Misery Signals
Of Malice and the Magnum Heart

Melodic metalcore has grown exponentially over the last few years, but it has also been plagiarized exponentially also, with countless Poison The Well clones poring from Orange County and the East coast.

One such band was the short lived 7 Angels 7 Plagues, who had a solid offering with Jhazmyne’s Lullabye. I tell you this because Misery Signals is 2 members of 7 Angels 7 Plagues (Ryan Morgan and Kyle Johnson) along with a member of defunct act Compromise. And while on the surface the Compromise element of the band is only vocalist Jesse Zaraska, his involvement is vital to Misery Signals overall sound. The sound is essentially a continuation of 7Angels 7 Plagues, with a more melodic edge, but Zaraska’s contribution vocally and lyrically gives the album a sincere, rending side. You see, his former band was involved in a fatal car wreck resulting in the death of 2 members, so a many of Zaraska’s lyrics deal with that loss, and he carries that burden vocally much more so than his forced contemporary’s screaming about first loves and broken relationships. The music itself carry the same kind of emotional, almost rending weight, but its also at times uplifting with its soaring melodies that signify signs of hope despite the misery.

 It could be argued that melodic metalcore saw its pinnacle with Shai Hulud, but Misery Signals do their damndest to claim the throne, but within their sublime harmonies there is a harder metal edge more akin to traditional, choppy, jagged metalcore, as their don’t solely flow and ebb with as many layers as Shai Hulud. Misery Signals interject plenty of methodical hardcore, it’s just that most of the time the riffs end with sublime harmonic flourishes that are often beautiful in their timing and scope. The melody never seems over the top or too forced, as every single note, be it an aggressive stomp or delicate bridge is expertly placed and played with a conviction the scene has been missing for a while. Each song has some kind of refrain that along with Zaraska’s sadness laden scream and spoken word could cause a lump in your throat. “In Response to Stars”, gives you first goose-bump inducing moments as the chorus lines ends with simply gorgeous refrains. “The Year Summer Ended in June” is one of the songs dealing with the fatal car wreck, and it shows as he sounds like his eyes are filling with tears: “These scars will always remind me of you, and you’re always with me”, but he never sounds cheesy or needlessly whiny. The tone of the song fits the theme of the song, and is just about as emotive metalcore song you will ever hear. To contrast the preceding song, “In Summary of what I am” starts with a far choppier, sturdy technical riff, but soon, with a seamlessly transition onto a more flowing harmonic style, inserts a sumptuous acoustic passage, that many bands try but few pull of with this authenticity.

“World & Dreams” fleshes out Misery Signals acoustic side with a finely crafted instrumental interlude that just shows how polished Misery Signals are. “Murder”, melds Shai Hulud-like orchestration and lurching metal core breakdowns, but even at their most melodic, Misery Signals retain some weight, rather than pure focus on dual leads. Now granted toward the end of the album, the closing tracks have an air of familiarity about them, and when slightly longer than the other tracks “Five Years”, and “Difference of Vengeance and Wrongs” don’t fully engulf the listener as the early tracks do as the ‘stuttering lurch followed by twiddly climax’ structure sounds a tad retread. And album closer “Difference of Vengeance and Wrongs” is just way too emo, clean and commercial, and sounds tacked on as an afterthought. I hope it does not signify the bands future direction. However, when it’s done this impeccably I can’t really complain that much.

The Devin Townsend production is spot on, and keeps Misery Signals squarely in the metal genre. If you’re getting silly over Killswitch Engage or lamenting the break of Hamartia and Shai Hulud, Misery Signals is now what you should be listening to. Great stuff.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
June 4th, 2004

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