Review Summary: A perfect album in more ways than one
Some albums hit you as classic right off the bat. They blow the doors off of what you thought music could be, like Jane Doe
or The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
. The sound Misery Signals has created does not have that luxury, so the music then has to do something else: it has to hit you at just the right time in your life. When Controller
took hold of me was about six months after it came out. There were severe personal problems happening and this album latched on and never let go. It has become a go-to album whenever something unexpected comes up. Each song helps in the way a cigarette might, it calms for a few moments and allows you to collect your head in times of crisis.
The melody and aggression are combined in such a way that the music can be applied to every facet of my life, whether it be late for work, utterly depressed, or even while happy. The guitar lines wrap and whirl around the brain, sucking you in without regard to the things around you. The guitars serve as both a calming mechanism and as the main source of venom, alternating in such a way that entrances and exhilarates. Take “Reset” for example: within the space of five seconds in the song, the guitars go from jarring cut into a soft melody to slow down the entire song, and yet the transition is seamless. The way that Ryan Morgan and Stuart Ross play off each other is beautiful; not many guitarists had they chemistry to bounce licks off each other like they do. Another portion on the album that is truly flawless is the drumming. Branden Morgan crushes the drumkit, never letting himself fly off the handle but filling the album with impressive fills and interesting plays with time-signatures. The bass is rarely heard, which, while somewhat tragic, is nothing if not expected.
The true make-or-break of the album is Karl Schubach. A man with true hardcore background, his harsh vocals are very one-dimensional yet easily understood, and he even throws out some singing prowess in “Ebb and Flow” and the latter half of “A Certain Death.” His strength is not necessarily in his vocal performance but in the lyrics he actually is putting forth. Each track deals with a different form of supposed “control” and the lack of true control we truly have. Schubach has truly hit his stride lyrically, running circles around his fellow contemporaries. He is genuine in his lyrics and never falls into the trap of cliché. He makes every song seem deeply personal in one way or another, leaving bits and pieces of himself in each song. This piece from “Parallels” is a perfect example, a seeming acknowledgment of the dissolution of a relationship with one last plea to start over:
Speak to me.
What can be said while we're still being honest"
Only then will these marks start to heal
And cleanse us of these demons
But there's so much to say, and there's so little time
Take my hand and walk with me
Lead me to salvation
And in return I'll offer you my pledge to start all over
But there's so much to say, and we're so far behind
The most interesting part about the album is the fact that Misery Signals didn’t even really change their sound. All they did really was tighten as a unit. This wasn’t even a lightning strikes kind of moment because their previous two releases, Mirrors
and Of Malice..
, are metalcore staples. The added time with Karl Schubach did wonders for the cohesiveness of their writing, cutting off some of the unnecessary passages that popped up in Mirrors
. Devin Townsend put everything into the production of this, giving it an absolute perfect sound.
The whole of this album is better than the sum of its parts. What makes this album truly perfect is the way that Karl’s lyrics get wrapped up in the spiral of the guitar lines, held up by the backbone of percussion. This album got me through over a year of intense emotional and mental pain and hasn’t lost a single step since. This album has been out over two years and is crisper than it was when I first bought it. Controller
hasn’t been out of regular rotation since the wrapping came off. It stuck with me through thick and thin, the good and bad. When I was forced to live out of my car, this album helped me keep the mental resolve to pick myself up onto my feet. Controller
is so much more than an album at this point; it is a support system. When I first bought it, it was enjoyable. Now when I listen to it, I feel the strength I needed.