Album of the Day: Misery Index, “Rituals of Power”

Baltimore’s Misery Index embody a Motörheadian approach to deathgrind, foregoing rapid mutations for consistent, incrementally changing output rife with sharp riffs and lockstep blast beats. Like Lemmy, bassist and vocalist Jason Netherton is Misery Index’s only original member, and with him at the helm you know what to expect: equal concern for Brutal Truth and brutal truths. 

That isn’t to say they put out the same record twice: 18 years in, their sixth record Rituals of Power develops their sound while tightening up their approach. Misery Index feel crisper, their death metal side more polished, still without excess, and their grind side more precise. Power doesn’t flip their influences, but it does put them in a different, slightly brighter light. Pretty much every deathgrind band is indebted to Carcass to some degree, though Power veers towards Surgical Steel’s precision more than Symphonies of Sickness’s ramshackle gore. “Hammering the Nails” is a grindier version of modern-day Carcass: sleek, and able to cut you in a flash. Netherton played in Dying Fetus before forming Misery Index, and there’s still a touch of ignorant brutality left in “Decline and Fall” and “I Disavow” in their ending breakdowns. No use wasting a killer slam riff if you’ve got one at your disposal.

There’s always been an anti-establishment streak to Misery Index’s music—ghoulish figures dressed as priests and businessmen are pretty much their Baphomet and inverted crosses—and Power keeps that up. “The Choir Invisible” stands out for being unusually anthemic: Netherton, with old-fashioned gusto and the help of hardcore-tinged gang vocals, turns “We are disposable! The choir invisible!” into not just a chorus, but a rallying cry. It’s the most distinguishable vocal of the record, one that’s on the same level as the rest of the music, pressing itself to the front. There’s rarely a slow moment on Power, yet nothing quite as urgent as “Choir.” Sure, we’re all fucked, but Misery Index see that sentiment as a small form of uniting comfort.

-Andy O’Connor

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