Review Summary: We are the torchbearersAbsent Light
doesn’t want to be understood. Well, not immediately, at least; it would prefer for you to allow it time, so that you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised when it finally ascends before your very eyes.
I know I was amazed. Two, three listens in and still, the album felt too
difficult, and I began to wonder: was I simply approaching this thing in the wrong way? I sensed that it was a difficult nut to crack, and the only reason I continued with it is because I really wanted
to get something out of the record. And I think that when we reveal our desires to albums like that, they open up accordingly-- if not, then Absent Light
sure made sense at the perfect moment. The album felt more genuine, substantial and evocative than I’d initially given it credit for, and this continued with each listen. Substantially, too-- to the point where I discovered excitements each time I spun the record, treasures that my patience handed me as a reward for my efforts.
One of the most impressive aspects of Absent Light
is that it tightly treads the line between depth and flashiness. There are the immediate crowd-rousers like “Luminary,” a track that gets across as many guitar riffs as it can while remaining fresh-- and these are the types of tracks Misery Signals fans have been wanting to hear for awhile. Why else would the group release “Luminary” as this record’s lead single if not to remind fans they were still alive and kicking? But the lasting moments of this record are the ones that hide on the first couple listens, the tracks that blend in with the rest. I didn’t pay attention to “Lost Relics” until a few plays through the record, yet it’s easily the most satisfying tune here. It’s because of the song’s cooperative nature, and this plays into another attribute of Absent Light
that I love-- how it feels like a collaborative effort between Misery Signals and its friends. “Lost Relics” works best when Todd Mackey of With Honor joins in on the fun, and assists Schubach to deliver some of the album’s most memorable lyrics.
“The weak and broken, the castaways out in the cold,
they will be left abandoned by those who claim to care;
Those who stand proudly on the wrong side of history,
mark my words-- your time will come”
The most legitimate argument against Misery Signals’ latest release Absent Light
is that it’s disjointed. And it’s totally true-- this record is filled to the brim with ideas, concepts that have been bouncing back and forth in the band members’ minds for quite some time now. The ideas occasionally feel pushed together involuntarily, as if Misery Signals decided, of its own volition, that transitions were to be the biggest chink in its otherwise robust armor. But the funny thing about this is that it works-- despite the truth that well-written songs are more likely
to contain cohesive ideas, Absent Light
proves that it can be just as equitable to cover as much musical ground as possible. Tracks like “Shadows & Depth” unfurl only to recoil immediately, exposing melodies only to bury them under mounds of gargantuan riffs. And while there must be more classically sound ways to bridge such musical concepts, I find myself impressed at how there isn’t any glue required-- these songs breathe on their own, showing clout in every direction.
Should I be surprised that Absent Light
is so satisfying? It does make sense-- the record wouldn’t even have existed if Misery Signals hadn’t gotten back together to nudge all of its floating ideas into a tangible work. Maybe this record wouldn’t exist under slightly different circumstances, which makes it a more rewarding listen-- because it’s hard to imagine tracks like “Carrier,” songs that sound so vital for both Misery Signals and their fans-- crumbling under the weight of the group’s departure, never to come to the surface. But Absent Light
made it through the process alive, and so did Misery Signals. Nothing makes me believe that more than the second half of “Ursa Minor,” where the group taps into a melody that reminds me why metal is so refreshing to me. The instant covers all the bases-- its foundation is a simple enough rhythm, the guitarwork is as weighty and affecting as it should be, and Karl Schubach’s lyrics paint pictures I wouldn’t have been able to cobble together otherwise. “No lantern, no compass / no map to be found,” he growls, but he sounds okay with being lost. He knows Misery Signals died in 2009, and that Absent Light
is a new release for a new group-- a promising beginning for a band that has been aching to stretch itself further than it ever could imagine.
And one integral aspect of this record is that it exists, in this very form, because of us. If the band’s most committed fans hadn’t contributed to the Kickstarter project for Absent Light
, if Misery Signals hadn’t received the outpouring support it’s received ever since its brief departure from the metalcore scene, then this album wouldn’t be as affecting as it is. This is a fresh start for Misery Signals, and a direct response to the generosity of fans worldwide.