Blake (Metal Blade)
This is the guitar player from the Crown? You’re kidding.
The same guy that wrote “Zombiefied!” and “Deathexplosion”?
Is the band’s namesake some sort of attempt at invoking the
mysticism and hallucinatory creativity of Romantic era poets?
A band obsessed with deifying Robert Blake’s youngest daughter
Rosie? Wha . . . a Rolling Stones cover? Am I on Candid
But seriously, folks, diehard fans of the Crown likely will
find this CD tough to endure, especially since those black-metal
champions pretty much disbanded at the peak of their career.
Sadly, Angel Blake’s commercial dexterity also falls way short.
While I suppose it’s sort of a low blow to compare guitarist
Marko Tervonen’s work here with that of his previous band,
everything here is pinched, pilfered and plundered from St.
Elsewhere. There are a few interesting moments (the thwacking
“Lycanthrope”), and singer Tony Jelencovich’s somber serenading
is both warm and capable, but even the intensity of “Lycanthrope”
is governed by cliché ideas, like the ever-popular faux-exotic
Middle Eastern intro, for prime example. We get the fuzzy
FM-radio voice in “Solitude, My Friend.” “Autumnal” offers
the tinkling, distorted piano practically patented by Trent
Reznor more than a decade ago. I’ve heard the main hook in
“Self Terminate” at least 7,564 times in 7,563 better songs.
In “Thousand Storms” we get more huff-and-puff riffage and
abrupt mood shifts with no real cohesion.
It’s a frustrating endeavor, and the songs are too long for
the commercial punch Tervonen (or Metal Blade) obviously is
seeking. I can’t shake the feeling that Tervonen’s talents
are sorely misappropriated here (although the fact that he
wrote, performed and produced the whole thing himself is pretty
impressive). It’s not really bad music; it’s just not
very good. Something borrowed, something blue.
much is too much?” asks Karl Shubach during “An Offering to
the Insatiable Sons of God (Butcher)” on Misery Signals’ sophomore
album, Mirrors. If this were most any other metalcore
band these days, the answer would be “Enough, already!” But
Misery Signals aren’t every other metalcore band. Unlike some
of the more prevalent bands in the genre (Hatebreed, Unearth),
Misery Signals have not taken the shout-the-song-name-over-breakdown-then-repeat
formula, cloned it, and released it year after year.
Misery Signals actually bother to add artistry to their craftsmanship.
Drummer Branden Morgan propels Misery Signals’ off-time twin-guitar
attack ahead at 130 beats per minute—taking what would otherwise
be plodding sludge-rock, and churning it into a frenzy that
occasionally spasms into breakdowns, and at other times devolves
into tangled leads that surge to form convulsing grooves,
with looming accents from bassist Karl Johnson. (No, tough
guy, that doesn’t mean we are talking about emo here.) This
is, by no means, easy listening. One bellow from Shubach’s
humongous, song-devouring voice will tell you that.
Shubach drives the compositions forward with hardcore style
and menace, as well as Neurosis-inspired doom, foreboding
and horror. And as thick as Shubach lays it on with lines
like, “Worship a sign of weakness/Just know you get what you
deserve,” on “Face Yourself,” he and his band are raging against
the prepackaged, self-help, inspirational anger that metalcore
is becoming. (Beat up that guy in the pit, then come up with
your own clothing line and workout video.)
While Signals’ first album, with original lead singer Jesse
Zaraska, was dominated by the typical lover’s lament, their
second has Shubach instead challenging his fan base, demanding
the audience not simply buy into metalcore anthems by bands
that preach self-improvement-through-rage or Christian-core
bands who preach their values through distorted screaming.
This is not the rallying cry for fascism or groupthink that
now dominates the genre. But Shubach is demanding something:
“I see now. There is a choice to make. We could be anyone!”
he insists on “Mirrors.” Oh, my God! He wants us to think
for ourselves. And he probably wouldn’t mind if we started
a circle pit while we’re doing it.