Your Demons, Their Angels
3/13/2009 - Review by: Etiam
Opening 'Your Demons, Their Angels' with an insidious hiss and a massive chugging riff, it's difficult to tell whether Miseration wants to be metalcore for death metal fans or death metal for metalcore fans. Thirty seconds in, that chug shifts into up-tempo, adds a diminished scale cadenza, and the drums kick into double bass with an off-beat hi-hat. From thereon out, it's clear that Miseration have something more to offer than mere crossover novelty. We ought to expect no less, given the two main names behind it: Christian Älvestam (vocals) and Jani Stefanovic (lead guitar).
Stefanovic, also of Essence of Sorrow (which now shares vocalist Chris Palin with Adagio), is Miseration's creator and primary songwriter/lyricist. Very much like Älvestam, Stefanovic has played with a host of largely unheralded bands and spent the better part of the last decade honing his multi-instrumental chops; consequently, 'Your Demons Their Angels' has none of the amateurish production or performance customary for debut records. Through the album, Stefanovic does lay down a handful of ripping solos, but Miseration is much more a riff-oriented band that prefers to break up its verses with interludes of dissonant chord appregiations, off-beat chugs, or sudden rests. These techniques are the foremost contributors to Miseration's metalcore edge, but rather than dominating the album, they are used in conjunction with more authentically European metal traits. As such, 'Your Demons Their Angels' ultimately comes down on the side of death metal and is better for it.
Perhaps the album's most defining characteristic, aside from the obvious genre associations, is how tremendously busy it sounds. Some bands can layer in overdubs or complex instrumentations without approaching overload--not so Miseration. 'Your Demons, Their Angels' is an almost constant assault on all fronts, with the prime offender being the percussion of Rolf Pilve. A skilled drummer (and only 21 years old), his kit is slightly treble-tuned and placed up in the mix, which makes each meter change and double bass charge impossible to miss. Also a habitual cymbal splasher, Pilve imbues nearly every beat with a hissing overtone that fills any open spaces. This technique would be suffocating in many other instances, but for an album this hyperactive and grandiose it is only appropriate.
That said, Miseration's epic atmosphere and high-voltage execution comes without an inordinate investment on the listener's part. These tracks are composed with surgical efficiency, with none exceeding six minutes, only three breaching five, and no multi-part epics or ostentatious conceptual hurdles. The songwriting is not always too memorable--'World Lethality' and 'Foul Invective' being the most unoriginal--but never does the band lose its vitality or energy, and the religious overtones to the lyrics are mostly expository. In any event, the aforementioned tracks are more than balanced out by the opening three cuts and closer, all of which employ that uncanny Scandinavian ability to write riffs that are at once brutal and bouncy, and to execute them with relentless precision.
Vocally, the occasional use of whispers suggests too much sophomore angst, but this misstep is consistently overshadowed by Älvestam's great dynamic range and sheer presence. Boasting a spotless high tenor and imposing gut roar, he contributes to an already impressive and unique body of work that will captivate fans of such bands as Mercenary and Soilwork. As usual, Älvestam's melodic lines are a bit unpredictable, sounding 'off' by avoiding the expected cadences while still remaining singable. At least, singable for those who can keep up with him: 'Perfection Destroyed' finds his chorus harmony shooting all the way up to a high D (D5).
Stefanovic and Älvestam also collaborate in Solution .45, which explores their more melodic, slightly proggier tendencies, and is perceived by some to replace Scar Symmetry in Älvestam's creative spread. Miseration is decidedly more intense--closer to his highly underrated Unmoored--and is on the way towards making its own niche; the same could be said from Stefanovic's perspective. Essence of Sorrow is a clean vocal project closer to the aforementioned Mercenary, but features much of the same riffing style and thick, modern production heard in Miseration. Overall, fans of these two collaborators will not be surprised by what they find in 'Your Demons, Their Angels', but chances are good that they will be satisfied.
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