One reason Misery Index have always stood in elevated stature is that they are dark and damning death metal that is motivated by the horrors of humanity, history, and hellish governments. The savagery of their music is a manifestation of the mistreatment of the lower classes or the indigenous.
With a title such as Rituals of Power, things continue as exploration for truth. And once you press play, you realize things have not just continued but gotten better. Consistently highly regarded, respected, and reviewed, Misery Index flourish with their same line-up since 2010. Out March 8 on Season of Mist, Rituals of Power land Misery Index as the vanguards of the revolution.
The first single, “New Salem,” released back in January, triggered renewed and anticipated reverence. The subject matter (witch hunts) mixed with a reinvigorated, ferocious brutality, shows the band is as raw and visceral as ever. The track was emblematic of the band’s explanation of Rituals of Power’s theme, truth. This is evident in the first verse, “persecuted with no due process.”
“New Salem” is mid-tempo lingering into a double-bass-drum-driven charge of aural abhorrence. Jarvis’ drums are superb and on point. The man, as he has exhibited in Pig Destroyer and Scour and Fulgora and Hate Eternal, is a machine.
Misery Index’s appeal and strength is the element of groove. It doesn’t define them, but accentuates their gritty riffs. The band doesn’t indulge in second-rate Machine Head or anything, but as a fan of (and someone who lived through) 90s beatdown hardcore, Misery Index is a perfect death metal band to embrace.
It isn’t hard to connect, say, Brick By Brick (who just had an album release show with Dying Fetus after playing with Cro-Mags) or Full Blown Chaos, 100 Demons, and All Out War. It makes me think of Paul Bearer’s (Sheer Terror) dismissal of hardcore in 1995. “What passes for hardcore now is just three-chord death metal with some guy rapping over it.” And while he was accurate regarding the infiltration of tough guys who devoured the scene with simplistic, distilled metal chops, it is not applicable today. As Hatebreed rose, so did acceptance of Suffocation, Cephalic Carnage, Obituary, and others. Fast-forward, and ex-Dying Fetus dude Jason Netheron (bass/vocals), birthed Misery Index in 2001.
Now, we live in a time where bands welcome cross-germinating genres and indulging in blurred boundaries and influences. So, yes, Misery Index still draw form “Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Bolt Thrower, and Entombed” (Earsplit PR). But the two cover tracks in the expanded edition are of M.O.D. and Nailbomb, portraying their other influences.
That extra groove makes them approachable. And fans will stay for the band’s unfettered ferocity and their vision. I mean, how angry can one get while reciting plots of horror movies? Try conjuring defeated insurrections, violated civil rights, genocide, lifetime imprisonments on trumped-up charges, as incendiary motivation. Discover your own indignation over the media sifting through information and deciding which is the most profitable to project and discuss.
Rituals of Power conquers speakers over the course of nine tracks, only two of which cross the five minute mark. Misery Index establishes the tone instantly with some feedback and anticipatory stretching on their instruments (like a great hardcore band would) to build the tension.
Then the vocals scream, “This is a code red!” on “Universal Untruths.” The tone is set and followed for the next 35 minutes of inciting, chaotic metal. “Decline and Fall” is a killer romp, gaining from its own momentum and declarative “Sowing the seeds of distress.” “The Choir Invisible” is the second single (dropped February 6) and is a militant stomp. A churning riff rips through itself and burns into a fast and forward double-time beat. The receding chorus, highlighted by a perfect sing-along gang chorus of “We are disposable!” will ignite a crowd with fury.
Rituals of Power’s bombastic production enhances the playing. Everything is mixed perfectly and downtuned to destructive levels. The second half of the album boasts treasures like “Hammering the Nails,” the title track, and “I Disavow.” But one can’t simply highlight one track over another. All of them galvanize the listener with poignant urgency. There are no slackers across the album.
“They Always Come Back” hammers home with blistering footwork from Jarvis. Calling out “These bastards never die!” is a great way to commence the insurgent invocation. The mid breakdown bass work is fantastic. The descending fretwork subverts the riff and adds great textural playing. A solo emerges afterwards that increases the feel. And not one part is repetitive or dragged out.
The guitar work of Kloeppel and Morris exudes their symbiotic relationship; it showcases their virtuosity and their decision making to never over-indulge. The decision to do what is best for the song is the idea that wins (editing, when writing). This is further established in the 2:26 closer, “Naysayer.” Fast and punishing, it serves as a closing reminder of Misery Index’s power and explosive annihilation.
Rituals of Power is an exemplary execution of death metal in 2019. Given the current climate of social ills and news coverage of those travesties, Misery Index will continue to feed on fodder for their enmity and indignation. Honing this outrage into superb extreme metal is especially welcome. The most terrifying music is not concocted by serial killer fan fiction but constructed by reflections of our leaders and reporters.