The Misfits came onto the punk scene in the late 1970’s. Founded by Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only, The Misfits embraced the do-it-yourself motto of the punk scene and would record and self-publish numerous EPs during the band’s existence. Following the band’s break-up in the early 80’s, Glenn Danzig would go on to front a new band, Samhain, which would eventually garner a major label record deal and become Danzig. Despite that though, The Misfits refused to die. Danzig would release a few posthumous albums, notably the compilations Legacy of Brutality and Misfits (later referred to as Collection 1). Come the early 90’s and most Misfits albums had been given a CD release via Caroline Records and Danzig’s Plan 9 label. Suddenly, The Misfits were more popular than ever before with the iconic Crimson Ghost becoming a mainstay in concert crowds. A lot of this new-found popularity came in part thanks to Metallica and its cover of classics Misfits tunes “Green Hell” and “Last Caress.” There was new demand for Misfits material, and after being excluded from the more recent releases, Jerry Only and his brother Doyle wanted to get in on the action. There was lots of legal wrangling between the two camps and it all eventually lead to an agreement where both parties would share merchandising rights and Only could resurrect a new version of The Misfits. This also lead to the creation of The Misfits Box Set in 1996, a release meant to compile all of the Misfits recordings lost to time in one box.
It wasn’t until recently that I finally purchased The Misfits Box Set. When the set was released in ’96, I was just getting into The Misfits. As a kid, I didn’t have the capital to fork over for a box set and was forced to grow my Misfits collection in pieces. By the time I was in high school and had a part-time job I already owned all of the albums contained within the box set in their stand-alone version and it no longer made sense for me to purchase the box set. Plus by then the set had been reissued with the newer pressings being decidedly less extravagant than the original. Being the collector that I am today, I finally saw fit to hunt down a first edition box set. I waited a long time for the right set to make itself available, and it finally did. I now own what is arguably the most important Misfits release from the 1990’s and I’m pretty happy with the decision.
The Misfits Box Set was definitely a lot cooler when it came out than it is today due to the original scarcity of the material. Thanks to the internet, Misfits vinyl is a lot easier to come by than it was 20 years ago (though that doesn’t make it cheap) and Caroline has since issued a stand alone version of Static Age that’s superior to what is contained here. When it came out though it was something special. Spread across four discs are Collections 1 and 2 (the latter being brand new at the time), Legacy of Brutality, Evilive, Earth AD/Wolfsblood, Static Age, and the Sessions disc. The only album missing is Walk Among Us, which Caroline did not have the distribution rights for. The gems of this release were certainly the last two discs, Static Age and Sessions.
Static Age was the first album recored by The Misfits. It’s story is rather interesting as Glenn secured studio time for it when a major label tried to start an offshoot label called Blank Records. Unbeknownst to them, Glenn had already started a label under that name and had secured the trademark. Rather than sell it, he gave it up in exchange for the studio time to make Static Age. After the album’s completion, the band was unable to secure a distribution deal for it. They basically would chop the album up and spread the recordings across a few self-published releases, notably Bullet and Beware. A lot of the songs that were never released would eventually make it onto Legacy of Brutality but with the guitar and bass tracks overdubbed by Danzig (so he didn’t have to pay anyone royalties). Static Age is still my favorite Misfits recording as it’s the band’s most diverse. There are elements of rock, punk, jazz and metal on the release and some of my favorite songs are on it such as “Hybrid Moments” and “Last Caress.” Caroline would release the album as a stand-alone in 1997 with three additional tracks: “She,” “Spinal Remains,” and “In the Doorway.” These tracks were unfinished at the time though “She” was released on Collection 1 and “Spinal Remains” on Legacy of Brutality. All three tracks are awesome, and I particularly enjoy “In the Doorway” which is sort of the forgotten Misfits tune. I don’t know why Caroline did not include them for the box set, but it’s a shame that the Static Age released here is basically incomplete.
The Sessions disc was the other main attraction of the box set and remains so today. A lot of the tracks on this release are from the various seven inch recordings that never made it to disc. It starts off with the two tracks from the first ever Misfits release, Cough/Cool, and presents a very different sound as the band did not feature a guitarist originally. Helping to soften the blow of the missing Walk Among Us tracks are the original Walk Among Us recordings. The band had basically recorded the album before securing a record deal. When they were able to land one with Slash Records the label had the band re-record the entire album. The originals are preserved here, some of which I consider superior to the final album version. I particularly enjoy the slowed down versions of “Violent World” and “I Turned Into a Martian.” The Sessions disc does get repetitive as several songs are featured more than once, but I’d rather the set contain too much as opposed to too little.
The packaging for the box set has changed over the years and the first edition remains the best. The set comes housed in a coffin-shaped box with faux wood grain printed on it. Inside the box is lined with a soft red insert. The discs are stacked in individual cases and a fiend pin is included at the base of the box. A booklet with new artwork is also included. The booklet contains a fairly lengthy biography on the band written by former Misfits photographer and Samhain/Danzig bassist Eerie Von. The booklet contains lot of old pictures of the band and various show flyers while also attempting to be a source for Misfits lyrics and a discography. After the release of the box set, it would be revealed that Glenn Danzig had no involvement with it and the lyrics are just the best guesses of some fans and former members (Danzig would, years later, release his own lyric book with select Misfits tracks) which makes a lot of the material inaccurate.
The discs themselves are rather cool as Caroline spent the few extra bucks to make them special. Since Misfits releases are so short in length, the albums could be consolidated to four discs. Each of the first three discs comes in a hard, glossy, black plastic case with raised lettering. Somewhat understated, but also elegant in its simplicity. Static Age received special treatment as it came in an irregularly sized, hinge-less, case. Opening it on the first try is a bit of a puzzle as its seams are hidden quite well. It slides apart, and inside is a small booklet and the actual disc. The outer case is all black with a large raised visage of the Crimson Ghost on the front and the track list on the back. It’s a unique design and not one I’ve seen repeated elsewhere. Repressings of the box set would be done on the cheap with these special cases replaced with two standard jewel cases, each housing two discs, making the first edition the more special of the two. Content wise, all versions contain the same amount of tracks though the pin was supposed to be excluded from future editions (some fans have reported getting a pin in the reissues meaning Caroline probably kept including them while they still had stock available).
The legacy of The Misfits is undeniable at this point. Even today, rumors persist of the band reforming for a live performance or new album. The box set was an unquestionably cool release at the time that is less special today thanks to The Misfits being more accessible than ever before. It’s pretty awesome that a band that broke up before I was even born could suddenly be more popular in the 90’s than it was at any time previous, which lead to a new version of The Misfits being born. I was never into Jerry Only’s version of The Misfits, but it is neat that it’s around for those who want it. I have had the pleasure, on more than one occasion, of seeing Danzig together with Doyle perform some of these tracks and it was an experience I’ll likely never forget. For the collector, this box set is pretty much essential and for new fans eager to spend some money it’s also a pretty nice gateway to The Misfits. There’s enough here that a casual fan would never have need to purchase another Misfits disc. Caroline did a good job of making the release (the first edition, anyways) feel special and it’s one of the better box sets I own.