Review Summary: Taking on seven years.Absent Light
wasn’t a complete disappointment. Released five years after the certified metalcore classic Controller, Absent Light
was a refreshing albeit unremarkable record. It brought the riffs, it brought the huge screams, but it lacked the mood and majesty of Mis Sig’s best works Of Malice and the Magnum Heart
After five years of waiting fans started to expect something huge, and Absent Light
just wasn’t that. Misery Signals made it so much harder on themselves to deliver a satisfying project with such a large gap in between records. Releasing an album that really wows or reinvents the wheel, or at least is as strong as its predecessor, became a necessity, and Absent Light
just wasn’t that. And this brings us to Ultraviolet
and the seven-year gap. Seven years, in addition to being the best Saosin song, is a long time to wait for a new record, especially for one as consistently great as Misery Signals. And a lot has happened during this gap period, original vocalist Jesse Zaraska is back at the helm, leading some oldhead fans to speculate a return to the raw and furious tone of Misery Signals debut album Of Malice.
Like most forms of speculation, this did not pan out, as Ultraviolet
is just Absent Light
with a fresh set of paint and a slightly different vocalist.
The biggest glaring issue here is, unfortunately, the thing that brought the most optimism from the fans, the swapping out of longtime vocalist Karl Schubach for the band’s original vocalist Jesse. Karl doesn’t have nuance, but his voice sounds huge, it towers over the mix, and it gets the job done, but Jesse is known for a more nuanced and passionate delivery. Cool, what can Misery Signals do with that? Weirdly decided to have Jesse scream just as monotonous as Karl, and mix his screams just like Karl’s. So why have Jesse come back at all to just make him sound like Karl? I suppose it was to showcase his vastly inferior clean singing. Jesse’s screams aren’t a huge issue, they sound just like the screams on the last three records, just a little worse. But the clean vocals, the clean vocals on this thing are putrid. They’re overproduced and quadruple tracked to oblivion, clearly trying to mask a less than stellar voice. And he sings with this bizarre affectation, almost like a gruff bearded man from the Ozarks trying to emote for the first time in his life complete with fumbling vibrato. It’s a huge bummer and it ruins otherwise strong instrumentals on tracks like "Redemption Key" and "River King." Bringing back Jesse just to play to all his weaknesses is the first failing of Ultraviolet.
The second failing is the length. Nine songs, sub-35-minute runtime and I waited seven years for this thing? Album length is not an issue as long as the songs are fleshed out and the album is cohesive, but the songs on Ultraviolet
feel more like a series of riffs lined up and sutured together with awkward interludes. The final two tracks "Cascade Locks" and "Some Dreams" are excellent and feel like they’re building up to something special, but then the record just sort of ends. Contrast this with Of Malice of the Magnum Heart
which have very pronounced closers that really tie the whole thing together and end with a bang. Ultraviolet
peters out, it’s over before it’s done anything interesting, and it somehow feels as if it has overstayed its welcome.
is not a bad record, it’s still Misery Signals. The instrumentation is ace, that signature often emulated floating melody and constantly changing riffs is there, but the production is flat and the vocals are average. Standouts like "Sunlifter" scream potential, it’s heavy, it’s moody, and can’t you just hear Karl screaming “SUN LIFT HERRR,” such a missed opportunity. But whatever, you’re a Misery Signals fan and you waited seven years for this record so might as well enjoy it for what it is.