Death Metal is huge once again. Seeing the evolution and subsequent peaks and valleys – the late 90s being a deep chasm into bedrock and below – it has offered various forms and styles. The genre has replaced Thrash as the home of the edgiest guitar virtuosos over the years as well as some of the most mind-blowing, phenomenal percussionists. It takes enormous skill, determination, creativity, and a dedicated, brutal work ethic to hang with the Titans, and sometimes; in fact, more often than not, even all that is not enough. When other bands were experimenting with different formats and even abandoning the genre, Misery Index formed in 2001, dedicated to upholding their roots and move things ever forward while staying true. Misery Index is the very definition of Death Metal lifers. Steady, consistently cutting edge, and abrasive output, as well as absolutely relentless touring, has kept the name on the lips of fans and press alike. In the family tree of Death Metal and Extreme Metal in general, Misery Index has deep roots sharing current and former members with the likes of Scour, Pig Destroyer, Hate Eternal, and of course, Dying Fetus. Regardless though, Misery Index is the main focus of all involved. Alongside Broken Hope, Cattle Decapitation, Internal Bleeding, and others, Misery Index has continually sought to expand Death Metal, its musical limits, and aesthetics.
Rituals of Power, the band’s sixth full-length, has just been released on Season of Mist and it is a furious, raging, bloody tutorial on how to move the genre further. The first word that comes to mind when speaking of the album is polished. Beginning with an intense offering in the form of “Universal Untruths,” the album immediately sets a precedent of diminished chord bliss and precise riffing. The huge chords hang in the air like smoke clouding a battlefield before the next assault. This is modern, next-gen Death Metal without boundaries. The blast beats explode on “Decline and Fall,” the following track. Misery Index successfully demonstrate a new arsenal of riffs as the alternate between the fast and grinding and monstrous palm-muted chugging. Chugging to the next level. These are those kinds of palm-mutes where the air literally erupts when hit and the speakers can be seen leaping out of the cab. At the 3:27 mark, the band hits a straight-forward Heavy Metal riff accented by rhythmic double-picking that is sure to inspire proper head-banging for all those so inclined.
The band takes influence from a number of scenes within the music. In addition to Death Metal, one can hear gang vocals in tracks such as the fifth, “Hammering the Nails,” that evoke memories of old school NYHC. In fact, there are moments as well that have a Punk feel, though from the Crust perspective, obviously owing to the heavy influence of Assück on the band. That blend of all the above along with classic Grindcore yields the Misery Index sound – a vibrant, inspiring romp of soul-filled aggression. Yes, I said soul, though not in the R&B sense. What is meant is that the band’s music has personality, feeling, and life. Some bands get lost in the complexities of their songs and along the way, emotion is left out of the mix. This is definitely not the case with Misery Index.
From a musician’s perspective, the material is absolutely inspiring with plenty of jaw-dropping moments via riffs, solos, and arrangements. At a time when the scene has become riddled with bands that are either based solely on attempting to recreate past achievements (like the many bands that are clones of Death) or put out albums that are essentially noodle-fests of plastic-feeling “Prog-like” Death Metal, Misery Index is still riding high ahead of the pack. Refusing to settle for anything substandard, this band has once again revolutionized the genre creating an album that will long be heralded as a new standard. Everyone else is years behind, and Misery Index continue to move ahead – onward!