Album Review of Heirs To Thievery by Misery Index

Well, this is my first music review blog post. I doubt I’ll do these as regularly as my concert reviews but they will probably show up from time to time. Just for future reference, I’m only going to review material by local bands or bands that at least have some sort of tie to the area, in this case the new album Misery Index just put out May 11th, Heirs To Thievery. If you’re in a local band and want me to check out your stuff for possible review here, you can send me an email with a download link at Now I’ll get started with the review here, but first some background…

Misery Index was originally formed when most of Dying Fetus left that band, I suppose due to a falling out of some sort, and Jason Netherton, Sparky Voyles and Kevin Talley started a new band. Jason and Sparky are still in the band but Kevin has gone on to be in Dååth, and you may have seen the video of his audition for Slayer floating around on the net several years ago too. Now I have to say when I first heard that Kevin had left I was rather worried because I think he’s just a fucking fun drummer to listen to play. The first time I saw Misery Index after he left I was unsure how a new drummer would fill in those shoes, but Adam Jarvis totally blew me away to the point that he wasn’t just replacing Kevin, he was surpassing him! He really brings the drumming intensity to another level for the band. They’ve also had a few other guitarists go in and out the door too, but their line up seems pretty stable now with the inclusion of Mark Kloeppel several years ago. This album is a good example of how they are moving forward with this line up. Now on to the music on the album itself…

The album starts off with a quick song, Embracing Extinction, and it’s relentless. It’s under 2 minutes long and really sets the tone for the album. Fast, aggressive, brutal and short. The whole album is under 35 minutes long, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A full hour of this sort of intensity can get monotonous and I think they did a good job of giving the album enough variation that it doesn’t get stale and ending it before it does. While some of their previous work had some slower, I guess groovier parts and riffs, there isn’t as much of that on this one. Even one of the slower tempo songs, Carrion Creed, still has a nice rolling drum beat in the back that makes you want to step on the gas petal. There’s certainly a good mix of death, grind and punk in this album, as would be expected in a Misery Index album. And while they will probably always draw comparisons to Dying Fetus, they certainly have more of a punk edge than Dying Fetus does. While that may be so, this is by no means a crossover album, and I think there’s less of a ‘core sound in there than on their previous album, Traitors. This album seems more aggressive than that one too. One thing I don’t particularly like about this album is the way the vocals sound. I don’t know if Jason is using some weird distortion with reverb or a layering effect or what, but sometimes it comes out pretty weird. If you listen to the chorus in The Spectator you’ll hear what I’m saying. Maybe it’s one of the other guys helping out on backup vocals, but combined with the awkward tone the leads have on this one, it’s sort of distracting. The final song on the album, Day Of The Dead, has part of it’s chorus in Spanish and the vocal sound combined with the repetitive lyrics in the chorus kind of ruin that song for me. But this isn’t American Idol music here, the vocals aren’t the main attraction and great songs like You Lose and the title track more than make up for it on this solid album. I really can’t wait to hear some of this material live. I missed their last area concert when they kicked off the Facemelter Tour with Dying Fetus at Sonar in Baltimore this month, but maybe I’ll get to see them play the Ottobar on Friday 11 June 2010 with Goatwhore and Revocation. You can get more info on that on my Upcoming Concerts page.

I’m not particularly big on reading lyrics to metal songs, I tend to like deciphering what I can for the most part on my own through listening, but for this review I looked at them a bit. I think a good way to get a general idea of what an album is really about is to check out the title track’s lyrics. On Heirs To Thievery the title track seems to be a Chomsky inspired critique about how much of what is in the history books taught to us in school is propaganda, particularly in how the US was stolen from the natives. Thus, we who are living in the US now are the heirs to the theft of their land/culture. Well, that’s what I get from it at least, and you can see this in the album cover art too. I particularly liked the line: “Eliminate the natives (and leave them a museum!)” If you’ve ever seen the National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian museum on the National Mall in Washington DC from the outside, you’ll know it looks like modern European abstract architecture, but it’s covered in yellow stucco (or something). I guess the yellow stucco is representative of native american culture? The song’s lyrics sort of remind me of the Iron Maiden song Run To The Hills in that sense, but also because it’s kind of odd hearing that point of view from a band of white guys. In this song they also mention how the expansion of the US was built on slavery. Much of the other songs’ lyrics on the album are pretty typical political death/grind fare, though there is nothing wrong with that. This post is long enough already so you’ll have to find them yourself if you want to know the details. I actually like reading Jason’s blog Demockery, you can check that out here, which will probably give you a better idea of his views which are nothing if not well thought out.

