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Album Review: MISERY SIGNALS Absent Light

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A five year break is an eternity in the internet-driven world of rotisserie trends and frenetic meme turnover, but sometimes a band just need to step the fuck away for a bit. Such is the case with Milwaukee's best, Misery Signals, a band whose on-again/off-again unrest this past half-decade have found them living up to their own moniker.

I'll spare you the litany of side projects: most of them are the result of band members wanting to explore less heavy sounds, and yet none of those projects made waves within their chosen genres, so either you're a die hard fan and you're already aware of what this quintet has been dabbling in as of late… or you just don't give a fuck, as long as there's finally a new Misery Signals record to digest.

The post-rock chords opening the first track "A Glimmer of Hope" may have long time fans – to alternating cries of delight or howls of outrage – thinking that the band have retained their rejection of all things heavy and brought it aboard the mothership brand, but this is quickly revealed as mere slight of hand. Brief snippets of post-rock grace notes pop up in songs like "Shadows and Depth", but by and large this is Misery Signals re-engaged with their core dynamic: anthemic metalcore that would rather pluck from 90's groove metal than the modern, mallcore emo shit.

I've always contended that there should be different genre signifiers for stuff like Misery Signals compared to the maudlin, poppy choruses found on most Victory bands these days, but as long as it's all being lumped under the "metalcore" umbrella, rest assured that this is the Good Stuff and will not by any means trigger Hot Topic panic in the true metal fan.

The only gripe about Absent Light could also be seen as a strength to some; much like Hatebreed, even after a prolonged absence Misery Signals bounce back with a suite of material that picks up precisely where they left off: not only is there a defiant dearth of artistic development bridging Absent Light from it's 2008 predecessor, Controller, but the sheer familiarity ensures that repeat listens will be necessary in order to distinguish these 11 tracks from the rest of the band's catalog.

So be it. If repeat spins are a pre-requisite at least Misery Signals have rendered such a task an unabashed pleasure: Karl Schubach continues to maintain one of the more well-rounded voices in the genre, and Ryan Morgan and Greg Thomas seem to be reinvigorated by the time off, shoehorning as many riffs into a song as humanly possible without devolving into incomprehensibility. Branden Morgan matches them in energy and enthusiasm with fluid, always rousing drum work. More subtle is the roll call of guest musicians, none of whom make their presence blatantly obvious but all of whom contribute immeasurably in almost unnoticeable ways.

Welcome back, boys.

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