Admittedly, it was with great anticipation that I approached this new record from Misery Index. Consistently heavy yet polished, the band has forged quite the metallic resume over the course of now, seven full-lengths with the release of Complete Control. Interestingly enough, the term Misery Index was created by Chicago economist Arthur Melvin Okun in the ‘70s to reflect the combined sum of the unemployment and inflation rates. I cannot help but wonder how severe that metric would be in the present day!
Jason Netherton (bass, vocals) has charted quite a rich history with his band following his departure from the mighty Dying Fetus after their best album, Destroy the Opposition. Incorporating more Grindcore influences, Misery Index’s sound substantially evolved over the years. By refining their oeuvre, the band has managed to climb to the forefront of Death Metal with an engrossing sound rooted in the past yet ever looking forward.
“Administer the Dagger” kicks things off and begins with a clean opening married with a huge, grimy bass sound. At the 1:32 mark, the music quite literally explodes into a frenetic barrage of notes. It mirrors the sound of a city center surrounded and under siege replete with all of the atrocities one would expect from such a scene. Thereafter, the heaviness continues to build upon itself and thus grow exponentially. It is hard to forget the chorus, “We, the sinister, administer the dagger.”
The following track, “The Eaters and the Eaten,” erupts with perhaps the most crushing barrage of sound on the album. A much more condensed effort than the previous track, the modus operandi is savagery, pure and simple. An almost-symphonic, almost-Black Metal effect is created toward the end of the track when the music becomes so very layered. Of course, the band reconvenes to deliver the appropriate measure of brutality.
The production on Complete Control is as tight as ever. The guitars are super compressed, chunky when needed, and alternatively, razor-sharp. What impressed me most was the fullness of the rhythm section. First, whether clean or dirty, the bass is never buried in the mix but instead occupies its own musical real estate as a distinct entity of heaviness. The drums are tightly locked into the groove as the secret to the ravenous sound created seems to be allowing each component ample space within the musical spectrum.
“Necessary Suffering,” the fourth track, has a stout beginning much like that first taste out of a freshly opened pint of Guinness. One would be hard-pressed not to make the same face! Maybe such a slamming groove does not speak to the philosophical sense of some, but the title certainly reminded me of the Buddha. Life is indeed suffering, necessary for the evolution of the human soul.
The absolute high mark of the album is the sixth track, “Conspiracy of None” with its bludgeoning assault. Immediately following the chorus, at the 2:00 mark, is the breakdown of all breakdowns. I was overcome with visions of old school Internal Bleeding and Suffocation among others. The circle pit that is sure to spawn when this song is played live will be one to remember.
Overall, Misery Index has returned with a solid, focused album. As demonstrated by the judicious approach the band brings, there is a constant balance between the abrasive tradition of Death Metal and a more melodic effort. While less Grindcore than previous releases, the band has lost none of its intensity. Indeed, Misery Index has found its niche, straddling the fence between chaos and “complete control.”