Band: Misery Index
Album: Rituals of Power
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Death Metal
Release Date: March 15th, 2019
How is the average American citizen doing economically? This is a question that economists have to pose every time they are calculating the Misery Index. The Misery Index gets calculated & compared throughout each and every Presidency, and it tends to get used as an economic dick measuring contest. Why am I boring you with some economics 201 fun facts? Because Misery Index are releasing their sixth full-length LP (second for Season of Mist) titled Rituals of Power. Since 2014, the economic Misery Index has decreased, which signifies a betterment of the average American’s status. Have Misery Index followed in the footsteps of their namesake and only gotten better? Or has a betterment of the economy led to a less impactful Misery Index?
For the uninitiated Misery Index has been making music since 2001 in the vein of hardcore/grindcore influenced death metal. In 2014 They released The Killing Gods on Season of Mist and their music had morphed into a more straightforward death metal sound. This is a feat that is often attempted but rarely appreciated, and Misery Index did the improbably by keeping their fans and impressing new ones.
Enter 2019’s Rituals of Power. Misery Index has returned with their straightforward death metal sound, but they have incorporated their older grindcore sound very well into the mix. The band wastes no time in silencing their doubters with the track Decline and Fall. It starts with a punishing drum fill and furious riff that immediately stomps your face in the dirt. The use of blast beats in this song, and throughout the album honestly, are sparse but it has a way of making them more impactful. Guitar solos are another great aspect to this album that isn’t overzealous in it’s execution. Not every track has a solo, but every solo is memorable. The punk elements have been revitalized through the percussion and the ferocity of the majority of the songs. At 9 tracks rounding out at 36 minutes most of the album whips by enticing you to hit play the second it ends. The traditional death metal sound comes out in every song in Rituals of Power. Every song follows the “verse-chorus-verse” formula, and the hooks are extremely catchy.
The tone of the record is very sharp and clean, but still maintaining a sinister and unsafe vibe. Every piece of the band is coming through with clarity and the sound is fantastic. Jason Netherton’s vocals are as impressive as ever. Snarling and growling across the entire record, while maintaining very intelligible lyrics. I think the dual guitar work of Darrin Morris & Mark Kloepell is the crown jewel of Rituals of Power. With a ton of thrash-influenced death metal riffs permeating throughout every song, that is bound to leave you with a sore neck. If my words aren’t enough to convince you, go check out the song Hammering the Nails. The sounds that emerge from the guitars during the chorus/ pre-chorus are filthy.
Misery Index seems to have a lot of influences that shine throughout Rituals of Power. Some of the songs like Decline and Fall, New Salem, and Naysayer are so brutal and intense they remind me of the more dynamic tracks from groups like Trap Them and All Pigs Must Die. Pure fury. While some of the thrashier riffs and chanting choruses gave me old school Metallica vibes. The intro of I Disavow made me think I was listening to a lost track from the legendary Sentenced to Life by the late great Black Breath. ALl of these influences seem to be worn proudly on Misery Index’s sleeve, but they have combined them all in a way that makes it their own sound.
Some of the things that bothered me on this album are sort of nitpicky and stemmed from things I loved about the album. The great production quality and understandable vocals actually worked against Misery Index for me sometimes. Every single chorus is memorable and catchy, but you’re going to hear the title of the song between 15-50 times in any given song. On repeated listens it could get tiresome. Also in the song The Choir Invisible after an amazing little guitar riff that sounds like it came from Gojira’s L’Enfant Sauvage, Netherton belts “…just another tick on your news feed!” Maybe it’s just me but something about mentioning social media in a death metal song just feels wrong. Last but not least was my most legitimate complaint. The opening song, Universal Untruths, is the slowest paced and least exciting track on the album and doesn’t start you off on the right foot for the record. If it was placed near the middle or the end of the record I think it would’ve helped the album’s pacing.
If we are comparing Misery Index to the Misery Index, I’d say they have both gotten better in the last five years. While the Killing Gods was impressive as a successful change in style, some moments felt less cohesive. Rituals of Power flows very well and even incorporated more of their past sound into their newer sound. If hammer smashed face sounds more like a good time than a song title, I promise this album is for you.
1. Universal Untruths
2. Decline and Fall
3. The Choir Invisible
4. New Salem
5. Hammering the Nails
6. Rituals of Power
7. They Always Come Back
8. I Disavow
Total Playing Time: 36:22
I’m pretty great. Just ask me, I’ll tell ya.