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: