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Come Again?

By Bill Ketzer

Angel Blake

Angel 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 Camera?

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.

Misery Signals

Mirrors (Ferret)

“How 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.

—David King

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