Misery Signals


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With the release of their third album, Controller, in he summer of 2008, Milwaukee, WI's Misery Signals effectively cast their lot with the collective fate of the rest of the melodic metalcore movement -- in sickness and in health -- as it gradually wanes in popularity on its way to being replaced by...oh, who knows? And who cares, both the group and its many fans might ask, since there's arguably as much historical precedent suggesting bands are always better off sticking to their stylistic guns, than hopping bandwagons in search of the next, fashionably trendy sub-sub-subgenre. And, for what it's worth, Controller slots quite comfortably alongside either of its very accomplished predecessors, showing that Misery Signals continue to excel at commingling both sides of the heavy/light emotional spectrum that defines their chosen genre. Typical energized jolts of catchy, concise metallic hardcore such as "Nothing," "Labyrinthian," "Set in Motion," and "Homecoming" fluidly rotate crunchy, bruising, yet agile riffs with luminous, oftentimes angelic harmonies, capable of latching onto listeners' memory banks like some evil sort of hot taffy. The fact that vocalist Karl Schubach competently matches his bandmates' every musical mood swing with alternately grunted, barked, sung, or spoken passages goes without saying; but there are times when one wishes that the entire group would simply loosen up a little, relinquish some of their iron-fisted performance discipline, and get down with their wild side. I mean, is a little sense of outright spontaneity too much to ask for, when an infamously crazed genius like Devin Townsend is acting as producer? Add to that a relative shortage of unexpected twists, beyond a little taste of Meshuggah's wacky rhythmic lurch to start off "A Certain Death," and some nice displays of dreamy atmospherics in "Coma" and "Reset," and the established Misery Signals template would surely feel far too restricted and safe, were they any less commanding of its every nuance. Nevertheless, in the big picture of hardcore and heavy metal's evolution through the new millennium's first decade, Controller at least shows Misery Signals to be in full control of their destiny and their chosen craft -- even if it's no longer considered cutting-edge.

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