Overall, I wouldn’t call this the best Misery Index album ever, but it’s still damn good and certainly worth getting, especially if you like any of their stuff already because you’ll certainly enjoy this one too. It still has that classic Misery Index sound but they keep progressing as a band too, enough to keep it from getting stale. Fans of bands like Nasum, modern Napalm Death and Brutal Truth will love this, but even if you’re just looking for something to simply bang your head to, their trademark combination of catchy riffs and sheer brutality will definitely do the trick.

Review of Dark Tranquillity gig at Jaxx

After work on Wednesday 12 May 2010 I headed over to Jaxx again for another metal show. Been there a lot recently, though that’s not a bad thing. This time I was going to see the Gothenburg band Dark Tranquillity. When I got there a parking spot right in front of the venue was open (no, not in front of the stores with the 30 minute parking signs, a real spot). When I got inside the band Threat Signal was on stage about midway through their set. I wasn’t too interested in them, and quickly made my way to check out the merchandise stands. As soon as they finished playing I headed up to the stage to try to get a good angle to get pix from.

The band came on stage a few minutes after 10pm, and people were ready. Ironically they used a “Projector” on the stage, and had interesting visuals on the backdrop throughout the concert. I prefer this method to the typical banner that most bands put up, as it it much more interesting to look at because it’s dynamic. This combined with the excellent lighting and just the right amount of smoke machine fog made for a very visually stimulating show. They made use of the entire stage and kept their wires, pedals and other equipment very neat and organized. This was probably necessary because the band really likes to move around on stage. I had a great time photographing them and while I often have to move about the audience to get good shots of the various band members that are on different locations on stage, they made it easy for me since they all moved around so much up there.

Ok, the visual stuff is cool and all, but how about the music? Well, I got a photograph of their setlist when they were setting up so I knew what to expect. Sadly, it didn’t consist of much from my favorite album of theirs, Damage Done. They did play Final Resistance though, so I can’t complain too much. Of the 15 songs they played 6 of them were from their new album, We Are The Void, and another 4 songs from their previous album, Fiction. They only played 1 song from before 1999, and they’ve been around since 1991. That’s great if you’re a newer fan of the band I suppose, though I’d have preferred a bit more of the older material in the setlist. Regardless, the band played well and it was a lot fun to watch them. Mikael Stanne has a great stage presence and really hangs right over the crowd for parts of almost every song, even letting fans scream into the mic from time to time. He didn’t talk too much between songs but did say they would probably be back next year. The sound mix wasn’t bad. The keyboards were almost non-existent from where I was standing (front and center) but that’s fine by me. It’s something that happens to a lot of metal bands, where the keyboards that get raised so highly into the mix on the album but are almost impossible to hear live. That’s fine by me though, as I really enjoy hearing the guitars carry the band more live. Also, the vocal style of the growls wasn’t the same as on the new album, another thing I think is good. I don’t really like how they sound on the new album, probably due to layering the vocals in the studio, but I think it made him sound too much like Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy. They played for about 80 minutes straight and luckily they did not do the typical rockstar encore thing. After the show Mikael came back on stage to pound a beer for some reason. Not sure what was up with that as I was already at the merch stand (bought a t-shirt from local opener band Apothys). Apparently the band members of Dark Tranquillity were going to head over to the merchandise area and sign stuff for fans, which is always cool when bands do that, but I didn’t wait around because I’m not that big on autographs.

I remember I’d heard years ago from a few people that Dark Tranquillity wasn’t a good band to see live, but trust me, whoever said that was lying. The last time I saw them I was really surprised on how good of a show they put on, and this time was even better (even if I didn’t enjoy the setlist as much). Though I didn’t have any problems this time, I did hear people in the audience grumbling about security bugging them about their cameras. Regardless, I did shoot two videos (of older songs) which you can see below. Also of note, this will be my last concert review until Maryland Deathfest. I should have a lot of pics and footage of that afterwards, and maybe some other surprises too.

Review of Overkill gig at Jaxx

Friday the 30th of April 2010 I found myself at Jaxx again, this time to see Overkill headline the Killfest Tour. Well, not so much Overkill as the openers Vader, God Dethroned and Warbringer, so maybe this review’s title is a bit misleading. Unlike the previous Friday’s Cannibal Corpse concert, or Monday’s Amon Amarth gig (which I missed because they started so early), this concert’s headliner wasn’t scheduled to hit the stage until 11pm. That’s great for me as I work later than most on weekdays and I really wanted to see some of the opener bands too. I got to the venue but couldn’t find any parking, so I had to cross the street and park by the Shell station in the Giant’s parking lot. Of course as I was walking to the venue I saw a car pull out of a spot that was actually, you know, in the correct lot. Always frustrating when that happens. Anyways, I proceeded to walk to the venue.

