In the nearly seven years that followed, the band (a.k.a. singer Glenn Danzig, bassist Jerry Only and various drummers and guitarists along the way) carved out a notorious niche for themselves in the American underground music scene thanks to its unique blend of horror-inspired imagery and insanely catchy songwriting.

Unfortunately, The Misfits infamously imploded in October 1983 – a good half-decade before the group’s cult following grew by leaps and bounds thanks to archival releases, album reissues and a big shot in the arm via two covers recorded by some band named Metallica. Only and his brother Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein (who joined The Misfits on guitar in 1980 at the tender age of 16) would finally take advantage of this posthumous attention by forming their own version of the band in 1995 with new members Michale Graves (vocals) and Dr. Chud (drums). On October 30th of that year – one day past the 12th anniversary of the band’s final show with Danzig at the mic – The Misfits appeared on stage at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY as special surprise guests of the evening’s headliner, Type O Negative. This event marked the official return of the band and Doyle’s first-ever appearance on the Chance stage.

A lot has happened since then. The first post-Danzig Misfits lineup lasted five years before grinding to a halt in 2000. Doyle, who split with The Misfits in 2001 shortly after Only took over lead vocal duties, resurfaced a few years later as a frequent special guest performer on Danzig tours and as the leader of the short-lived band Gorgeous Frankenstein. Since 2013, he has led a second group, Doyle, with singer Alex Story (Cancerslug) and a revolving-door rhythm section that at one time featured his old Misfits bandmate Chud. When not hitting clubs around the world with his own band these days, Doyle has spent the last six years playing for substantially larger crowds whenever “The Original Misfits” (a snazzy but inaccurate moniker given to what is essentially the band’s legendary 1980-1982 lineup – the band’s fifth official incarnation* – minus drummer Arthur Googy and with ex Slayer/current Testament timekeeper Dave Lombardo and former Murderdolls guitarist Acey Slade in tow) decides to announce a show and immediately sell out an arena. With only one “Original Misfits” show scheduled for 2022 as of this writing – and after being cooped up for the better part of two years due to the pandemic – Doyle recently brought his band back to the road for the US leg of his awesomely titled “Abominate the World as We Die World Tour.” On April 9 – mere days ahead of the 40th anniversary of that very first Misfits show at CBGB – his latest trek touched down where the second chapter of The Misfits’ storied career began.

Alex Story, Wade Murff and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein of DOYLE

As anyone who’s heard Doyle and Jerry’s late-’80s band Kryst the Conqueror knows, the guitarist’s preferred playing style moved away from straight-up Punk decades ago. (As the man himself told me in 2017, “I’m more into Metal; that’s the direction I’m going with ‘Doyle.’) Not surprisingly, Doyle’s music falls somewhere between Cowboys from Hell-era Pantera and the heaviest songs off The Misfits’ Famous Monsters. The menacing “Witchcraft” and the ’50s-flavored “DreamingDeadGirls” – two songs that could have found comfortable spots in Graves-era Misfits – were shining moments of the Chance performance that exemplified this sonic direction.

Physically speaking, Doyle is Doyle – a towering physical presence who still pounds his fucking guitar like a jackhammer. (Some of you will get that reference, surely.) As a musician…well…Doyle is Doyle in that department, too. The guy’s never been Yngwie Malmsteen, but he always delivers enough muscle and musical force to enthrall a crowd.

Full marks also go to the stellar rhythm section of bassist Brandon “Izzy” Strate and drummer Wade Murff for keeping the train on the tracks as Doyle and Story stomped and slammed their way around the stage.

