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Album Review: Misery Signals - 'Controller'

18 July 2008 | 12:12 pm | Staff Writer

Album of the year.

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Yes, I’m aware that this review's summary is a bold statement. After all, handing out album of the year honours in July might be seen by some readers as jumping the gun somewhat, but you know what, it’s going to take something special to knock off Controller as the best release of 2008 (Glassjaw, I’m looking in your direction), so I’m standing by my declaration.

A lot of Misery Signals fans weren’t too enthused with the group’s last effort 'Mirrors' (which I for one thought was great), so how did the five-piece respond? They recruited production mastermind Devin Townsend - yep, the man responsible for the punishing sounds that were found on the band’s debut full length – and wrote some of the most technically impressive, yet instantly accessible metal that this reviewer has heard since… well, the first time I stumbled across Misery Signals!

The moment “Nothing” comes spewing out of your speakers you’ll be flawed by the precision drum work and intricate riffing that have become an integral part of the Misery Signals sound. Throughout a flurry of creative drum fills the song still manages to maintain a steady beat, all the while Stuart Ross and Kyle Morgan are giving us mere mortals a lesson in fretboard theatrics. Many a long-term Misery Signals fan seems to have some kind of attachment to the group’s original singer, and as such, they haven’t fully embraced Karl Schubach as a front man. I’m going to put it out there… Karl is a far superior vocalist! His voice has a massive bottom end yet still

retains a clarity that makes every one of his lyrics audible and most importantly, understandable.

“Weight Of The World” could be the most straightforward tune the band has committed to tape, that is until its foot to the floor tempo makes way for a hook-laden chorus and a Meshuggah worthy breakdown. The melody-driven “Labyrinthian” shows just how diverse the band’s sound is, melding complex drum patterns with effects-laden guitar work, all of which culminates in one of the record’s most crushing moments.

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Both “Parallels” and “Coma” strike that perfect balance between heaviness and ambiance, the latter utilizing the percussive talents of Ryan and Branden Morgan’s(drums) father. “A Certain Death” chops and changes between upbeat verses and groove-heavy metal riffs, an unlikely pairing in anyone else’s language, however, Misery Signals seem to excel at coupling polar opposites together. It should also be noted that the clean vocals that appear in the song are courtesy of Karl himself, stunning that someone who can deliver such unrelenting screams is capable of carrying a user-friendly tune.
Song of the record (and of the year) goes to “Set In Motion”. Apart from the fact that the music is second to none the commanding vocal-chant of “burn it to the fucking ground” simply cannot be ignored. The rhythmic heaviness of “Ebb And Flow” is complimented by another clean vocal passage, while the plethora of time changes and guitar parts offered up in “Reset” should keep even the most cynical metal fan happy. Rounding out Controller is “Homecoming”, a song that is as epic as anything else the band has penned in their career.

Great record. Great band. Enough said!

    1. Nothing
    2. Weight Of The World
    3. Labyrinthian
    4. Parallels
    5. Coma
    6. A Certain Death
    7. Set In Motion
    8. Ebb And Flow
    9. Reset
    10. Homecoming