Absent Light represents a return from hiatus for Misery Signals, a metal band whose last album was released in 2008. This means that, since the band last put out an album, music has changed. Elements of electronica are now common in heavier music, and clean singing slowly edged out unclean vocals as the style of choice.
I, however, will be forever grateful that Misery Signals decided to disregard all that and simply put out an album that sounds like themselves. Everything that made them loved has returned, including the twin guitar attack. “Shadows and Depth,” possibly the strongest individual song on the album, owes a great deal to the keen sense of melody. The song switches effortlessly between an intense guitar pounding and light, atmospheric riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in post-rock. The same can essentially be said for the rest of the album.
The songs still retain their punishingly melodic tone, and vocalist Karl Schubach hasn’t lost a bit of his ferocity. Possibly the strongest aspect of the album is the powerful and technical drumming of Branden Morgan. Even 4/4 fills on songs like “Departures” sound unique. The songs seem to be built from rhythm up, and for an album like this, that is exactly what I wanted.
Problems arise about halfway through the album, when two or three songs begin to bleed into one another. This doesn’t mean that the songs are bad: they retain the excellent musicianship and the extra something that has always made Misery Signals stand out from a once-crowded metal subgenre. It does, however, make you question exactly what song you’re listening to. It is disappointing, especially when several of the songs have memorable guest spots. Perhaps they rely too heavily on star power. However, the guest clean vocals on the closing track “Everything Will Rust” by Fredua Boakye of funk/rock group Bad Rabbits are a sonic pleasure.
Improvisation for its own sake is unnecessary and often detrimental. Thankfully, Misery Signals did not fall into that trap. Absent Light may not be their best work (that remains the aforementioned 2008 release Controller) but it is so very good to have them back.