(TheMadIsraeli reviews the just-released new album by Misery Signals.)
Misery Signals are an often underrated and even oft-forgotten tidal wave of force within the metalcore realm. These guys practically (in my estimation) put technical/progressive metalcore on the map as a “thing” and really set a standard with their debut, close to the genre’s stagnation point — the standard being that you had to do what Misery Signals did, or no one was going to give two fucks about your two-step teeny-bopper crooning. As evidence of this, so many of the metalcore bands who have survived have been ones who took pages from the Misery Signals playbook. I would even say that many bands in the so-called “tech metal” UK scene (rightfully criticized by my co-writer Andy Synn) owe as much to this band — except Misery Signals left out the bullshit choruses that pine for commercial adoration and they have a much more refined sense of technicality, both in performance skill and as songwriters.
I say all this because despite how significant this band is, they are criminally dismissed all too often. Absent Light is the band’s latest opus, completely funded from an unexpectedly insanely successful Indiegogo campaign, and it shows the band at their most mature, most morose, most technical, and most intense, all at once. And that’s the thing about Misery Signals, as opposed to other bands who’ve tried to copy them: They have intensity, a passion that floods every part of their music. The technicality and chaos aren’t there for the sake of it; they convey the sincerity that these guys have always had behind their material.
Absent Light is really fucking heavy. Even when the band are engaging in some of the lighter maturations of their sound (the album makes constant references to prog and post-rock) and aren’t beating you to a pulp, they are only ever building up to it. Their constant use of thrashy rhythms, jazzy, proggy, rich chord progressions and a taste for melody that resides in a weird limbo between introspective and dissonant/depressive drag results in an album that is quite varied, not just song to song but section to section within every song.
A welcome addition to their sound on this record is a new-found love for strings — mainly violins and cellos — which really steps up the emotive quality of their music through the particular way in which they use them. Things are otherwise of the Misery Signals modus operandi since Controller, with the writing of compelling metalcore of extensive technical depth and progressive breadth that nonetheless maintains the energy and passion the style is known for when it’s at its best. The transitions, tempo changes, syncopations, and technical chops are present in spades, and the music is consistently compelling.
The intro track “A Glimmer of Hope” really sets the mood with an emotive droning of clean and distorted guitars as Karl Schubach strips paint with his patented and oft-copied roars. The haunting last words, when Karl screams “We all give up eventually”, immediately transition into “Luminary”, a song that draws blood and leaves bruises with its hulking, sharp stabs of dissonant riffing combined with dark melodic ventures. Other interesting moments like the trip-hop outro of “Two Solitudes” provide effective variety amidst what is generally speaking a pretty “pure” sound. Just enough little surprises, but enough hard-line consistency to keep things riveting.
The mix of the record is pretty stellar and does just about everything right to highlight the best of the Misery Signals sound. The guitar tone is biting and snarling, yet it retains a pristine clarity, enabling the listener to hear every detail of the thick layers of guitar and the complex chords this band often employs. The drums have a sharp, organic tint, and the bass tone on this record is very rounded-out, providing the mix with much needed oomph in what is otherwise a pretty mid-rangey album.
Absent Light is truly a highlight of a hard-working band’s career, and quite possibly the pinnacle of that career. In a lot of ways, it encapsulates not only all of their evolution, but also the entirety of their roots. The result is a compelling, satisfying album that begs for repeat listens.
Absent Light will be available on iTunes in the US on July 30, but can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp right now.