If you have listened to a fair share of metalcore in the past 10 years, you have probably heard of Wisconsin's Misery Signals. The band formed in 2002 and has released three albums to date (Of Malice and the Magnum Heart, Mirrors and Controller), all of which receiving fairly high praise from critics.
Following the release of Controller in 2008, Misery Signals went on a little hiatus. Most of the members were working on other projects (Solace, Burning Empires, Lowtalker), so it was never really clear what the future would hold for Misery Signals. In late 2010, however, the band stated that Misery Signals was not broken up and the band would, in fact, be practicing again sometime soon. Nearly three years later, Misery Signals is finally set to its fourth full-length album, Absent Light – which is being independently released, I might add.
If you have listened to Misery Signals in the past, you should expect most of what you hear on Absent Light. The album opens with a two-minute-long ambient intro called "A Glimmer of Hope," and what comes next is crushing vocals, melodic and progressive riffs and masterful work on the kit – the members of Misery Signals are at their best so far. "Luminary," which was released as the lead single to Absent Light, is fairly typical-sounding Misery Signals material, but it is even more polished than on previous releases.
"Reborn (An Execution)" is the third track and it's definitely a song that stood out to me on my first run-through of Absent Light. This track is even more melodic than "Luminary" and it features a fantastically executed string section before the climactic outro. The following track, "Carrier," is another stand out track. After an ambient intro that could lull you to sleep if it were 30 seconds longer, the powerful chords come in and you're thrown back into the heaviness and melody that is Misery Signals. "Carrier" starts to get very heavy around the two-minute mark and the aggressiveness is maintained until the outro. The outro is my favourite part of the track because it features a very subtle but extremely effective guitar melody in the background.
Next up is one of the heaviest and eeriest tracks, "Shadows and Depth." In addition to being heavy, there are quite a few extras (Born of Osiris-esque riffing, slow and devistatingly heavy chugs and a beautiful ambient outro featuring more strings) thrown into the mix to take "Shadows and Depth" to the next level. "Lost Relics" was the second single released by the band, and it's another noteworthy track. It was around this part of the album that I started to make the connection between Absent Light and Shai Hulud's newer material (it actually sounds like one of the ex-Shai Hulud vocalists is featured on "Lost Relics").
The remaining five tracks are all very strong, especially "The Shallows." The Shallows is groovy, features another well-crafted ambient interlude that sees the band utilize a few more instruments (an xylophone, I think) and comes to a close with a huge finish that is sure to make every listener bang their head. Furthermore, the main guitar lead near the beginning of "The Shallows" is nothing too complex, but it sounds incredible; it's one of those things that sounded so good that it gave me goosebumps.
Clocking in at nearly 43 minutes and packed full with melody, ambience and aggression, Absent Light is the perfect follow-up to 2008's Controller. The only issue that I had with this album was the cleans on the final two tracks. They sound pretty good, though that aspect is something that I feel the songs could have done without because it just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the material all that well, especially on the closing track titled "Everything Will Rust."
Minor flaws aside, fans that have been waiting around for new Misery Signals material will (or at least should) be satisfied with what the band has done on Absent Light. I know one thing's for sure: I am more than satisfied with this album, and now I am excited to see the band with The Color Morale and Intervals in a few days.