Review Summary: Metalcore I guess- Just not by the typical formula and thankfully so.M
isery Signals is a band that I’ve been following closely ever since the elitists here have been “fanboying” “Of Malice and the Magnum Heart” for quite some time. I believed the hype was backed by the music itself which consisted of heavy chugging guitars, interesting active drumming, and what seemed like a close to perfect blend of metal core. I’m not going to try and fake it but I wasn’t really much of a fan of the old vocalist Jesse Zarkasa but I didn’t really mind him either. It’s just felt that compared to the intricacy of the receipt of Misery Signals “heavy” music he was the weakest link with his shrieking and blood gurgling screams. With this being said, I know a lot of people who refuse to accept Misery Signals with anything after the departure of vocalist Jesse Zarkasa. The follow up “Mirrors” was definitely not as relentless or brutal as “Of Malice and the Magnum Heart” nor did I feel that it was flat out as good but nonetheless I wouldn’t call it a Sophomore Slump by any means. The album was still excellent as a follow up with a more experimental and melodic version of the band. I still felt that the instrumentals were as great as it was on the first album yet with more diversity then the first album did. The vocals have changed to a more straight forward hardcore esque tone by Karl Schubach but still consisted of deep, meaningful, lyrics. So now it’s summer of 2008 and lets face the fact that the excess of metal core bands (or bands calling themselves “metal core”) has reached a point of being ridiculous. Devin Townsend who produced the bands first album “Of Malice and The Magnum Heart” is back for the bands third outing. To sum it up quick, if your one of the ignorant ones who haven’t returned since the first album it’s now time to come back to at least give this album a shot.
The first song “Nothing” starts off inviting and embracing to everyone who has an ear for metal core riffs. The intro riffs wind you up and down and phases into the octave chords that wind you up and down complimented by screamed out vocals. If you’ve been following this band throughout it all the first thing that you’ll notice about this album is the tone of the vocals seems to be different. Karl Schubach who sounded like the voice of a straight forward hardcore band now exhibits a lot of the traits that made the vocals in the first album.
The first song exhibit’s the talking that reminds listeners of the first album and the overall vocal presentation feels very familiar of songs like “The Year Summer Ended In June”. The instruments sound and feel top notch with the chugging and lead riffs that create atmosphere all around the listener. It’s a feeling that I honestly can say that I get out of this band and really seems one of a kind. As the average listen might lead most casual listeners to the false conception that it’s the typical metal+hardcore sound but listen closely and you can see obvious traits of bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah
in the first song. “Weight of the World” is just a fast moving song (not to say that the first one wasn’t). It carry’s the listener through pummeling emotions of pure circle pit feeling. The music will just make you want to move and hit people. As this might be one of the most repetitive songs on the whole album on a wide scale it really isn’t that repetitive as it is relentless. If you listen full on the main riff might be the same but you’ll notice closely that each time little hooks and variations bounce off it and the drums are always doing something new each time.
“Labrynthian” is a work of art and is one of my favorite songs off this album. It’s one of those songs that you need to be a musician to fully appreciate and in story my girlfriend can stand music like this but didn’t really enjoy this song at all. I had to donkey punch her in the back of the head with that being said. This song feels like the perfect blend of softer and heavy moments which summarizes Misery Signals on a whole. I love the build up with the palm muted riffs in the guitars and the drums slamming and crashing in the background. The whole song is just a release of climaxes, risings, and free falls and really gives the listener a treat. You can almost see the guys in the band going verse to chorus with the intricacy of the instrumentals binding together. Even nearing toward the end is thrown in a chugging breakdown to get the kids moving. “Parallels” one of the songs that they gave a sneak preview of before the album came out. In essence I found the song to fit a lot of the criteria to be on the “Mirrors” album but still evolved. This song has a lot of sincere one liners to let everyone remember that this band isn’t just a bash your brains in hardcore band. They actually still carry a lot of messages and influences through the lyrics. They let the music do most of the emotional driving though as you’ll figure out by the 4th song. You also have to listen closely at the end of this song with the clean melody of all the different instruments they incorporated to let the song down. “Coma” continues the clean and softer side of this chugging metal core band. For long time fans of this band songs like “Coma” feel like a real treat with its shifty time signatures and bipolar emotions that come out brutally hard and gracefully soft. The songs have come along way and I think the progression of the band is amazing. This song showcases how they took the favorite things of the first two albums and took them a few steps further. The ambience melody and percussion really shows the maturity in this band and also exhibit’s a different side of what could have been a mindless metal core monster. Beware mediocre/one dimensional metal core listeners!
