Originally written by Erik Thomas
Damned to be forever tied to Dying Fetus musically, Misery Index has two huge obstacles to overcome. First, to shed the Dying Fetus mantle and become a band recognized for their individual merits, not as a band with former members of Dying Fetus in it. Secondly, and most cruelly, to meet the expectations of a band that has ex-members of Dying Fetus in it. Added to those daunting tasks that Retaliate will be grossly dissected by the metal media, as well as expected to revive a flogging US death metal scene (that, ironically enough, has wavered since the post-Destroy the Opposition exodus of ¾ of Dying Fetus).
So, Fetus has thrown their entry into the fray in the form of the underwhelming but competent Stop at Nothing, and now we have the rebuttal. Winner? Misery Index by a blast beat. While Retaliate is not going to have the kind of impact as the hype would have you believe, it certainly merits the attention of anyone fawning for classic grindcore. Not the brainless burping of the genre’s sad metamorphosis over recent years, but the punk inspired, hardcore tinged power chords of early Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Righteous Pigs, Defecation, and more recently, Lock Up.
Compared to Fetus, this is relatively simplistic. Instead of relying on technical overload, Retaliate is a more directly bludgeoning affair, with a distinct lack of solos and fret play. The 10 short bursts contained here are focused, relentless forces of aggression, free from any overbearing need for counter rhythms or discordant song structures – total pure power. From the surprisingly catchy ending riffs of the title track, all the way through to the rumbling groove of “History is Rotten” that closes this monstrous album, Misery Index crafts some stunningly accessible yet savage material. It should appeal to fans of their former band, as well as anyone seeking respite from gargled vocals and muddy, bottom-end gore-grind.
Every song is a violent outburst of tightness and abrasive fervor, but tastefully delivered with just enough driving, punky inflection, to make it somewhat (I’ll use this word carefully, as it could be taken out of context) ‘catchy’. Take the opening riff of “The Great Depression”: it could have come directly from Terrorizer’s World Downfall via Maryland. Of course, considering the bands lineage, there’s no denying the Dying Fetus sound that surfaces now and then, less so than on their Overthrow EP, but thankfully, Killing on Adrenaline appears as more of a reference than latter day material.
Some of the transition away from the DF sound appears to be due to Kevin Talley replacement Matt Byers (Severed Head), who doesn’t try to fill Talley’s shoes with constant fills, but instead simplifies the proceedings with a far less complex approach. What I enjoyed also was the lack of emphasis on telegraphed breakdowns. The few moments of hefty groove are well placed, and their brevity is refreshing in a genre that feels the need to recreate Suffocation’s “Catatonic” at every turn.
The J-F Deganais production is competent and not attention-dominating, mixing both the raw garage crust-sound with a typical US polish. My only gripe is Netherton’s faceless hardcore-ish shouts. You have to admit, [John] Gallagher’s vocals define DF’s sound, and while Misery Index is a completely different entity, they just don’t have nearly as much power in the vocal department.
While not the savior of US extreme metal by any means, with scathing tracks like “Demand the Impossible” and personal favorite “Order Upheld/ Dissent Dissolved”, Jason Netherton and Sparky Voyles have broken from Gallagher’s shadow. In fact, they have outdone their friend and cohort with an album that, along with Skinless’s From Sacrifice to Survival, could help revive US death metal.