Review Summary: We all give up eventually but for Misery Signals that day is not today
The announcement of Misery Signals’ hiatus back in ’09 sounded eerily similar to a death knell: the band hadn’t given any indication of new music and touring had all but ceased, essentially the trappings of a metalcore band unofficially declaring its demise. Once marketing began to shift towards the band’s prospective “side projects”, and the subsequent announcement declaring the permanent departure of founding members Stu Ross and Kyle Johnson back in ‘10, it was all but confirmed. To be honest, it made a fair amount of sense; the group had released three remarkable, well received, and equally differentiated albums over the course of half a decade, not to mention a now-recognized landmark career in the short lived 7 Angels 7 Plagues beforehand, the members of Misery Signals had musically accomplished more in their lifetimes then very few of their contemporaries. Any realistic hope for a new album didn’t fully materialize until an IndieGoGo page was set up for the funding of a new Misery Signals project (which promptly sold out in record time), leaving many to wonder (this reviewer included) if the extended leave of absence would ultimately affect the finished product after the initial hype was all said and done.
continues upon the trend of starting where the previous Misery Signals album left off. From the technical chaos featured in the debut album Of Malice And The Magnum Heart
, the breakneck speed of sophomore album Mirrors
, and finally to the systematic, near methodical qualities of Controller
, Absent Light
starts off with the lightest track of Misery Signals discography in the two minute intro/song in “A Glimmer of Hope”. Clean guitar play behind an almost phaser-like pedal delay leads to Karl Schubach prominently declaring “I’m not ready to say goodbye…” before leading off in an anthem complete with keys, strings, and background vocals. It really isn’t until the second track, and the first single released off the album, “Luminary”, that it becomes apparent to even the most skeptical of fans that Misery Signals is indeed alive and still perfectly capable of kicking your as
Stylistically, Absent Light
is Misery Signals most rounded material to date in terms of the sonic punishment dished out on each track, while at the same time leaning more heavily on the tried-and-true breakdown than anything else in their previous discography. Keys and, at times, full orchestral arrangements are littered throughout the track list and while Misery Signals have used them sparingly in several moments in their career (“A Victim, A Target”, “Coma”, etc.), Absent Light
brings them unabashedly to the forefront, whether it’s through taking center stage to monstrous breakdowns (“Ursa Minor”, “Luminary”), epic build-ups behind multi-layered strings (“Reborn (An Execution)”), or soft ballads to close out songs (“Shadows & Depth”) Misery Signals wholeheartedly adopts an almost Bleeding Through-esque sound that, when used correctly (as done on Absent Light
), brings a whole new dimension to a band that still, after all this time, finds ways to reinvent their sound.
Karl Schubach continues to possess his trademark reptar-roar that commands a near undivided attention as he booms out pseudo-philosophical rants, stories about fathers, karma, and tales about how “you were the only (fill in the blank)…”. Misery Signals, as a group, have always required perfect cohesion between vocalist and instrumentalists (part of the reason why the transition between Of Malice
… and Mirrors
was such a success), and it’s a solid plus to see that time has neither faltered nor aged Schubach’s monstrous delivery, seemingly allowing the rest of the group to pick up where they left off musically after Controller
. The Morgan brother’s natural chemistry and familiarity with each other radiates off each track, which makes the learning curve for new guitarist Gregory Thomas that more easier for him to succeed. The level of involvement that recently added founding member Kyle Johnson had to the making of the album isn’t fully apparent but his licks on “Ursa Minor” reminds the listener just how integral of a part he was and still continues to be for the band. Ultimately, the standout member on Absent Light
is undoubtedly drummer Branden Morgan, who might have just put in the performance of his career with the amount of technicality, precision, and exactitude that went into the parts he contributed to the album. Whether it’s through nigh-improvisational pieces behind only a string arrangements (“Reborn (An Execution)”), furiously leading the charge with speed and rigor (“Lost Relics”), or switching tempos faster than a roll of a dice (“Departure”), the second half of the Morgan brothers constantly steals the limelight in an already impressive show of musicianship that combines to make Absent Light
such a proficient album.
In the end Absent Light
would have been a success had it been released even a year or two after Controller
. Time has done little to erode the talent that Misery Signals had and still continue to possess. A healthy combination of experimentation, relying on what has brought them success in the past, and the natural chemistry between a solid core that have more or less been a single cohesive unit for longer than a decade makes the album constantly shine in even the most redundant and otherwise fragmented parts. What little problems that do exist on Absent Light
is made up for in an abundance of jarringly angular riffs, off-kilter tempo changes, and punishing breakdowns… sounds like the Misery Signals of old, yeah? Back from the dead? Maybe, just don’t call it a comeback. Whether this results in a new chapter for the band or becomes simply a swan song, let us appreciate Absent Light
for what it is: a resounding success.