REVIEW: Misery Signals – Absent Light (2013)


Artist: Misery Signals

Album: Absent Light


Everyone’s had that moment when they’re listening to the radio—whether it’s the oldies station with your grandparents on the way to Cracker Barrel, or the “latest and greatest” hits station on the way to work. You know the moment I mean; that thought where they wonder what will be considered an “oldie” or a “classic” when they’re grampa Andy or grandma Amus’ age? What bands or musicians will haunt the radio waves as ghosts and ghouls of yesteryear? If you ask me, it takes a band who not just excels in their genre, but redefines it—and ladies and gentlemen, Misery Signals do both. Absent Light, the long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s cult hit Controller is every bit the bouncy, hard-hitting and awe-inspiringly atmospheric album needed to shake the very foundations of metalcore and solidify the band’s position as kings of their domain.

Absent Light begins with “A Glimmer of Hope,” which is just that—a subtle introduction which fades into a full-blown attack on the listener. As soon as vocalist Karl Schubach lets loose with the opening line, “I’m not ready to say goodbye,” the listener knows they’re in for a wild ride. Misery Signals incorporate this blunt, bold and brutal honesty into every facet of Absent Light. “Luminary” highlights the break-neck percussion and extreme technical proficiency which the drums provide throughout the release, while “Shadows and Depth” and “The Shallows” let the guitars bounce and roam freely, oscillating from guttural, cutthroat grooves to stellar, out-of-this-world shredding. Grooves and punishing moments of heaviness like the one at the climax of “The Shallows” are one of the defining aspects of Misery Signals’ auditory attack on the listener—they provide an anchor, a heavy, low base from which the band’s more technical and atmospheric aspects can arise. The devastating levels of sheer skin-rending brutality in “Luminary” and the garden of grooves that is “Shadows and Depth” alone are capable of weaving their way into the listener’s head and taking over their mind; they are only amplified when contrasted with the band’s well established penchant for ambience and atmosphere.

Misery Signals are no strangers to spacey, ethereal guitar work and splashy, intriguing percussion—fans of those aspects on their past releases will not be let down here. While Absent Light underlines the band’s love of grooves and breakneck riffing, there is still plenty of room for spacey, dynamic melody. “A Glimmer of Hope” makes brilliant use of sheer, copious atmosphere to commence the album, while “Everything Will Rust” closes it down with a soft serenity which segues into a jarring, spine-breaking climax. While the album is indeed bookended by ethereal spacey elements, there is no better use of an ambient interlude than the one found in “Ursa Minor.” Jazzy, smooth drumming ebbs and flows with a tide of soft, strummed guitar and touches of atmospheric bass work which all flow together and melt the listener’s ears like a hot knife through butter. “Shadows and Depth,” the album’s relative epic track also uses a similar tactic, splitting up moments of dense heaviness and contagious grooves with sections of sheer harmonic bliss. These portions of Absent Light are the cinch points for the otherwise errant dissonance which entropically drives the album.

Upon examining Misery Signals’ proclivity for mind-bending technicality, ear-shredding heaviness and brain-melting melody, it’s safe to say there are few bands—if any—who can put them all together so well. In this respect, Absent Light is a masterpiece well worth the five years it took to create. There are technically impeccable (yet still accessible-enough-to-be-catchy) riffs like those on “Reborn (An Execution)” and “Two Solitudes,” as well as back-breaking heaviness as found on “Departure” and “Luminary.” Furthermore, there are moments—like the build-up in “Departure”—where Misery Signals dip into their hardcore roots and craft pulse-pounding drum lines and dissonant, intense guitars to brew up a contagiously catchy concoction. Then, there are tracks like “Ursa Minor” and “Shadows and Depth,” which take the listener on long, drawn out journeys through grime, groove and glistening, spacey atmosphere—all to come to a close at “Everything Will Rust,” a track which starts off innocuously, but, like all things Misery Signals do, only builds up to something marvelous and intricate. The fact that each song contains a miniature journey or adventure for the listener makes Absent Light a listening experience much greater than the sum of its parts—Absent Light is the metalcore expedition the listener was not only looking for, but deserved after five long years of anticipation.

You’ve probably seen at least one person claim that Absent Light will be album of the year. I’m not saying it will be—but I’m definitely not saying it won’t, either. Misery Signals have outdone themselves yet again with an intense and eye-opening journey through the chaotic, dense and lachrymating world that is metalcore. Everything they do, they do to the nines—unfathomable levels of ambience, unimaginably grotesque grooves and endlessly punishing breakdowns stud this release like glistening stars in a clear night sky.



For Fans Of: Solace, Volumes, Liferuiner, The Contortionist

By: Connor Welsh