Originally spawned from the remnants of the classic Dying Fetus line-up from the monumental Destroy the Opposition, Misery Index wasted fuck all time getting their act together and becoming an immediate force in the extreme metal scene in the early aughts, grinding out a powerful and now lengthy history of their own. Their insightful and vicious socio-political tirades and passionate values matched up perfectly with their grind and thrash-infected style of muscular death metal. Misery Index have managed to deftly shift and evolve their sound along the way, crafting a consistent and high-quality body of work, highlighted by 2008’s vicious Traitors album, and arguably their finest hour, 2010’s modern masterwork, Heirs of Thievery. But nearly 20 years into their career, are these modern-day descendants of Napalm Death still able to muster the strength and power to dominate in 2019?
Jason Netherton and his loyal cohorts answer the question early in the piece, signalling the welcome return from a typically exuberant and fiery Misery Index. Listeners were treated with an early taste through powerhouse pre-release songs, “New Salem” and “Rituals of Power,” two potent, neck-wrecking tunes that fit snugly amidst the surrounding carnage, a factor indicative of the album’s unified strength and consistency. Misery Index have developed into a dynamic force, and while the grind elements have been scaled back in more recent times, the punky slant and grinding blasts remain complimentary to the band’s ironclad riffage and belligerent grooves. However, Rituals of Power begins with a mature slice of restraint. Opener “Universal Untruths” is a bruising mid-paced crusher, using pure sonic force and punishing rhythms to get its point across, further boosted by tasty guitar work and foreboding melodies.
Elsewhere, Misery Index hit the afterburners on dynamic, punky brawlers, “Decline and Fall” and “The Choir Invisible,” both songs delving out punishing blows; fast jabs to the guts, before brutal hooks land with devastating impact. Really, it’s all in a day’s work for Misery Index and it’s wonderful to hear them back and sounding so vital and pissed off. The album’s concise run-time also works to the band’s advantage, especially when coupled with consistently strong and memorable song-writing packed into tightly constructed tunes. Pleasingly free of unnecessary filler, Misery Index frequently go straight for the jugular, without dispensing with their groovier beatdowns and dynamic shifts, going out with a bang courtesy of the vicious, death-grind speedball and relentless percussive assault of closer “Naysayer.” The towering strengths of Rituals of Power demonstrate Misery Index‘s continued maturity, passion and always present energy and aggression, impressive from a band nearly 20 years into their existence.
Musically everyone is firing on all cylinders, from Netherton’s trademark mid-ranged snarls and growls, to the impeccable mix of power and finesse from drummer Adam Jarvis. However, arguably it’s the guitar work of Mark Kloepell and Darin Morris that shines the brightest. The duo compiles an intimidating and infectious collection of wicked punk and thrash-infected death riffs, soulful shredding, and straight-up headbangers, executed with technical precision and a keen sense of melody. When the dust settles, complaints basically boil down to nit-picking. While the crisp, chunky tones pack a wallop, the mastering job is unnecessarily bricked, robbing the album of the breathing space and dynamics the material deserves. There’s also an argument that the album is slightly front-loaded, though the quality remains well dispersed across the album.
While it can’t quite compete with their finest work, Rituals of Power improves upon the solid The Killing Gods and marks another battering ram triumph of ferocious, no-holds-barred fury and killer grooves from one of metal’s most consistent and punishing acts. Rituals of Power signals an impressive return from Misery Index, bottling their pent up rage into a volatile and top-notch batch of killer songs, creating a fitting soundtrack for lifting weights, pounding brews, or dinner parties with family and friends.