Brandon "Izzy" Strate and Alex Story of DOYLE

Although Doyle the band didn’t perform a single note of Misfits material during its headlining set, I couldn’t help but be transported back in time to the last time I saw Doyle the man play that stage. I was fortunate enough to ride up with The Misfits to The Chance on October 30, 1995. To see Doyle up there in 2022 – from the exact spot on the floor I stood to watch him play in 1995 – was worth this most recent trip alone. And when I looked at Doyle on that stage last month, I didn’t just see him – I also saw Peter Steele (RIP), Graves and Jerry up there nearly 30 years ago as my mind filled with memories of a special night I was lucky enough to experience when I was barely 18 years old. To make the evening even more surreal, I spotted a guy in the audience wearing a Misfits “Jurek Skull” shirt – a design that is significantly tied to the band members and the people who accompanied them to the ’95 show – and later walked out of the club to find a large van parked outside in the exact spot where The Misfits had parked theirs that night. Yes, this is all very nerdy even by typical Misfits “fiend” standards, but it was still nice to have such strong reminders of great memories from my past.

It’s incredibly rare for someone to remain relevant in the music industry 42 years after their first gig, but Doyle is still out there punching his guitar and swinging his devilock a few months shy of his 58th birthday. Sure, playing in a band as iconic as The Misfits surely helped Doyle open the door to a solo career, but it’s up to him to come up with the goods to stay in the room. Based on his band’s latest performance at The Chance, the monstrous motherfucker is gonna stick around for as long as he damn well pleases.

*This figure is based on official Misfits recording lineups and does not include any temporary lineups that existed between 1977 and 1983.

More on Doyle:


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Revenge of the Vegan Monster: DOYLE Returns to the Road

Doyle and Alex Story of DOYLE

How many guys do you know are three years shy of 60, in better physical shape now than they were in their thirties and have the balls to go on tour during a pandemic?

Welcome to the world of Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein – legendary Misfits guitar beater, devout vegan and one of the most no-bullshit guys in music. While some acts are still reluctant to return to the road, Doyle and his eponymous solo band are currently blazing through the east coast of America and have upcoming dates planned in Spain and London. In addition to keeping his entrepreneurial ball in the air via his own lines of hot sauce and protein powder, Doyle will soon jump in the music equipment game with the official launch of his new company, Von Frankenstein Monster Gear. That’s a helluva lot of plates to spin, but such a hefty work ethic is nothing new for a blue-collar guy from Jersey who was already recording and gigging with The Misfits by the time he was 16.

Anyone who ventures into a Doyle show in 2022 will witness someone who has kept healthy – and stayed built like a brick shithouse – in the age of COVID-19. A vegan for years, he passed his lockdown-imposed time off the road by maintaining his daily workout routine and strict no-animal diet.

“I haven’t been sick since – fuck, man – 2017.”

Although Doyle is always ready to pummel audiences from the stage, fans shouldn’t expect to chat with him after the gig this time around. Meet-and-greets – a long-running staple of Doyle tours despite the guitarist’s outspoken discomfort with the practice – are now off the table in favor of social distancing.

“I like it better, honestly. I do them after the show, and now I don’t have to. That’s so great!”

When not hitting the stage or his weights, Doyle (joined in his band by singer Alex Story, bassist Brandon “Izzy” Strate and drummer Wade Murff) is prepping his first music since 2017’s Doyle II: As We Die. Twenty-five new songs are currently in the works, but the listening public will have to put up or shut up if they want to hear them.

“I think we’re going to do a Patreon and just put out singles,” he reveals. “We’ll do an album after we put out like maybe 10 [songs], and put two more on and put it out, but you’re not going to get our stuff [unless] you buy it on Patreon. I’ve had enough of this streaming bullshit. We don’t make any money with streaming – like, nothing.”

At a time when fewer music sales means less gas in the tank to make the next gig, Doyle sees crowdsourcing platforms as the way to go.

“[Patreon] is a good idea because, number one, you’re gonna get paid for it. Number two, you can just keep touring while you’re putting the singles out because you have a new song out, you know? And if you don’t join the Patreon, you don’t fucking hear it. So, there you go.”

