Album Review: Misery Index’s Rituals of Power

  • Axl Rosenberg

Misery Index exist in a rarified strata of bands — including Hanneman-era Slayer, Dying Fetus, The Black Dahlia Murder — that somehow manage to stay awesome while ostensibly doing the same thing repeatedly. That might sound like a backhanded compliment, but I don’t intend for it to be. Lots of bands fight change with tooth and nail, and it’s usually to their own detriment. Just because something worked before does not mean it will definitely work again. It’s a thin line between sacred tradition and total stagnation.

So, no, Misery Index’s sixth and latest full-length, Rituals of Power, does not have a ton of new tricks up its sleeve. But that doesn’t really matter, because the tricks Misery Index have, they do as well as, or better than, any other band. Specifically, they write pitiless, epic, cinematic, anthemic American death metal fueled by pulverizing elephants marching riffs with neo-classical influences and flavorings of European melodeath circa a time when that categorization actually meant something. There are moments on this album — the final, almost elegiac refrain of “Decline and Fall,” the moment the main riff first kicks in during the title track, the extra-chunky work of the rhythm section beneath the absolutely ridiculous guitar solo on “Hammering the Nails” — that are as killer as anything you’ll hear on a death metal album in 2019. The mere concept of death metal fans not enjoying Rituals of Power is unimaginable to me.

(Not hurting: the band’s lyrics are, as always, politically inclined. In this case, they’re largely about truth, reality vs. propaganda, etc. In other words, it’s timely stuff that will provide some catharsis for more than one of us.)

Yes, it’s a thin line between sacred tradition and total stagnation, and Misery Index exist squarely on the correct side of that line. Why? I’m not 100% sure about this, but I think it’s because even if they didn’t exactly reinvent the death metal wheel, they are very distinctly themselves — you can hear all the influences, but it rarely sounds like they’re just aping their heroes. In other words, when you have a craving for Misery Index, no other band will do.

Don’t worry. Rituals of Power will satisfy that craving.

Misery Index’s Rituals of Power comes out March 8. You can check out the track “The Choir Invisible” here and pre-order the album here.

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