MISERY INDEX [Death metal from Baltimore, Maryland, USA]
YEAH! Misery Index kommen ins JuHa West. Das wird ein FEST.
Two decades into their venerable careers, Baltimore death metal savants MISERY INDEX are back with their new record, ‘Complete Control’. The album was recorded in September and October of 2021 and subsequently mixed by Will Putney prior to being mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street studios. The cover features the visceral, uncanny work of visual artist Matt Lombard.
The band’s seventh studio album, and their first with Century Media, is the follow up to 2019’s ‘Rituals of Power’ – and, in the band’s view, serves as a well-refined continuation of their previous efforts. Musically, they share: “we’re mixing death metal even more explicitly with our brutal hardcore and grindcore influences. It’s as if you took our early punk-leanings, mixed them with the thematic darkness of ‘The Killing Gods’, and further blended it with the straight-forwardness of ‘Rituals of Power’, all in one concise presentation.”
As members of an East Coast death metal outfit, MISERY INDEX also stand out for their socially-critical lyrics which focus on everyday themes of exploitation, alienation and injustice. However, long-time followers are more than aware of the well-informed perspective that the band brings to their music – most notably that of founding vocalist and bassist Jason Netherton (who holds a PhD in Media Studies as well as being the author of the book “Extremity Retained: Notes From The Death Metal Underground”). Speaking about the new record from a conceptual standpoint, he offers: “'Complete Control' is a thematic idea which connects all the lyrics into a kind of loosely based concept album. The central idea is that ‘power’ is not something that is always wielded with brute force in the modern world (through violence), but moreso as a control-society where it manifests on a self-governing, individual level (in and through our everyday habits and practices). Each song then dissects these insidious forms of control as they work to fragment, reshape and suppress our very selfhood in alignment with the interests of global finance. I know these are not easy themes to discuss, but to me, it’s always more impactful and sincere to rage about real-world issues, no matter how much we’d like to escape them.”
For MISERY INDEX, being alert and vociferous about present day societal strife is an extension of death metal’s tried and true traditions. Just like on previous albums, the end goal isn’t to cater to whatever has become fashionable or exploit cheap thrills – it’s to continue a long history of purposeful dissent. “I feel like we study and honor the history of this music, and for bands like Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Disrupt, Brutal Truth, etc., social critique is very much a part of their approach to making music. When musical traditions are not honored, you end up pandering to whatever happens to be the flavor of the month. What this practice churns out is a music culture divided into micro-sub-genres that do one or two things overly well, but leaves much to be desired in terms of maintaining song structure and lyrical depth.”
Notably, this new LP represents the band’s seventh full-length release in just 19 years. For a band like MISERY INDEX, there is a constant dialogue that both addresses what they do and do not identify with, and the answers to both questions often involve looking back to their roots. “We maintain our approach to music-making by consciously avoiding trends. We try to further what we are doing with each effort by tapping into our own matrix of influences which span the realms of punk, hardcore, death metal, and grindcore. For the most part, we write for ourselves and seek to please our own musical
aspirations before those of our audience or anyone else. In many ways, our music is also inseparable from the Maryland extreme music scene it was born from, where the hardcore and punk influences historically situated in the D.C. and Baltimore areas provided us with a unique foundation to base our brand of extreme metal upon. Over the years, however, the sound has evolved considerably into a death metal band that incorporates all those styles evenly to avoid stagnation or becoming one-dimensional.”
As devoted fans of the band might expect, current events, both domestically and abroad, played a role in the band’s writing process on ‘Complete Control’ – as they always have. This time around, MISERY INDEX isn’t shying away from acknowledging both the pros and cons of these tumultuous times from a creative perspective. “To be perfectly honest, I think the struggle and challenge of putting this latest effort together helped refine the songwriting and made the album even better. The scenario however was far from ideal, especially for the recording process. The world totally shut down right on the tail end of our EU tour with Napalm Death and EyeHateGod in early March 2020. For a solid year and half, we had to write and record this thing separately by sending files back and forth online and utilizing nearby studios for tracking.”
In the end, the adversity faced has yielded another gem. ‘Complete Control’ is a riff-driven assault that captures the tension of the modern condition – channeling it into nine songs of ripping ‘end-times’ death metal. From “Administer the Dagger” to “The Eaters and the Eaten,” the listener is dragged across concrete hellscapes echoing the rage and contempt of a dead-end generation. Spewing with Orwellian invective and razor-sharp songwriting, this new album is a much-needed hammer to the face; a wake-up call for the disaffected and dispossessed. ‘Complete Control’ is a rousing metal soundtrack for a new epoch that melds deft and diverse songwriting with a demand for a better way of life.