When Doyle rolls into Poughkeepsie, NY this Saturday to play at The Chance on a bill pairing him with the fantastic Wednesday 13, it will be his latest performance at a venue that has a more significant place in Misfits lore than some may realize. On the night of October 30, 1995, Doyle joined his brother, bassist Jerry Only, there for the first onstage appearance of The Misfits since 1983. The historic moment occurred during an encore of a Type O Negative show and also served as the official introduction of then-new Misfits singer Michale Graves. The surprise performance was incredible (as were the backstage antics that followed – read my recollections here) and kickstarted the second phase of Doyle’s career. Nearly 27 years later, the man’s coming back to the joint to show the rest of us how it’s done.

Forty years after the release of The Misfits’ Walk Among Us, Doyle is still charging ahead with enough musical and physical muscle to stay at the top of his game. Few people can say they’ve survived the music industry for 42 years and have gone from playing Punk dives to headlining Madison Square Garden. In Doyle’s mind, success comes down to never giving up on what he was meant to do.

“It’s just a drive; you never feel like you’ve made it yet. You keep going and going and going. It’s fun.”

More on Doyle:


Sunday, April 3, 2022

REVIEW - Killing Joke: Lord of Chaos

Surely, I'm not the only one who's noticed that the growing sense of dread currently felt in certain parts of the world coincides with the release of new Killing Joke music.

Although Killing Joke has been far from prolific in the 30-plus years since its first comeback via 1990’s Extremities, Dirt And Various Repressed Emotions, the band always seems to reappear just as the world takes another bleak turn towards oblivion. Extremities landed mere months into the Gulf War, while 2003’s eponymous album – released after a seven-year hiatus for the group – arrived during the early months of the Iraq War.

Killing Joke is always a cathartic and life-affirming experience. This writer will never forget seeing the band live in Boston less than a week after the Marathon bombings. “We want to be part of your healing!” announced singer Jaz Coleman from the stage during the most blistering Killing Joke set I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty confident that everyone in the club felt the band’s notorious “white heat” that evening. In a city still suffering the aftermath of unfathomable loss, Killing Joke was there – right on time as always – to be a beacon of light amidst the madness.

Now, at a time when people are struggling to exist amidst everything from economic decline to an invisible mass killer, the band’s original quartet – Coleman, guitarist Geordie Walker, bassist Martin “Youth” Glover and drummer Big Paul Ferguson – gift us with its first new music in seven years.

When Killing Joke last appeared on record with 2015’s absolutely molten Pylon, the decades-old band effortlessly shattered any notion that time had diminished its notorious fire. Now, 43 years after the outfit's debut EP, that same unmistakable Killing Joke rage is felt on Lord Of Chaos, a four-song release featuring two new studio tracks and two remixes of past material (and once again packaged in evocative artwork courtesy of longtime collaborator Mike Coles).

At his angriest and most incendiary, Coleman can be a venomous monster at the mic – an unhinged, face-painted opera phantom spewing proclamations of doom with a throaty growl. While he delivers plenty of pre-apocalyptic bile this time around, his greatest moments on the EP come when he showcases the softer feel he first mastered on 1985’s Night Time and 1986’s Brighter Than A Thousand Suns. Musically speaking, the title track finds Killing Joke continuing the overall sonic direction of Pylon – certainly one of the heaviest albums in the band’s discography in spots – while embracing touches of the band’s more melodic moments. (Think Night Time’s “Darkness Before Dawn” meets “Corporate Elect” off 2012’s MMXII.)

This duality is also felt on the EP’s strongest moment, “Total.” Everyone (particularly Geordie, forever Killing Joke not-so-secret weapon) is firing on all cylinders, resulting in the finest four and a half minutes Killing Joke has put on disc since the original lineup reformed in 2008.

The word “remix” often indicates a groan-inducing mixed bag for me. In my long (and, to be honest, often reluctant) experience with the medium, results have ranged from awe-inspiring when the task of reimagining another artist’s song is placed in the right hands (the work of Justin Broadrick and Jim Thirlwell immediately comes to mind) to dead-weight filler when clearly dumped on a release to drag out its runtime. (Let’s think back to most remix EPs released by major Alt-Industrial acts in the ’90s, slap ourselves awake and swiftly move on, shall we?) The dancey “Motorcade Mix” of the Pylon track “Big Buzz” won’t set the world on fire but is fine enough (mainly because the original track’s melody is go damn great), while Youth wraps up the Lord Of Chaos EP with a seven minute-plus Dub interpretation of the Pylon number “Delete.” Look, Youth is Youth – a lovely chap and a master at what he does – and this track is certainly Youth-y. That said, Dub mixes have never really been my bag despite my deep respect for the man’s many talents in this and many other departments. (I probably just need to take in the tune over a good spliff!)

