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Misery Index
Discordia
July 2006
Released: 2006, Relapse Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

Out of the new school of grind bands, the unheralded champion is Baltimore’s, Misery Index. On their second release, DISCORDIA, the band has mastered their socio-politically-charged lyrics, brutal vocals, blasting drums and speedy, technical riffing to such a finely-tuned craft that they are ascending to the classic realm of grind shared with the likes of Napalm Death, Repulsion, Carcass and Exhumed. Since their last full-length, 2003’s RETALIATE, the band has added second guitarist Mark Kloeppel to the lineup and Matt Byers has left the drums and new skinsman, Adam Jarvis, more than capably handles the sticks. In fact, the drum sound on DISCORDIA is so unrepentantly heavy (yet clear) that it leads the listener to instantly dispel any hesitation about Byers’ absence. Misery Index has also incorporated a more riff-based, hook-filled sound on DISCORDIA that was first explored on 2004’s DISSENT EP and may put off some fans but after one listen, it becomes apparent that this is a befitting approach. The brutality still lies within the death/grind/hardcore (no, this is NOT metalcore!) hybrid but as shades of melody peek through, it cements the band’s position as veritable musicians rather than just “head-down-and-go” purveyors of heaviness. If nothing else, Misery Index’s axemen have hit the books and learned how to craft more memorable riffs, ones that owe as much to blistering speed as they do technical precision or ear-bending hooks. DISCORDIA really benefits from a more group-oriented songwriting approach, too, as elder members Netherton and Voyles readily handed new recruits Jarvis (credited on all ten tracks, no less) and Kloeppel the reins and the results are as seething as ever, with the raging never stopping through the album’s 33-minute duration. Killer cover art aside, DISCORDIA is sure to place Misery Index among the crème de la crème of American extreme metal bands, a position they so rightly deserve.



The pummeling riffs of Sparky Voyles and Kloeppel jettison “Unmarked Graves,” while Netherton’s growling barks enshroud the darkly political commentary of his lyrics. Jarvis’ thunderous blend of blasting and precision here is jaw-dropping. The drums are right up in the mix and beg the listener to crank up the volume (trust me, it’s worth it). “Conquistadores” is an exercise in technical grind that many have tried to emulate but few have succeeded. Shifting gears from lightning-fast speed to a mid-paced rapturous groove and back again, this track showcases the skill that lies within the band members as they pull it off without flaw. Netherton really skewers consumerism with the brilliantly-titled “Outsourcing Jehova” (“From labor market hell, straight to well-worn shelves/Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart if the crosses were on sale?”) and further opines on the American ideal of jingoism on “Pandemican” (“And through all our failed attempts/We still proclaim our opinions law”). The Yanks fare even worse on the aspersion to the ignorance to its own problems on “Breathing Pestilence” (“Brother, wave your trust in faith goodbye/When it’s man against man, the culture consecrates the code of spite”) but Misery Index has never minced words in getting its point across and they certainly don’t hold back here, either. The slow-building intro to “Sensory Deprivation” sets in motion a clean guitar riff and paves the way for a fast, diving solo from Voyles that offsets the savage riffs found in between. “The Medusa Stare” is perhaps the heaviest track on DISCORDIA and is relentless from start to finish. The guitar squeals and rolling double bass/blasting epitomize the sound of New York death metal bands like Suffocation, Immolation, etc. and show the band’s influences. The slow, lumbering title track is a real departure for Misery Index, its dark moodiness creating an uneasy atmosphere of impending doom that is radically off-kilter from the rest of the album but still feels right at home.



