Mister Misery – A Brighter Side of Death Review

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” so the saying goes. But in our modern metal landscape, where a single look at an album cover or a song name can hook us or repel us forever, it’s damn hard to do otherwise. Mister Misery (strike one) are dying for your attention, as illustrated by that album cover (strike two). Their so-called brand of “horror metal” (pretty sure you don’t get to own that one) should be strike three, good morning, good afternoon, good night. And yet… maybe read the first page. If you aren’t turned off by the strange confluence of melodicism, pageantry, and pop hooks within the first two minutes of opener “Ballad of the Headless Horseman,” you’ll sail through these Swedes’ sophomore record, A Brighter Side of Death. As strange as this spin is, both in concept–extreme(ly) core-adjacent late-00s pop-thrash meets… Cradle of Filth/King Diamond?–as it is execution–trvths and fvlsehoods spanning Testament to My Chemical Romance, sometimes in the same song–the damn thing works.

Though Mister Misery’s most obvious route to success should be box-checking beatdowns, their offerings are as varied as the myriad classical horror stories supplying the subject material. There’s no shortage of Surgeon General-approved earworms here, though most songs center around sometimes thrashy, always melodic variations of my high school CD collection, aged in cans of Monster. As someone who spent a lot of time listening to a lot of pop-punk way back when, I felt most at home bathing in the tonal whiplash of Harley Vendetta’s1 vocal melodies, reminiscent of Yellowcard or Angels and Airwaves reimagined by Trivium or Bullet for My Valentine. Vendetta’s abilities, however, are unimpeachable. The range and panache he sports would be the envy even of accomplished vocalists. He belts massive bars across the verses before showing one of a few chorus takes, ranging from “Yes, a bit of sugar in my coffee, please,” to “Don’t stop until I say when.” It’s all good.. as long as you can stomach the lyrics, which without fail land somewhere between cringe and cliché. I was inoculated to this brand of melodramatic camp long ago, but beware: the depths of Brighter Side’s lyrical lameness will give you a brain bleed if you’re not properly prepared.

The music itself swings with surprising versatility as well. Outings aren’t anywhere close to a mindless chug-and-chorus-fest. For a sophomore band, Mister Misery are surprisingly polished. The songwriting establishes itself in no uncertain terms and knows precisely how to succeed. For all its non-metal bonafides, Brighter Side features moments and riffs that Aeternam (“Buried”), Avenged Sevenfold (“Through Hell”), and, most often, any post-heyday In Flames ape would be proud of.2 The last, of course, misses as regularly as it hits. Mister Misery do well enough to keep their songs moving and focused on a core structure that those moments don’t drag much. To that effect, Brighter Side sports but a few total clunkers, and only when they take their foot off the gas or lean too heavily into the poppy side of things. “Buried” is boring, “Under the Moonlight” is 3:1 lame:cool, and “Home” completely abandons its metal side on a song that doesn’t fit the record, even one as untrve as this.

The band clearly knows its market. As befuddling as the inspiration may be, there’s an audience for “Clown Prince of Hell” as surely as there’s one for that t-shirt at Walmart with a Grim Reaper clown riding a motorcycle holding a shotgun chugging a flaming bottle of Jim Beam.3 The slick production, the outfits, the entire sheen of this project oozes marketability. Too much of it feels too perfect, too total package, the branding and the guise seemingly dreamt up in a record label boardroom–to what end though, I couldn’t fathom.4 To their credit, Mister Misery are capable musicians across the board, from Alex Nine’s5 clear understanding of how to craft melodic licks to the useful holding patterns you get from bassist Alex Alistair’s and kit-man Rizzy’s performances.

All that said, this band is well-rooted in the Your Mileage May Vary axiom. Even if you can stomach the first song–for my money, the best on the album–you may still find yourself thrown from the saddle by any number of pitfalls. If you’re in Mister Misery’s target demo, what are you doing here you’ll probably love this. For the rest of you, tread with caution and remember, don’t shoot the messenger.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Arising Empire
Websites: mistermisery.com | facebook.com/mistermiseryband
Releases Worldwide: April 23rd, 2021

Show 5 footnotes

  1. I thought I was out of eyerolls after Tomahawk. I was wrong.
  2. Only pre-Clayman primates are welcome in the Hall. – Steel
  3. Doc Grier owns several of these. – Steel
  4. I will say, the Magic the Gathering-style art they did for individual tracks is pretty cool.
  5. Imagine John 5 as an IKEA drawer set.
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