(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Misery Index, which will be released on March 8th by Season of Mist.)
Where exactly does one start with a band like Misery Index?
From their humble (well, relatively humble) Death-Grind beginnings, the band have grown into a veritable Death Metal institution, one with five (soon to be six) full-length albums and innumerable EPs and split releases to their name, not to mention a not-insignificant amount of critical and cultural influence under their belt, all of which makes it difficult to find something new to say about the ongoing work of Messrs. Netherton, Jarvis, Kloeppel, and Morris.
But while it may be difficult to find a new angle from which to approach the band’s music these days, that doesn’t mean that the band themselves have run out of things to say, and their newest album continues their long-established tradition of raising their fists and kicking against the pricks as loudly, and as angrily, as possible.
Building upon the more purely Death Metal sound that they adopted on 2014’s The Killing Gods (an album which still feels like a slightly disparate collection of tracks which never quite coalesced into a totally coherent whole), Rituals of Power is a much leaner and meaner affair than its predecessor, one that’s pretty much all killer, and zero filler.
In fact the one major complaint I have about it is that it might just be ever so slightly too short for its own good!
Clocking in at a taut thirty-six minutes (and change), each of the nine songs here (barring scene-setting intro track “Universal Untruths”, which is really more of a savage statement of intent), is equal parts massive, muscular riffage, gargantuan grooves, pulverising percussion, and aggressively anthemic hooks, yet each one also manages to stand on its own two feet and differentiate itself from its brothers in one way or another.
The band’s Punk and Grind roots are on full display during “Decline and Fall”, with Kloeppel and Morris riffing up an absolute storm over a whirling dervish of blistering blastbeats and flying fills, while “The Choir Invisible” leans in a surprisingly thrashy (though still obnoxiously heavy) direction that clearly references the band’s love of early Metallica and Exodus without abandoning an ounce of their deathly heft.
“New Salem” is the sort of back-breaking, neck-wrecking Death Metal anthem that’s capable of going toe-to-toe with songs like “Traitors”, “The Carrion Call”, and “Conjuring the Cull” as one of the defining tracks of the band’s modern era, as is the ridiculously heavy, and oppressively dark, title-track which – along with the choppy “Hammering the Nails” – also helps showcase the quartet’s increasingly elegant, and malevolent, use of melody to expand their reach and repertoire.
There’s a similar elegance in the relative simplicity of “They Always Come Back”, which is built around a crushing core of chunky, chug-friendly riffs and growling hooks, after which the apoplectic fury of “I Disavow” puts Kloeppel and Netherton’s venomous vocals and lashings of lyrical vitriol front and centre amidst a barely-controlled explosion of bone-grinding guitars and panic-inducing percussion.
Concluding with the short-but-spiteful audio assault of “Naysayer”, a song which, when looked at from the right angle, could easily have been transplanted straight from the band’s early years without losing a single ounce of intensity or ire, Rituals of Power is the sort of musical powerhouse that requires… in fact practically demands… to be listened to on repeat until both your body and your mind have been bludgeoned into submission.
And while I still contend that perhaps one more track would have tied the whole thing together perfectly (might I suggest the 2018 remaster of “Siberian”?), the universal truth is that this is easily the band’s best work since Traitors, and should, if there’s any justice in the world (something which is becoming increasingly doubtful), firmly establish them as one of the biggest, boldest, and most brutally bombastic bands in all of Death Metal.