Al Jourgensen of Ministry once joked that his band always makes its best music whenever a Republican is the leader of the free world. Killing Joke always generates its most striking sounds of exorcism and healing whenever mankind descends into darkness. Considering that conflict and struggle are forever intertwined with the human experience, don’t expect these lads to stop showing us a way forward any time soon.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

"Our Future Was in the Past:" Does the Andy Gill-Less Gang of Four Measure Up?

Gang of Four, 2022. (Photo by Jason Grow)

Nostalgia, it's no good.

Our future was in the past.”

- Gang of Four, “It Is Not Enough” (1982)

With the bands that comprised the original Punk/Post-Punk era now firmly entrenched in middle age (or beyond), those acts still pushing to make a go of it in the present tense often trade on – and succumb to – the public’s notion that “original” automatically means “authentic.” There are scores of bands out there attempting to add a few more years to their careers by blowing the dust off their back catalogs and hitting clubs and festivals without a single new note to be heard. Sure, such activities tug at nostalgic heartstrings and help keep the bills paid, but it’s more than a bit disheartening to witness once creative and forward-thinking entities rely so heavily on past glories to keep the train rolling.

Late Gang of Four guitarist/co-founder Andy Gill was keenly aware of this fact. When original singer Jon King jumped ship following 2011’s Content, Gill kept the band – already beleaguered by decades’ worth of breakups, reunions and personnel disruptions – going for several more years as its sole original member. While his output during this era wasn’t always perfect, his steely resolve to keep Gang of Four alive and churching out new sounds for nearly a decade past the group's reasonably expected expiration date was admirable. (It also yielded downright extraordinary results at times; check out “The Dying Rays” – one of Gill’s greatest songwriting victories – off 2015’s What Happens Next.)

Of course, the marketplace is rarely kind to a veteran act – especially one comprised almost entirely of unfamiliar faces – that is determined to make new music. When Gill’s incarnation of Gang of Four played Boston in 2016, they served as second fiddle on a “co-headlining” bill with The Faint – and didn’t even appear on the marquee outside the venue. The harsh reality that late-period Gang of Four never truly captured the public’s imagination was made even sadder when considering that the band absolutely fucking smoked that night. It was only upon Gill’s death in February 2020 that the masses truly embraced the fact that he had remained a thriving creative force right until the very end. Stripping away the original band's long-running internal squabbles (which, in truth, are nobody’s damn business except theirs anyway) and taking sonic integrity alone into account, there’s no question that Gill earned his place as the keeper of the Gang of Four ethos during the years he ran the show.

This brings us to 2022 and the band called Gang of Four that is currently on tour and played last Sunday at the Crystal Ballroom in Somerville, MA. King is back at the mic, and the drum stool is again occupied by original timekeeper Hugo Burnham. Veteran bassist Sara Lee, who played on 1982’s Songs Of The Free (my all-time favorite Gang of Four record, for what that’s worth) and 1983’s Hard, is back as well. David Pajo, best known for his time with late ’80s/early ’90s cult heroes Slint, is on guitar. That is quite an impressive assemblage of musicians, but does it measure up to the Gang of Four legacy?

Well, yes and no.