Fans looking for a continuation of RETALIATE’s no-frills grind will be shocked to hear Misery Index embracing death metal riffing and a much cleaner, fuller production on DISCORDIA. Behind Jason Netherton’s pissed off rantings and Sparky Voyles’ technically jarring riffs, DISCORDIA seethes like the kraken, waiting to pull the listener into the abyss-like depths of heavy metal. The introduction of solos and melodies does nothing to squelch the ten-ton wallop that Misery Index lays down and DISCORDIA could very easily end up as a benchmark album for new-school grind. The genre can be very limiting but when a forward-thinking band like Misery Index is allowed to push the boundaries and let its influences and musical skills shine, the result is an album like DISCORDIA, one that is a sure-fire bet to be on many writers’ minds when assembling their year-end “best of” lists.



KILLER KUTS: “Unmarked Graves,” “Conquistadores,” “Breathing Pestilence,” “Sensory Deprivation,” “The Medusa Stare,” “Pandemican”
Track Listing

1. Unmarked Graves
2. Conquistadores
3. Outsourcing Jehova
4. Breathing Pestilence
5. Meet Reality
6. Sensory Deprivation
7. The Medusa Stare
8. Dystopian Nightmares
9. Discordia
10. Pandemican

Lineup

Jason Netherton—Vocals/Bass
Sparky Voyles—Guitar
Mark Kloeppel—Guitar
Adam Jarvis—Drums


Next review: » Misery Index - Discordia
Previous review: » Misery Inc. - Yesterdays Grave

Misery Index
Discordia
July 2006
Released: 2006, Relapse
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Madman

8 CD releases and yet this is only Misery Index’s second full-length album. This is the way of grind. Most that are at least somewhat up to date with the modern death/grind scene know who Misery Index is but those who may not know will find a band that takes the modern death/grind approach and perfects it to the point that the sound has simply reached its apex.



For some a drawing point may be the bands ties to Dying Fetus (bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton and guitarist Sparky Voyles former band) but the real kicker here is the music. Misery Index play aggressive death/grind with impressive accuracy. The band is able to craft this extreme music with a certain sense of musicality that will not be lost on the listener. Everything sits in the right place with a certain amount of melody and mosh breaks that work within the context of the song. Not to mention every riff is easily discernable, which may lead some to think the band is somewhat “dumbed down” but in all seriousness, the band just knows how to write good music.



Musically the ties to Dying Fetus are strong but there is a much stronger punk mentality found in some of the music than in DF. A good example would be the opening of track 5, “Meet Reality”, with its fast open chord riff and simple melody thrown overtop before moving into some impressive blast sections. It’s quite possibly this punk element to the music that keeps things discernible and more enjoyable than a lot of other bands playing the style who go over the top in extremity for the sake of being extreme.



The albums opening track, “Unmarked Grave”, perfectly exemplifies Misery Index at their best. It opens with blast beats though quickly calms down for the vocals so that things don’t become too over the top. There’s even a section that reminds me of crossover in its execution. A lot of it is mosh worthy and not in a bad way. “Conquistadors” yet again opens up with blasts but quickly sets into a certain groove mixed with some powerful drumming that completely takes over, alternating beats, overpowering fills and some strong cymbal work really push the song just that extra inch, especially during the “slower” (by comparison) sections. “The Medusa Stare” though being a bit more groove oriented is much more abrasive in its approach than some of the other songs on the album. Misery index pull out pinch harmonics and squeals here and there to help create a very antagonistic approach.



The rest of DISCORDIA is just as interesting and impressive as death/grind can be and coming from someone who is definitely not a fan of grind whatsoever, consider this a supreme compliment. This is grind for the masses, if there ever could be such a thing.
Track Listing

1. Unmarked Graves
2. Conquistadores
3. Outsourcing Jehovah
4. Breathing Pestilence
5. Meet Reality
6. Sensory Deprivation
7. The Medusa Stare
8. Dystopian Nightmares
9. Discordia
10. Pandemican

Lineup

Jason Netherton - Vocals, Bass
Sparky Voyles - Guitar
Mark Kloeppel - Guitar
Adam Jarvis - Drums


Next review: » Misery Index - Heirs to Thievery
Previous review: » Misery Inc. - Yesterdays Grave





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