Warbringer was on stage when I got there, so I went straight to the main room and got up front. I thought they’d be done playing by the time I got there, but apparently things were running a bit late so I got to catch a decent amount of their set. These guys were really a lot of fun to watch live. I’ve enjoyed their studio material but this was the first time I’ve been able to catch them play. In the past week I’ve seen a lot of these modern thrash bands (Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste) and Warbringer might have had the best stage presence of all of them. Their lead singer, John Kevill, really got the crowd into it, but on top of that the other guys in the band did a good job of getting the audience excited. This isn’t a band where the singer gets everyone into the show and everyone else just sits there playing their instruments. There was a lot to watch no matter where you were looking on the stage.

Next up was God Dethroned. I saw them headline a show at Jaxx back in October 2009 and they really impressed me with their live show so I certainly wanted to see them again. The last time I had seen them they had a woman on guitar, Susan Gerl, but this time they had a new guy, Ian Jeckelis, who is apparently also a member of Abigail Williams. This show performance wasn’t as good as their headlining gig in October. They were plagued with technical problems, and actually played almost an entire song without vocals nor one of the guitars as Henri Sattler tried to find a solution to the problem. There was a pause for a few minutes after that song while the equipment was set back up, I figured they probably had to cut a song out of their set because of the time it took. The final song also seemed to have a problem as about 90 seconds into it the other guitar seemed to go out and Ian stormed off the stage and didn’t return. A shame the show didn’t go better for them, as they’re a good band and people should pay more attention to them. I did talk to the bassist for a couple minutes after they had played, and he said that after the tour they’d be working on a new album and would probably come back to the US after that was out, though he said he didn’t know if it would be as headliners or as support. He said it would be another album about a battle in World War I, but he didn’t say which it would be this time.

The next band to play was an old favorite of mine, Vader. They’re an old school death metal band I’ve been a fan of since I first heard their album The Ultimate Incantation. They are from Poland and are actually one of the first bands of any genre, not just metal, that broke through the iron curtain to the west, due to their early demo material being highly praised on the old underground tape trading scene (for the young people reading this, that’s what people used to find out about new metal bands before the internet had things like Napster or bit torrent, where people would actually trade copies of demo cassette tapes through the regular mail). Unfortunately Vader wasn’t headlining this concert so they didn’t play all the songs I wanted to hear, though they did play some older material like Sothis and Carnal as well as a good amount of newer songs too. They didn’t play my favorite Vader song Silent Empire, which sucks because that song is so damn brutal. The line up has completely changed, except for main man Peter Wiwczarek, since the last time I saw Vader live (in December 2007). They still played very tight and really got the mosh pit going. I’m glad I got to see them again as they always seem to impress with their high speed death metal assault. And I don’t say that lightly, Vader is one of those bands that’s fast even by death metal standards. I had an entertaining time talking to some of the younger guys in the audience while they set up too. One of them told me how he wished he had gotten to see Damageplan with Dimebag Darrell before he died as Pantera was his favorite band. I really felt old when he stared at me wide eyed when I told him I’d actually seen Pantera play several times!

The next band set to play was going to be the headliners Overkill. I’ve never really been a fan of theirs, they’re a bit too “Waaaaah!!!!” for me, if that makes sense, haha. Since the guys who were in front of me on the railing left after Vader played, I got to stand in the front row and figured I’d give em a shot live since I was there anyways. They took longer to set up than any of the other bands, and before they played Jaxx owner, Jay Nedry, came out onto the stage to talk to the audience for a while. He thanked the all bands playing, the roadies, sound and light techs, bartenders and staff and the people in attendance for coming to shows for all these years. He promoted a few of the concerts coming to Jaxx soon (which you can always find out more about on the Upcoming Shows page here on this site) and gave a toast to the war veterans in the audience. After a few more minutes Overkill hit the stage. Their lighting set up was rather impressive I must say, one of the better ones I’ve seen at Jaxx. I took a few pics and figured I’d shoot a video of one of their first songs before I got out of the front and let someone else up there who really wanted to be there. While I was shooting footage on my regular camera something strange happened that I’ve never had happen at Jaxx before (and I’ve seen over 60 concerts there). Security asked me to put my camera away. What the fuck? I wasn’t shooting with a camcorder (though most clubs don’t mind that these days anyways, but I know that’s a no-no at Jaxx). It really took the fun out of the show for me. If I couldn’t use my camera (which I wanted to use to post material here for my review) then I surely wasn’t going to stay to watch a band I didn’t care about otherwise. I gave the guy behind me a chance to take my spot in the front and then headed to the back of the venue. I bought some merch and a ticket to the upcoming Dark Tranquillity gig and left the venue with a really bad taste in my mouth. Maybe Overkill played a great set but from the 2 or 3 songs I saw them play I wasn’t really impressed with much besides the lighting. I’m hoping Jaxx doesn’t turn into another camera-nazi venue like the 9:30 Club and hopefully this was just a 1 time thing, maybe brought on by the band or something. Anyways, the footage I did get of Warbringer, God Dethroned and Vader is all viewable below.