“A Certain Death” gets things back on a more norm for the band. This song for some reason keeps reminding me of “Stinging Rain”. It’s hardcore chugging with it’s lyrical pummeling feels right at home for the band. I just love the way the band takes the whole breakdown thing to a non cliché level. The breakdown in this song feels like A Life Once Lost with a lot of dissonance and bending. The messy time signatures make it even hard for me to head bang at some parts as it feels like my neck is broken. The clean vocals in this song really highlight a nice point for this band but it feels way too produced. When I listen to it through the album version it really feels far fetched that someone who did blood gurgling screams for the first 2 minutes non-stop, can get their voice to sound like an angel on such a quick transition .
“Set In Motion” beats your head with double bass and lets off on a long scream. The song really separates itself by the one minute mark with the guitar work. It is heavy, light, and everything in between when it wants to be. Mind you this is one of the only songs on the album where the bass gets a tad aggressive and you can actually hear it bouncing around in the background. “Ebb and Flow” follows in the same footsteps as “Set In Motion” but incorporates singing. Once again the singing sounds way far fetched to the point where I have to open up the linear notes and see if its an actual guest singer. The songs are starting to blend in each other sounding like one monster song which in this case isn’t a bad thing. They are constantly having it’s moments and giving the listener a buildup, a climax, and a let down. It’s what it seems like this band does best and they don’t disappoint in any of those parts.
“Ebb and Flow” is a nice change because it shows the most singing out of all of the songs. “Reset” in the introduction reminds me of “Anchor” and is ultimately a great last hoorah. This song bleeds with the musicianship for the kids who consider true musicianship to shine through metal/heavy interludes. The drumming and chugging is fast and relentless with plenty of hooks. This song is the longest off the album and really exercises everything that could be said about this band. The use of hooks and having plenty of them is just downright sexy. The time signature changes, the breakdowns, the heavy parts, the beautiful melodies, my brain is just out of breathe just listening and thinking about this song. “Homecoming” is the transition that runs straight from “Reset” and proves that this time around Misery Signals weren’t going to leave on a soft, delicate part. As the song will beat you up in the beginning with the double bass, it evolves into something not so repetitive. The song just creates so many different layers of sounds it’s almost like they are just flaunting their talent now.
Misery Signals is jam packed with musicianship flare in everything they do. It can be heavy or it could be light instrumentals. They have constantly improved upon their songwriting with each album, and it is simply amazing to listen to. I appreciate the guitar work and the drumming the best as it really puts themselves above most in the genre. The vocals once again is the hurting factor for this band. As a lot of kids love their screaming and brutality it’s really outweighed on this album probably about 95% of the time. The lyrics have always been a strong point of this band but the emotion really doesn’t seem to come through them. The vocals just feel very monotone and lack diversity in tone or creativity what so ever. As this band incorporates a lot of melodic parts having a gut wrenching screams just seems odd at times and forget my opinions of talking in metal core… it just feels cheesy. As I forgave the vocals in “Of Malice…” I forgive them here in what feels like a solid package in all executed ideas. “Of Malice…” will still always be my top rated and favorite album by these guys but this album is a very close second and is worth checking out for any musician and metal core loather.
+ Song Writing
+ Guitar Work
+ Production Quality
- Typical bias of bass parts
- Vocals in grey areas
Karl Schubach - Vocals
Ryan Morgan - Guitar
Stuart Ross - Guitar
Kyle Johnson - Bass
Branden Morgan - Drums
Produced by Devin Townsend
Additional Percussion by Richard Morgan