Miseration – Black Miracles and Dark Wonders Review

When it comes to versatile metal vocalists, few people pop into my head faster than Christian Älvestam. I loved his work with Scar Symmetry, and I followed his career after his departure. I was overjoyed when he joined Jani Stefanović (Renascent and DivineFire) in both Solution .45 and Miseration, and I especially enjoyed the latter’s output. Miseration‘s 2006 debut Your Demons – Their Angels didn’t stray too far from Älvestam’s work in Scar Symmetry, opting for a highly melodic death metal sound and utilizing both death vocals and clean singing. I played that record over and over, and I still find myself returning to opening track “Thrones” whenever I’m in need of a good bludgeoning. 2009 follow-up The Mirroring Shadow found the band pivoting significantly as they dialed down the melody and lost the clean vocals altogether. The result was a far more straightforward, but no less compelling, affair. For whatever reason, I lost track of these guys after that album, totally missing 2012’s Tragedy Has Spoken, and I was utterly shocked—and delighted—to find that they were going to be releasing their fourth record here in 2022.

It may have been a decade since Miseration last released an album, but Black Miracles and Dark Wonders makes me feel like I’m walking into the warm embrace of an old friend. Älvestam’s effortlessly smooth crooning makes a significant contribution, Stefanović has once more taken up his melodeath mantle, and it all takes me right back to Your Demons – Their Angels. But that’s not to say that Miseration is merely rehashing their original sound. Thanks to the addition of a slightly blackened edge, as well as the incorporation of symphonic and atmospheric elements, these guys have managed to make the old feel new. Hearing Älvestam unleash his angelic voice on “Reign of Fate” brought back a flood of pleasant feelings, and all these years later, I’m still blown away by the juxtaposition of his two voices. Stefanović has taken over all instruments for this go-round, and the song’s accessible heaviness reminds me why I’ve always found his projects so compelling.

Whether moving fast or slow, the vast majority of Black Miracles and Dark Wonders slays. “The Seal of the Eight-Pointed Star” opens things in blistering fashion, “Desecrate, Dominate, Eradicate” follows suit with a machine-gun salvo of its own, and “Enuma Elish” brings a strong melodic black metal tinge to its brutal assault. But as good as these faster songs are, the more epic tracks just might be better. “Connector of the Nine Worlds” is a long, blackened journey among the branches of the world tree that showcases the many strengths of both Älvestam and Stefanović, and “Kingdoms Turned to Sand” is just enormous. The slower riffing, combined with the phenomenal, varied vocals, gives the latter such a powerful vibe that I wish the nearly five-minute song were twice as long. As Älvestam layers his growls to spew the track’s title, I can almost see the world’s civilizations—past, present, and future—disintegrating into so much dust.

A couple of the tracks here have slight memorability problems when stacked against their standout neighbors, but this issue really doesn’t detract from the visceral experience that is Black Miracles and Dark Wonders. “Fed by Fire/Led by Blood” and “Shah” are both good, heavy songs in their own right, but don’t quite live up to the rest. Fortunately, no real dip in quality is felt as these two tracks take the form of the Big Mac patties stacked evenly between a triple bun comprised of album highlights, and when you take a bite of this perfectly balanced sandwich, you’ll be lovin’ it. Speaking of highlights, check out “The Seal of the Eight-Pointed Star,” “Reign of Fate,” “Desecrate, Dominate, Eradicate,” “Enuma Elish,” “Kingdoms Turned to Sand,” and “Connector of the Nine Worlds.”

Having long been a fan of both Älvestam and Stefanović, I’m delighted to find this newest iteration of Miseration to be a resounding success. Black Miracles and Dark Wonders doesn’t rewrite the book of death, but it’s an extremely well-crafted exercise in melodic technicality that should be enjoyed by fans of Fleshgod Apocalypse and Scar Symmetry.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Website: facebook.com/miseration.official
Releases Worldwide: April 22nd, 2022

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