An unspoken rule among professionals yet sustains that anyone spending a decade doing anything should find success (or great skill) upon that milestone or risk looking like a damn fool chipping away beyond the peak of their abilities. This didn’t necessarily apply, at all, to Jason Netherton and the majority of his early Misery Index line-up as they saw exodus from Dying Fetus (circa 2001) just as the band had secured considerable success a decade deep. Though the pit metal fandom couldn’t have heard anything but progress, those involved would reach a point of creative blight where that hardcore brutality wasn’t much more than a job and the passion for the template had drawn little fuel to soldier on. Named for the exemplary exit of Assück‘s career and sporting three-fourths of Dying Fetus‘ line-up Misery Index wouldn’t shake that ‘Destroy the Opposition 2.0’ stigma until the release of the crust/grindcore influenced break of ‘Retaliate’ in 2003. From that point the project would serve as a certain distillation of deathgrind, an accessible grindcore experience boiled into a concentrate of no frills hardcore influenced death metal. This’d persist until that decade marker hit once more and Misery Index would become a relatively part-time venture by 2011 or so, just beyond their fourth record ‘Heirs to Thievery’ (2010). With that history behind them and an easygoing attitude moving forward it comes as a great surprise that the projects sixth album comes as their most inspired release of the last decade or so.
‘Retaliate’ is a solid album and absolutely the sort of record I recommend to people looking for an ‘in’ to the world of deathgrind, grindcore, and extreme music in general; There are melodic sections within Misery Index‘ full-length debut that pull influence from both neocrust and classic grindcore and set them within to a full on post-millennial death metal sound that served as a solid enough archetypal performance level for many folks. As that reference ages towards the two decade mark it becomes harder to recommend and while ‘Traitors’ (2008) helped carry the project into relevance (within the modern higher-profile extreme metal touring sect) today there are thousands of better options for the mainstream-to-underground conversion pieces (Nails, for example). As a fan, I stopped buying Misery Index records after the first though, I was happy to see them live as they’ve always been a fantastically heavy precision performance. The major point of recommendation for ‘Rituals of Power’ from that perspective is that I’d actually be inclined to pick up this latest record and it has persisted in my rotation far beyond expectations so far. Some of that enthusiasm comes from 2016 when Netherton put in some work with the inspired debut from Asphalt Graves but I’d say ‘Rituals of Power’ incorporates late 90’s hardcore influences to much greater, lasting effect.
The bloodied, stone-encased skeleton clutching a tombstone reading ‘veritas’ offers a less than subtle indication of the lyrical focus of ‘Rituals of Power’ which criticizes and warns of our age of disinformation and the bold untruths currently manufacturing cattle culture globally. Misery Index is as blunt as their influences in this regard and if there was on aspect of their whole act that is purely ‘old school’ it’d be that bluntness. It wouldn’t be obscene to suggest that Misery Index at their most relaxed, part-time expresses as a more thoughtful crew at their very best finalizing their ideas and recording them long-distance between several studios. It is a modern undertaking for a band that’d surely felt aged and increasingly rote as they chilled out. I appreciate this record for the ‘tightening of the screws’ that it is, an appropriate reaction to nihilistic times among anxious tech-zombie children and peak heavy music fandom and my warming up to it might simply speak to how ‘classic’ of a deathgrind record ‘Rituals of Power’ is. Despite the Xibalbas, Nails and Dyscarnates shoving their way into the muscular spectrum of hardcore/deathgrind permutations there is something comparatively revitalizing about putting on this latest Misery Index and seeing that level of heavy done with seemingly effortless skill. Is this Hatebreed assed death-moshing grind record going to have a huge impact on my 2019? No, probably not but I can still recommend it to folks who want to take a look back at the early days of Misery Index through a modern lens and spirited performance. Moderate recommendation. For preview “The Choir Invisible” is the catchiest moment here outside of the hardcore hits of “New Salem’ and I’d generally start with those two tracks; If you feel like jumping off from there give the title track a shot to get a more complete idea of where ‘Rituals of Power’ goes.
Addicted to extremes. 3.75/5.0
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