Almost all metalcore bands that want to be noticed or stay relevant nowadays probably had to abandon the genre’s cookie cutter verse-chorus-breakdown song structure long ago, and come up with something fairly new or innovative to bring to the table, instead. Misery Signals does not exactly reinvent the genre, and they probably won’t interest anybody who isn’t already a fan of it, but they aren’t content to simply conform and be just one of the crowd, either — this is a band with a face! Thus, the Wisconsin-based quintet should have no problem turning many listeners’ heads and becoming a really huge band. In fact, we could even be looking at heavy music’s next big thing!
Misery Signal’s second album, 2006’s “Mirrors,” transcends the mere “metalcore” label in that it fuses together crushing heaviness with bright melodies, odd time signatures, and very tight and technical musicianship. And unlike a lot of melodic metalcore, “Mirrors” is, first and foremost, a heavy album. It punishes the listener’s ear drums relentlessly and from all angles, with pummeling, non-traditional rhythms, pounding drums, solid bass work, big, foundation-shaking breakdowns, and an impeccable, airtight interplay between the two guitarists’ equally meaty, bludgeoning riffs. New singer, Karl Schubach, (who, by the way, was selected via a myspace competition after previous frontman Jesse Zaraska left the fold) is the band’s biggest cliche, and his very limited and one-dimensional vocal range could be the only thing holding Misery Signals back from international greatness. In his defense, though, his beefy, full-bodied bellows (which are influenced squarely by modern day hardcore acts) do have a lot of force, power, and visceral impact, and they help to give the album its decisively edgy sound and in-your-face attitude. Overall, “Mirrors” sounds like a mix of Intronaut, Meshuggah, Hatebreed and/or Terror, and Zao, and the odd Converge influence is tossed in for good measure.
With some viscous double bass thunder, chunky, resonating power chords, livid, throat-ripping yells of “You brought this on yourself!”, and a ginormous, brutally booming wall of sound, opener “Face Yourself” confidently storms through your speakers and crushes you like a bug as soon as you hit the “PLAY” button. “Reference Lost” and “Sword Of Eyes,” which evoke the sound of a boulder lumbering down a mountainside, are the other heaviest tracks on offer here. Elsewhere, several of the songs –i.e. “The Failsafe,” “Migrate” (which features exceptional bass playing by Kyle Johnson), and “Something Was Always Missing, But It Was Never You” (to name just a few) — feature sections of pretty, soothing, lightly-picked strings, thus creating an excellent juxtaposition between them and their muscular, dissonant, almost skull-crushing surroundings.
Finally, there are two main highlight tracks from a melodic standpoint: “One Day I’ll Stay Home” and “An Offering To The Insatiable Sons Of God (Butcher).” The former boasts the album’s strongest and most infectious hook when Fall Out Boy singer, Patrick Stump, lends a bit of sweet, infectiously tuneful crooning to the chorus, giving the track a refreshingly laid-back and almost emo-ish sensibility. And the latter song features the album’s most prevalent melody, a sonically stunning and richly atmospheric intro that lasts upwards of forty seconds.
Bare in mind that “Mirrors” probably isn’t the type of metalcore that you are used to hearing. This is a very challenging album, and its lack of immediate hooks, melodic vocals, conventional song structures, and sing-along choruses is likely to be initially a bit frustrating for some listeners, so it will probably require several patient, repeat listens to appreciate and absorb fully. But don’t give up on it, because it may not be as easy to swallow as most standard metalcore fare, but after giving it a little time to digest, it is ultimately much more satisfying.