First of all, without Gill, nothing presented under the name “Gang of Four” would ever feel complete. But since the band has no choice in that matter, what any of us could ever hope for is something that preserves the man’s spirit and contributions. That’s exactly what the sold-out crowd in Somerville got from Pajo, who stepped into Gill’s formidable shoes and delivered the second-best option any Gang of Four fan could experience. An incredibly innovative player in his own right (check out his Bandcamp for a slew of treasures), Pajo brought honor and respectability to his role, perfectly reproducing Gill’s sonic presence while incorporating enough of his own stylings to add something fresh to the proceedings. (I’d like to think that Gill – never one to stay in one creative space for too long – would have viewed the injection of Pajo’s musical ingenuity into the Gang of Four sound with an approving nod.) Additional kudos to the guy for not aping Gill’s signature stage moves – a wince-inducing trait that is far too common among replacement performers. (I’m looking at you, Paul Rodgers.)

Here’s a sentence that I would never type lightly: David Pajo is the guitarist for Gang of Four.

Fucking stellar.

While fully acknowledging the logistical constraints the band surely faced in light of a pandemic and the general demands of prepping for a tour (including figuring out the merch; more on that later), I must say that the lack of any new material in the band’s set was a letdown. Sure, the band’s recent 77-81 box set has duly earned a Grammy nomination and everybody loves the old stuff, but this band deserves better than to exist as a mere nostalgia act – especially with a powerhouse like Pajo in tow. Gill would have undoubtedly given us something fresh to digest had he been able to bring Gang of Four to the stage in the here and now, and his unwavering devotion to such progress is sorely missed. Say what you will about the group’s songs post-King, but they at least existed.

This current band will never truly be Gang of Four until it has something new to offer.

That said, the Somerville gig was magnificent. Forty-five years after the band’s formation, Gang of Four delivered a performance that shook off the shackles of tragic loss and internal fractures and celebrated the true magic of its classic material. The sixtysomething King was in brilliant form, practically sweating out his full body weight while thrusting himself around the stage as the team of Burnham and Lee expertly anchored his menace. In addition to playing the requisite material off 1979’s Entertainment! and 1981’s Solid Gold, the band showcased a few tunes off Songs Of The Free (including a pristine rendition of “Call Me Up”), brought out “Capital (It Fails Us Now)” off 1982’s Another Day/Another Dollar during the encore and even gave a nod to their ‘90s discography via the inclusion of “I Parade Myself” off 1995’s underrated Shrinkwrapped. Best of all, the band members clearly enjoyed themselves. (Smiles? On stage at a Gang of Four show??!! Why the hell not???!!!)

The coolest highlight? The proud look on Burnham’s face as his daughter, Ts, sang backing vocals at various points throughout the set in a “Black Lives Matter”- emblazoned outfit.

I’ve written about Gang of Four more than any other band in my career; this music means the world to me. As an eternal member of Team Andy, I offer these words directly to the current band:

Thank you so very much for doing this tour. It’s so lovely to experience these songs again in a live setting when I thought that possibility had been lost forever. This music matters so much. You’ve made the absolute right choice with Pajo. Please keep this going and write some new shit! My best wishes to you all. And as always, my deepest fondness and respect for your fallen musical partner.

Bonus Fun Fact: A few months back, I suggested to Hugo that Gang of Four should sell band-branded condoms "for our top left pockets." (Some of you will get that reference, surely). Well, not only did they use my idea, but Hugo hooked me up before the gig. I told him the band needs to hire me full time for the next tour!


Monday, January 24, 2022

Boston Goes to Hell: An Evening with Cradle of Filth, 3Teeth and Once Human

Dani Filth of Cradle of Filth 

Note: The following review was originally written in October 2021 during Cradle of Filths "Lustmord and Tourgasm" Tour for another website. After some logistical/technical issues and delays, it appears here for the first time anywhere. 

When this writer entered the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on an early October night, two things quickly met my eyes: A seemingly endless line to a merch table selling black apparel and an aesthetically pristine Goth girl being led around by a leash held by her male companion. These were welcome sights for three reasons: 1. Goth ladies are lovely, especially on a Saturday night this time of year, 2. Brisk swag sales indicate a rebounding tour industry and 3. The incomparable Cradle of Filth has returned to America.

