Sound — 9
Misery Signals formed in 2002 after their previous bands were disbanded. Since then they have had a few lineup changes, but 3 of the founding members remain. The band currently consists of Karl Schubach (vocals), Ryan Morgan (guitar), Greg Thomas (guitar), Kyle Johnson (bass guitar), and Branden Morgan (drums). "Absent Light" is their first album since they released "Controller" five years ago in 2008. This was due to a hiatus as the band members explored separate solo and side projects. When bands take breaks like this it can end a couple of ways either they never get back to it, they come back but they've lost their way, or it revitalizes them and they come out the gate swinging. Luckily, their hiatus seems to have really lit a fire under them. "Absent Light" is the fourth studio album by Misery Signals and consists of 11 tracks and clocks in at a little under 45 minutes. The first single from the album was the track "Luminary," which was released in early July. The album makes some creative use of orchestral instrumentation, but sparingly. The album opens with the track "A Glimmer of Hope," which is the shortest song on the album at right at 2 minutes, and kind of flows into the next track "Luminary." "Luminary" does some really interesting things with orchestral strings mixed with the normal metalcore instruments, and does seem to be a lyrical extension of the previous track, "A Glimmer of Hope." "Carrier" is an interesting track, while having one of the most interesting riffs on the album, it also deals with a pretty heavy subject lyrically. The track "Shadows and Depth" sounds like a kind of call to action and does some interesting things with the overall dynamics of the track. "Departure" is one of those tracks that really demonstrates how tight the band is, and makes me wonder if they can maintain that in their live shows. It is the type of song that falls apart pretty quick if the band isn't super tight. The track "Ursa Minor" is my favorite track, and it has the most infectious groove on the entire album. The album closes out with the track "Everything Will Rust," which has a slow build-up and the most extensive use of clean vocals on the entire album (thanks to Fredua Boakye of Bad Rabbits, I believe), though it eventually builds to using their standard screamed vocals. The album as a whole was very impressive, especially in the overall tightness of the band.
Lyrics — 9
Karl Schubach does a good job with the lead vocals, though there are several guest vocalists involved as well. Matthew Mixon (from 7 Angels 7 Plagues) provided guest vocals on "Carrier." Todd Mackey (from With Honor) provided guest vocals on "Lost Relics." Fredua Boakye (from Bad Rabbits) provided guest vocals on "Everything Will Rust." Where gang vocals were used, this consisted of Kyle Kearney, Daniel Graves, Chris Teti, Blane Christenson, John Perrin and Brad Murphy. I hate to say this, but there is a pretty limited range of if a vocalist is good or bad in metalcore. I think when you get down to really judging their vocals, the subtleties are lost to me. But in my personal opinion, Karl Schubach does a respectable job and I enjoy his vocals. The lyrical content was of greater consequence to me, as the lyrics do a great job of creating a certain type of imagery with the music and they have some substance to them. As a sample of some of the lyrics, especially for the purpose of displaying the type of imagery they create, here are lyrics from the track "Ursa Minor": "Sleeping beneath the sleet, palms to the dirt/ No lunar glare to mark our course/ Among the apparitions of a potter's field/ The nameless, the lost, haunting a hollow so far away/ I never meant to end up here, betrayed by constellations/ I never meant to end up here, with no bodies of light to guide us home/ Collapse into earth and be pulled beyond your quarrel/ No lantern, no compass, no map to be found/ We set sail against the sorrow having mourned enough." As another example, here are some lyrics from the track "Two Solitudes": "There is no time, there will be no revival/ When I took you in I was looking for a key/ Another solitude to border mine/ Holding out for truer lies, born to sharpen knives/ The lives we sought to lead became the distances/ And soon the years crept in between me and my dearest friends/ There is no time, there will be no revival/ On the day I broke I was looking for a cure/ Laying my head between a lion's jaws/ Surrendered to the end, born to sharpen knives/ When you poison us does it feel like revenge?" By far, these are some of the best lyrics I've heard in metalcore ever.
Overall Impression — 8
I listen to a lot of different types of music and I would describe myself as a very casual fan of metalcore, though I tend to listen to a lot of metalcore in the course of writing reviews and honestly this is some of the best I've heard. There is a slight progressive bent to their work, as well as masterfully creating a certain vibe with their music. My favorite songs from the album are "Ursa Minor," "Carrier," "Two Solitudes," and the single "Luminary." I couldn't name a track and say I disliked it, as every track on this album is pretty damn solid. The band is very tight, and I'm definitely looking forward to whatever they do in the future.