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Miserist > Miserist > Reviews > ConorFynes
Miserist - Miserist

Retracing the path to death metal hell. - 72%

ConorFynes, March 8th, 2017

How is horror effectively conveyed through sound? We may not know the formula or the reasons why, but we definitely know when it works. Being unrelentingly extreme might work for a stint, but people are quick to develop a tolerance and make the noise benign. Wide dynamics in frequency and volume may keep an atmosphere fresh for longer, but I think what evoking true horror comes down to is striking a balance between that which we know already scares us, and the frightfully alien Unknown.

That the new band Miserist sounds very much like Gnaw Their Tongues and Portal does no disservice to this music's value as horror fuel. Whoever's behind this project clearly sought to shock their audience in the same way, through sheer Lovecraftian terror and swirling reflections of Hell. This is all speculation of course, but I'm not surprised that Miserist would have arrived at a fairly similar palette to achieve the entity's endgoal. Even if this is a familiar route to an all-too familiar brand of horror in modern black/death metal, Miserist summon enough atmosphere to set this band apart from the amorphous copycats.

Portal's trademark death metal swirl and vast cavern production are more commonplace now than ever, and while I think Gnaw Their Tongues' audio snuff film blackened industrial slag would be significantly harder for someone else to replicate, even Mories has his own cabal of disciples now. Besides the interesting choice to leave the Miserist EP completely instrumental, this band doesn't really add a new lens to this particular extreme metal niche. My point is that it doesn't need to, when the material is executed this well. The guitar sounds as nauseating and eldritch as it should, especially amid the torrent of background noise and sampled effects. The riffs are about what you'd expect given the comparisons, but they're far less crowded and more comprehensible than most anything from Portal; in my eyes this is a good thing. In line with good horror dynamics, the material can get slower as well, usually bringing the death-sludge of Ulcerate to mind. In many ways, Miserist reminds me of another new Australian black/death metal project, Convulsing, both in terms of the influences as well as the way they're used. For my money, I'd say Miserist does it better.

"Narikuntu" extends Miserist's grasp into the realm of the purely ambient. While it marks an obvious shift in pace and mindset, it's more than the extended afterthought I predict some might dismiss it as. The project at its heaviest still taunts the verge of ambiance; it makes sense that whomever's behind the material would conclude the Work at its natural source. Despite the absence of metal, "Narikuntu" continues to nurture Miserist's thick horror aura with nary a glimpse of faltering. At the risk of demystifying the ambient noise here, it's interesting to note how such a deep dread can be constructed with a handful of ingredients, all used effectively: a looming bass thrum, accented by alien gongs and noised up by what I'm almost certain is the sampled ambient "soundtrack" from E. Elias Merhige's horror curiosity Begotten. It can be hard not to see the ambient segment as a pure denouement, but if nothing else, it is proof that we have reason to expect good things from Miserist in more than one sound. The obvious Portal comparisons aside, there's enough here to suspect the project may take some unexpected identity of its own.

Miserist has made his (possibly their?) introduction to the wide wicked world on a strong note, with a solid impression manifesting despite any weaker elements. The programmed drums, for instance, either sound too fake or too real; the drums would have either benefited from a live performance or having taken advantage of the eerie possibilities of digital percussion, but as it is it feels like an area of untapped potential. The lack of vocals gives Miserist some unwitting uniqueness, sure, but there's another area where the potential should have gone one way or another; an uncommon move like that will inevitably draw attention to itself, and that spotlight could have been used to explore the possibilities of what is possible without a human voice at the helm. Either way, great legacies have been started on far dimmer notes than this. Not knowing who Miserist are yet, there are limits on the speculations we can make about the band. For the meanwhile, let's hope it won't be long before we hear its second manifestation.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.