A few weeks ago the Pacific Northwest was a nightmare. Everything was dry and the hot weather felt like it would last an eternity. You can cry me river about the Midwest and humidity/temperature extremes. Oh, I know. I lived there for twenty-nine years. However, around mid-way through July the new Mist of Misery fell into my hands and I immediately turned it on. And once the album got underway, I became even more hungry for the cooler winds of autumn.
Mist of Misery are an interesting, meditative, epic, and depressing beast. Hailing out of Stockholm, Sweden, I missed their 2011 debut Bleak Autumn but as it turns out, the trio have been locked into the rustic season all these years. Just gazing into the cold album artwork by Alex Tartsus sets the perfect mood for Absence. And by the time it’s over, you might be able to feel the scraping of bare branches on your skin.
It’s symphonic black metal, first and foremost. Absence is on every level an epic album that has some incredibly strong instrumental arrangements that sound like they’re gothic horror soundtrack quality. And it’s at this point I should point out that if you only take your black metal raw, recorded on a tape deck with frayed wires and a blown out microphone, just move along. There’s nothing here for you. The recording quality for this album is stunning. The instrumental orchestration of “Melancholic Thoughts” is nothing short of gorgeous. Hell, the album doesn’t even really pick up until a few minutes into the second track, “Euthanasia”, when the aggression kicks on.
Where Mist of Misery really stand out, concerning the black metal approach, is how much they bring the depressive/suicidal sound into the mix. Sure the band name is a dead giveaway for a mood setter, but the aggressive bits aren’t as Dimmu Borgir as one might expect. The influence is there, sure, but there’s plenty of Xasthur too. Pieces like the title track “Absence” do a fantastic job of marrying the two as it sounds like the vocals and being screamed clear over a chasm in the at the edge of a desolate forest. There’s a perpetuating solitude that carries over the album, even when the choir portions hit.
What some black metal listeners might find off putting however is how Mist of Misery certainly has a favoritism for the instrumentation and serene sections over the aggressive attack. The grey skies last much longer than the raging storms that the band can conjure up in the blink of an eye. Those that have a strong preference for dark, classical music will probably, on the other hand, be wishing for more than the forty-three-minute run time.
Mist of Misery have crafted, and I’ll say it again, a gorgeous piece with Absence. The melding of symphonic black metal and the DSBM stuff creates something truly moving. It’s like a funeral that goes from dusk until dawn. It’s like watching sunlight drown in the horizon. Even non-listeners of black metal can find something to love here. The band are also hoping to release their follow up next year. Another five to six-year absence would be a shame.