Originally written by Justin Bean.
Misery Index occupies a rather unique position within the spectrum of extreme music, drawing instrumentally on the speed and ferocity of grind and crust a la Assuck, His Hero Is Gone, and Napalm Death while tapping into the brutality and heaviness of American death metal. Of course, the latter of these two musical extremes appears in Misery Index in no small part due to the presence of bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton and guitarist Sparky Voyles, formerly of the once bar-raising death metal outfit Dying Fetus. Like many grind and crust forefathers, Misery Index’s music is ripe with social commentary and anarcho-punk intentions that set them apart lyrically from many current metal acts. And despite Voyles’ and Netherton’s past work, Misery Index tones down the fret-jogging technicality heard in many a technical death metal outfit in favor of a more ‘traditional’, focused, but equally talented grind-oriented sound.
Dissent opens with “Sheep and Wolves”, a slow, roiling track that serves as an introduction for what is to follow by setting a mood of despair and impending doom. A monotone, emotionless voice speaks for the first minute or so of the song, the content of which was difficult to decipher through the guitar distortion; however, I was able to make out the words ‘justice’ and ‘oppression’, politically charged words indeed whose use I can only guess at. The throat searing low vocals kick in alongside some quick double bass that continues to the end of the two and a half minute track, concluding with a short buildup into “Exception to the Ruled”, the second track. A cymbal catch marks the beginning of the faster, more aggressive and pissed section of the EP that continues for four songs.
Much of what was heard on Retaliate is present on Dissent, such as the sections of fervent, blast beat driven grind and passionately delivered vocals, as well as the occasional pummeling breakdown any mosh pit fiend would crap their pants over. There is a noticeable amount of effort put into writing more musically diverse songs and although much of this diversity comes solely via the guitar work, the effort pays off in the end. Around the fifty-second mark on “Exception to the Ruled” the guitars take a melodic turn by making good use of dual harmonies that contrast well with the track’s opening verses which have a definite hardcore feel to them. The use of well-placed guitar harmonies, as subtle as it may be at times, lends its presence here and there on the EP, although the tracks “Multiply By Fire” and “Defector (Thinning the Herd)” step up the heaviness and brutality and have less of a melodic drive compared to the first three tracks. Keep in mind that ‘melody’ as it applies to Misery Index is consumed and overshadowed by the anger these guys have at society as a whole; imagine a flower growing from the rubble of a burned down building.
After spending time out of the band, Kevin Talley, also formerly of Dying Fetus, is back with his trademark ultra-aggressive drumming. Talley gives a strong performance of a more toned down and calculated nature compared to his work with Dying Fetus; Talley’s fills might not be quite as engulfing or his snare work as technical as before, but his clear knowledge of how to maneuver the grind and hardcore elements of Misery Index adds greatly to the EP.
The production on Dissent is stronger than on Retaliate with all the instruments being better mixed and the overall volume up a notch. The drum sound is weak at a few points but not to the extent that the music suffers from it. Taking into account the legacy of grind and crust bands Misery Index takes inspiration from—bands not known for their outstanding album productions—the hint of underproduction that remains fits their sound well.
If you’re a fan of Misery Index’s previous releases, or you enjoy grind akin to the bands mentioned above with some death metal tossed into the mix, you’ll most likely enjoy Dissent. It’s just as fast, heavy, and angry as their previous releases, but more musically developed and focused. Also keep in mind that this is meant to ‘hold the fans over’ until their next full length release in 2005 and if this is any indicator of what will follow, I’m anticipating very good things.