As COVID-19 continues its grip on Beantown and beyond, a live Cradle of Filth show in 2021 provides both escapism and an inspiring statement on the power of resilience. In regard to the latter, this ever-evolving crew of English extreme Metallers has been at it in one form or another for 30 years now. When I interviewed then-guitarist Paul Allender way back in 2000 shortly after the release of the band’s fourth album, Midian, the group had already reached legendary status for taking the typically abrasive sounds of Black Metal to more musically precise – and often heavily symphonic – levels. More than two decades later, leader Dani Filth and his revolving door of bandmates (including newest recruit Anabelle Iratni on keyboards and vocals) are underground scene survivors who still deliver the absolute best of the genre they revolutionized with 1994’s The Principle of Evil Made Flesh, 1996’s Dusk…and Her Embrace and other seminal releases.

Marek "Ashok" Smerda of Cradle of Filth

As for escapism…well, with a current tour setlist including song titles like “Desire in Violent Overture” and “The Twisted Nails of Faith,” it’s safe to say that attending a Cradle of Filth gig means taking a journey into a fantastical world that is utterly perfect for the Halloween season. Drawing from various high points in its lengthy career (and boasting the added attraction of playing its 1998 album Cruelty and the Beast from start to finish), the group delivered a pummeling performance that spotlighted undisputed classics (“Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids,” “From the Cradle to Enslave”) while introducing enthralling new tracks (“Crawling King Chaos,” the incredible “Necromantic Fantasies”) off its latest (and best-in-years) album, Existence Is Futile. The expert onstage musicianship reached near-Prog levels at various points (especially during an impressive interpretation of Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”), while each of the band’s six members provided a lesson on what it means to actually perform on stage. (Full marks to guitarist Marek “Ashok” Smerda for frequently acknowledging and engaging with audience members from his side of the stage throughout the show.) Whether growling from the pits of Hell or spewing spine-shivering shrieks, Dani’s voice – always an integral part of the Cradle of Filth experience – has not diminished one iota over the years. Unlike most decades-old acts, this band has only become more powerful with age.

Daniel Firth of Cradle of Filth 

Although the ghoulish makeup and macabre imagery may entice audiences through the door, it’s the extraordinary musicianship anchoring the madness that truly matters. Cradle of Filth’s greatest attribute has always been its exceptionally crafted compositions. The rest is just the black icing on the cake.

Alexis Mincolla of 3Teeth

Direct support came from Los Angeles-based Industrial act 3Teeth, whose strobe-heavy, potentially seizure-inducing set showcased captivating sounds strong enough to please both older scene veterans who remember when classic Wax Trax! releases were fresh in stores and newer-school fans who first embraced the genre via Rammstein. Looking like a cross between My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult’s Groovie Mann and Tool’s Maynard James Keenan (and sounding like it – with a touch of Rob Zombie thrown in), frontman and former Boston resident Alexis Mincolla engaged his hometown crowd through an onstage persona steeped in dark menace. (Mincolla’s antics paid off, as the crowd’s between-song chats of “TEETH! TEETH!” were often as loud as the band’s music.) How to sum up the band’s image and vibe? 3Teeth is the kind of ensemble you’d spot playing in an underground S&M club in a ’90s-era horror film. That said, the group achieves the rare feat of clearly charting its own creative course while still offering something familiar. Yes, this crew’s music and image give more than a passing nod to the past, but everything it offers an audience is undeniably 3Teeth. Fantastic stuff.

Lauren Hart and of Max Karon of Once Human 

Helmed by former Machine Head/Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader and fronted by stunning singer Lauren Hart, Once Human kickstarted the evening with an all-too-brief barrage of savage female-driven Metal. (Think Crisis or the heavier moments from latter day Arch Enemy.) Based on this writer’s repeated listens to an advance copy of their forthcoming third album, Scar Weaver (out February 11), this current tour could end up being the final time anyone will need to hit a venue super early to catch Once Human live. It is not hyperbole to say that Scar Weaver will be a Metal genre game-changer in 2022. I’m talking a Beneath The Remains-level third album breakthrough here. You read it here first, folks.

Lauren Hart of Once Human