Review Summary: Holding on gets harder and harder..
Controller was released on July 22nd 2008 and marks a return to form for what many believe to be the greatest unknown metalcore act of the last decade. I’m not putting it lightly for a reason, I thoroughly support this claim. The band chose to collaborate with Devin Townsend as a producer once more thus reintroducing the complexity seen on their first full-length. This is the last record Misery Signals released before an unofficial hiatus, and is also the last Misery Signals record to feature Stu Ross on guitar. He was later replaced by Gregory Thomas on their follow-up record Absent Light. This was also thought to be the last album to feature Kyle Johnson on bass, as he resigned from the band in 2010. However, as of 2013, Kyle Johnson has returned.
First off, the production here is strong and crisp. Those who may have enjoyed a rawer sound found in earlier releases may find this displeasing, however, being a big fan of both this and Of Malice, this is not nearly the same complaint I had with Mirrors. This features the band's most complex and progressive material, often incorporating polyrhythmic drumming, and melodic counterpoints between the guitars, as well as complex song structures.
The guitar playing as always is phenomenal. In my opinion, the guitar work is more or less what makes Misery Signals who they are. These musicians are beyond incredible; no two other guitar players can so easily and naturally pummel the listener while soothing them with some of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard. Songs such as "A Certain Death" and "Labyrinthine" shows the band’s writing form best with catchy hooks and lingering choruses. "Weight Of The World", for example, could be the most straight forward tune the band has committed to tape, that is until its foot to the floor tempo makes way for a hook laden chorus and a Meshuggah worthy breakdown. These tracks keep the record moving, albeit being faster and shorter than anything else on the album. Moving forward, “Parallels” and “Coma” strike a perfect balance between heaviness and ambience, the latter utilizing the percussive talents of Ryan and Branden’s father in the background.
Vocals are also much lower than we heard on the previous record, but are delivered with amazing clarity. Many MS fans seem to have a greater attachment to the group’s original singer, and as such, they haven’t fully embraced Karl Schubach as a front man. I’m going to put it out there… Karl is a far superior vocalist! His voice has a massive bottom end yet still retains a clarity that makes every one of his lyrics audible and most importantly, understandable. The ending chant "I'd give anything to return to nothing" on ‘Nothing’ always gives me the biggest goosebumps everytime. The lyrical content on this album deals with loss, depression, love, self-hatred, forgiveness, and religion so fans should feel right at home. Tracks like "Parallels" and "Set In Motion" maintain lyrical intensity, while "Ebb And Flow" flaunts its melody throughout the track by implementing clean vocals. It should be noted that the clean vocals that appear in the song are courtesy of Karl himself, stunning even myself that someone who can deliver such unrelenting screams is capable of carrying a user-friendly tune.
In my opinion, the drumming in this album has ALWAYS been overlooked. Branden Morgan has always been fantastic, and shines bright and loud. The blistering opener "Nothing" doesn’t waste any time on starting the album off heavy. The very moment it came spewing out of my speakers, I was dumbfounded by the precision of the drum work. Throughout a flurry of creative drum fills the song still manages to maintain a steady beat, all the while Morgan is giving us mere mortals a lesson in drum kit theatrics. Towards the end, the track "Reset" finishes off the album well incorporating all that has worked throughout and "Homecoming" brings Controller an epic, soaring sound conclusion.
This album is still the best album of 2008 and probably the past 5 years coming out of the metalcore grinder. Strictly, my opinion is also based in the fact that is still my favorite band. The most impressive things strike me with each listen. So much diversity, talent, and aggression in them; I love everything about this album. I hate that this album and band are not more known around the mainstream and don't get the credit they deserve for making such amazing music. Alas, I hope that this review will get more people to pick it up a give it a spin. Trust this music addict, this is one you cannot pass up. 4.9