REVIEW: Misgiver – Cruelty of Life [EP/2016]
Album: Cruelty of Life – EP
Life is hard. It is grueling, it is difficult, it is unforgiving and it is unkind—anyone who tells you differently is high or selling you something. To paraphrase Hamlet, there is no limit to the slings and arrows life will hurl your way; some you can dodge, but many you must endure in a manner that gives you little other option but to grin and bear it. While many people will tell you that simply knowing this will help you make less painful decisions and better suffer life’s unkindness, that, again, is untrue. The only option we’re given in life is to keep pushing and survive or to give up–which is where Misgiver’s sophomore EP comes into play. Cruelty of Life acknowledges all of life’s trials and tribulations—every ounce of oppression and bitterness—and spits it right back in life’s face. Another brief offering from this Elmira-based New York onslaught, Cruelty of Life sees Misgiver moving on from the blatant Expire worship of Loathing and into their own intense, hyper-aggressive sound—proof that just because life can swing hard and swing fast, that doesn’t mean you can’t swing back harder.
Cruelty of Life is a heavy-handed hardcore record that draws from contemporary beatdown and slam-tinted heavy music stylings and infuse them with traditional, riff-driven hardcore. Misgiver aren’t technical and they sure as hell are not subtle; much like their debut, Loathing, their latest offering is hell-bent on beating the listener to a pulp. Instrumentally, and in all other ways, that’s where the similarity to their previous material stops. Percussionist Joey Lanzillotto oscillates between brash, bold patterns that pile heaps of heavy ride bell hammering atop slamming kick drum patterns and dancy, quick two-steps. From the fleet footwork that drops into a devastating breakdown in “607,” to the fast-paced and pissed off patterns in “Dissimulator” and “Tunnel Vision,” Lanzillotto does an excellent job of forming a fluid, dynamic foundation for bassist Kody Breinlinger and guitarist Paul Lares to build atop. Breinlinger’s bass is beefy and thick, coating Lanzillotto’s already-lurid kit in even more grisly, gritty filth. All the while, Lares’ fretwork follows Lanzillotto’s lead to a tee. “Tunnel Vision” and “Short End” are riff-driven and insanely catchy, with the ending to the former bound to make the listener stop whatever they’re doing and bang their head until their neck breaks. Meanwhile, “God’s Acre” and “607” are pure insanity—with slams and breakdowns heavy enough to break an elephants back and filthy enough to bathe in the deceased beast’s blood afterwards. “God’s Acre” is especially pertinent evidence that while Misgiver are a much more “riffy” band, they certainly have not lost their love of brutality.
Misgiver’s manic message of life’s cruel and unusual treatment comes from the voice of frontman Ryan Force (since replaced with current vocalist Ken Smith), and Force is certainly a force to reckoned with. Filling every track with bitter, harsh shouts and gritty, deep growls, Force’s furious vocal dynamic is refreshing after the somewhat bland performance on Loathing. Cruelty of Life sees him letting loose with everything he has—whether it’s with his bouncy and catchy vocal patterns on “Dissimulator” or his rapid-fire spitting on the introductory segment to “Malignant,” Force’s vocal effort is a monstrous improvement within the context of Misgiver’s discography, and a stellar effort as a standalone album. When Force barks “playing the victim/when you’re the fucking problem” on “Malignant,” that may as well be the death knell for the listener—because no matter where they are or who they’re with, every friend, no matter how loved, becomes a target; and all hell breaks loose subsequently.
Where there was nothing inherently wrong with Loathing, it did feel as though Misgiver hadn’t truly found their own sound–which they certainly have on Cruelty of Life. Catchy, crushing and bouncy, Misgiver’s sophomore effort is the definition of sinister—even if it is, like many otherwise outstanding heavy hardcore and metalcore albums, a touch too short. Even at a lofty seven song length, the longest song is just barely over two minutes—putting it at a short fifteen minutes long, which doesn’t seem fitting given how excellent the albums material is. Ultimately, the listener can cope—by blaring it on repeat—but it would still feel an overall stronger release were it a little longer, even if that might put Misgiver at risk of coming across as monotonous. Ultimately, where as life is very long, Cruelty of Life isn’t—but no fear, as it still manages to pack a comprehensive arsenal of misery and brutality within its fifteen minute duration.
For Fans Of: Mercy Blow, Varials, Wicked World, Expire
By: Connor Welsh