It has been five long years since MISERY INDEX's last album. Since 2014's "The Killing Gods", the members of the long-running deathgrind outfit have spent that time engaged in a variety of activities ranging from involvement with other musical projects to family life and, as has been well noted, the ongoing pursuit of education. Expectations are high, and the band has had more than enough time to fine-tune its latest sonic barrage. The good news is that MISERY INDEX has returned with "Rituals of Power", a passionate, vitriolic extreme metal tour de force that simply demands your attention from the moment you hit play until the final notes ring out.
Since their inception, the band's sound and style has evolved, but not drastically. In its earliest of days—looking back at the split with COMMIT SUICIDE in 2002, for instance—the ensemble could be described as a tighter and more musical, rough 'n' tumble take on ASSÜCK. Said band's influence is obvious enough considering its second album's namesake is reflected in MISERY INDEX's moniker, also chosen for the fact that it references the economic indicator bearing the same name. Nowadays, the D-beat, punk and crust leanings haven't left the building entirely. That passion, fury and thematic content remain in tow. MISERY INDEX's grindcore assault has instead become seemingly more overtly informed by classic death metal, a fact that should surprise few due to frontman Jason Netherton's storied history with death metal titans DYING FETUS during their formative years that culminated with that unit's best effort to date: "Destroy the Opposition".
With "Rituals of Power", the quartet's sixth full-length album, MISERY INDEX delivers one bludgeoning dose after another with precision, clarity and conviction in a concise, angry and impassioned expression that's barely over 35 minutes long. There is little fat, if any at all, with the wisdom of songwriting equal to the intellect of the message. And similarly, the expected highbrow sociopolitical commentary embedded throughout the lyrics is tantamount to the music's explosiveness. As Canadian philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan famously wrote in his 1964 book "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man", "the medium is the message." Aside from the brilliant "New Salem", written by Mark Kloeppel, which is about the divisive nature of self-absorbed virtue-signalers, the lyrics were penned by Netherton, who has almost completed a PhD in media studies.
While "Rituals of Power" certainly scratches the sublime, it sonically slaughters more immediately with the subtlety of a brick to the face. "Universal Untruths" serves as an adequate introduction with an epic, dramatic and triumphant buildup indicating from the onset that their assault's intensity doesn't need to be delivered with constant, unyielding speed. But with that said, "Decline and Fall" follows with a full-frontal attack driven by drummer Adam Jarvis's jackhammer blast beats. Elsewhere, "New Salem" and "Hammering the Nails" add even more flavor to the mix with gripping melodies; "I Disavow" overflows with a collection of riffs that are undeniably catchy, and "Naysayer" proves to be one of the most aggressive songs the band has ever written. Simply put, with "Rituals of Power" MISERY INDEX has just released the most dynamic, diverse and memorable album of its career.