(Andy Synn shares his thoughts on the new Misery Index album, scheduled for release next Friday)
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That’s how the hoary old cliché goes, right?
It just so happens, though, that it’s very much true in this particular case, as there’s no mistaking a Misery Index album when you hear it, whether you’re listening to their more overtly Grind-influenced early work, or their more recent, Death Metal focussed records, or anything in between.
That being said, it definitely feels – in hindsight – that the band’s post-Traitors transition into being a “pure” Death Metal act reached its apex (or nadir, depending on how you feel about it) on 2014’s The Killing Gods, with 2019’s Rituals of Power suggesting a slight return towards their thrashier, punkier roots in places.
That’s why it shouldn’t be too surprising, if you’ve been paying attention, to learn that on Complete Control the Baltimore bruisers have decided to let their inner Hardcore band out to play… and I couldn’t be happier about it.
As I’m sure we’re all aware, the last several years have been pretty big for both Death Metal influenced Hardcore bands and Hardcore influenced Death Metal bands (a distinction without a difference in a lot of cases, let’s be honest), so there’s really no better time for Misery Index to step up like this and show some of these young whippersnappers how it’s done.
That’s not to say that they’ve just totally abandoned their established sound by any means – the band’s larger-than-life approach to Death Metal is epitomised by the grandiose grooves of “Rites of Cruelty”, for example, while both “Necessary Suffering” and “Now Defied” provide a showcase for the group’s down ‘n’ dirty Grindcore side – but there’s no denying that Complete Control is the band’s leanest, meanest album in years (as well as their shortest since Discordia).
Of course, the band have always had a distinct Punk/Hardcore side to them (don’t forget that they’ve previously covered songs by Disrupt, Snapcase, and Minor Threat, amongst others) but it’s been a while since that particular aspect of their sound has been given such prominence, whether that’s in the form of the chunky riffs and chugging rhythms of “The Eaters and the Eaten” and “Conspiracy of None”, or the stripped-down, straight-for-the-throat attack of killer cuts like the rabid, sinewy “Infiltrators” or the instantly infectious (and unexpectedly melodic) title-track.
Despite this slight shift in delivery, however, Complete Control remains a Misery Index album through and through, and a damn good one at that – Adam Jarvis is still an inhuman monster behind the kit, Darin Morris remains a highly underrated lead guitarist, and the dual-vocals of Jason Netherton and Mark Kloeppel continue to deliver all the raging disgust and dissatisfaction that you could possibly ask for, especially during the the Death/Grind/Hardcore hybrid that is outstanding opener “Administer the Dagger”, whose Mark Twain quoting opening lines immediately set the lyrical tone for the album.
Sure, there’s no instant “anthem” on the level of “Traitors” or “New Salem” (though I am willing to bet that any number of these tracks are going to cause absolute chaos live), and there’s one particular song which I feel outstays its welcome ever so slightly (you’ll know it when you hear it), but the almost complete absence of even an ounce of fat or flab means that this is one album that hits hard, every single time, and simply does not miss.