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Upon first hearing "Retaliate," which was the first Misery Index album I ever owned, I was initially turned off by their sound. It simply didn’t click with me. Then one day I went to a show which Dying Fetus was headlining, and Misery Index was brought along for the ride. I have to say, after seeing their live performance; I was forced to re-evaluate my previously low opinion of the band.
The band has similarities to Dying Fetus, which isn't surprising considering that almost all the members were once members of Dying Fetus. However Misery Index plays with a somewhat different style than Dying Fetus does, and there are notable differences.
The guitars on "Retaliate" play at a mid to fast pace throughout the album. The first two tracks, "Retaliate," and "The Lies That Bind," are slow to mid paced, and the second track features an instrumental segment that can almost be called a guitar solo. From 2:05 on to 2:35 on "The Lies That Bind," the guitarists Jason Netherton and Sparky Voyles play harmonic guitar riffs that are very pleasing to the ear. This harmony can also be heard throughout the remainder of the album. However, after "The Lies That Bind," things speed up and the band starts playing faster guitar riffs, starting with "The Great Depression." Compared to Dying Fetus, Misery Index's guitars are more grind sounding than the death metal sounding guitars of Dying Fetus, which plays a much heavier style.
The drumming of Matt Byers is probably biggest similarity between Misery Index and Dying Fetus, which is surprising considering that Byers is the only member who at the time of the recording wasn't a former Dying Fetus member. However, my problem with the drumming is at times, like on "Order Upheld/Dissent Dissolved," the drums are difficult to hear because the guitars and vocals are placed up front. Other than that the drumming is done very well.
The only problem I have with this album, other than that one flaw in the drumming is the repetitiveness of the album. Very few of the songs here stand out from one another, and the first time I listened to it all the way through I barely noticed when a different song started playing. Although the influence of Dying Fetus is evident, to me they sound more like Carcass, Bolt Thrower, and other early death/grind bands.
"Retaliate," is a good debut, but nothing really stands out on it.
Good lord. I've been sitting around with my thumb up my ass waiting to hear a record like this since I was initially introduced to extreme music. This album transcends death metal, grindcore, and crust/d-beat all together, resulting in an album entirely memorable and, more importantly, original work with an intenstiy the likes of which has become far too rare.
My first introduction to this band, at least in namesake, was in a description that immediately resulted in to near insurmountable biases. It was said by a reviewer that they sound a lot like that band from whose album they take their name. It was then said by me that this comparison was bullshit. While Assuck released probably the single most unrelenting grind records ever, period, and while Misery Index is currently the natural successor in terms of that same, elusive intensity, these guys in fact bear little to no resemblence thereto. Second, I read that, at the time of the recording of this album, the band was composed entirely of Dying Fetus members. I've never liked Dying Fetus. I've never given them a chance, nor do I plan to in the near future, which is just as well, because "Retaliate" takes a big, steaming shit all over anything that band has done or will ever do.
With "Retaliate," Misery Index ferociously confirm what they'd been threatening with shit-eating, albeit crooked, grins since day one, specifically that they could easily rejuvenate the entire death metal/grindcore (as it has essentially become one and the same these days) genre. What Misery Index does is remind death/grind of it's roots while giving it a good, swift kick to its lazy ass to make it get up off the couch and lose its beer-gut. They succeed so well in recalling, often all within the same song, any number of death metal's greats: clear nods to Napalm Death, Suffocation, Carcass, Entombed, Obituary (is that Tardy on "Demand the Impossible"?), and Cryptopsy abound, yet nothing is ever directly lifted therefrom. It's evident that these bastards have this music in their veins, and thus do they succeed so well in (probably unconsciously) incorporating their influences into their compositions. However, that's just the tip of the iceberg. This is the only death/grind album that I've ever heard that I may safely describe as honestly cinematic: while the requisite face-ripping riffs and speed abound, there are moments of true, blissful (yeth, blithful) melody and harmony vaguely reminiscent of black metal, particular of Emperor circa "Anthems" and of Blasphemer's recent work in Mayhem. not to mention the dynamics manifested in the perpetual tempo- and stylistic-shifts that render the compositions almost epic. Woven throughout is a general sense of "grasp, clench and release," or a tendency to build intensity through successive passages, culminating in several seconds of all-out visceral, spine-chilling havoc, before the band blasts it all into the proverbial abyss through sudden, although relative, sparseness. In other words, by switching up sheer death metal heaviness and grindcore intensity with the crusty groove of the almighty d-beat of Anti-Cimex, Extreme Noise Terror, and any band whose name has ever begun with "Dis-." Misery Index thus manages to realize a sound altogether unique and invigorating, even intoxicating, turning the last 20 (!) years of grindcore and death metal inside out and leaving the reeking viscera exposed before promptly devouring and regurgitating everything contained therein.
Simply put, I am utterly blown away. I can't even muster the testicular fortitude to compose a proper conclusion. Mandatory. Brilliant. Grind.
*EDIT 10/14/11: So yeah, this is definitely still good, quite good in fact, but when I was twenty-one and writing gushing reviews like this I just hadn't lived enough. Records like this one, or Blackthrone's Black Metal Juggernaut, for example, just don't hold up over time as well as they seemed they would: they don't invite me back time and again for repeated listenings. Meanwhile, I'm still regularly spinning old Darkthrone and Mayhem albums twelve years after hearing them for the first time. This didn't make it one, and so am I revising my previous 92% down to a 70%.
This should be awesome: it "crushes" and "kills" and "destroys" (no Spazz pun intended), but it doesn't move me. It races past my ears these days, doesn't go anywhere, and ends up somewhere out in the stratosphere and I only remember bits and pieces of what I've just heard. It has some staying power, but not enough, and I think bands like Misery Index are really doing nothing more than filling a vacuum left by the disintegration of past grind greats, meanwhile falling victim to the same trap that has ensnared most other extreme of the past ten or so years: they spin their sub-genre's wheels by playing music that serves solely to reference the past and induce nostalgia.