Concert Review: Misery Signals

Welcome music lovers, to the fourth edition of my adventures in live music in the wonderful city of Seattle. Last time, my ears were subjected to the lovely sounds of Eisley. I recently journeyed back to high school to witness one of my all-time favorite metal acts, Misery Signals. As expected, it was a wild night. Also as expected, I came home with a few new wounds.

MISERY SIGNALS - 8/5/2013 @ Studio Seven
w/ Vessels, Never Met A Dead Man, Elitist, and The Color Morale

There are a handful of bands that I started listening to in high school that I still enjoy to this day. Even fewer of those bands are actually good, retaining a spot on my iPod for more than feelings of nostalgia. Lastly, I can count the number of bands on one hand that heavily influence my playing style. As Cities Burn, My Epic, and of course, Misery Signals.

One of my friends introduced me to the band via the song "The Year Summer Ended in June," the single from the band's first full-length album, Of Malice & A Magnum Heart. I hadn't been listening to heavy music for that long and this music astounded me. I was used to the brutality, technicality, and just pure heaviness that metal offered. I was a product of the massive popularity of metalcore back in the second half of the 2000's. Bands like All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, and Still Remains were regularly blasted in my car. Misery Signals stood out over all of these bands in the sub-genre. They were the first band I ever listened to that successfully wove heaviness & beauty all in one. I couldn't believe how seamlessly they transitioned from crushing off-tempo breakdowns to mesmerizing chords layered over a soft rhythm section. Here's the video for the aforementioned song:

This song was one of my anthems in high school.

It's not the best representation of their sound, but you get the idea. The production of their debut left a lot to be desired. Of course, its sound is welcome to my ears all these years later, with the heavily layered vocals and punchy sounding drums that seem so right.

Before the release of a sophomore effort, their original vocalist left the band and was replaced by Karl Schubach. The vocals took on a much more massive sound, as Schubach's vocal range demonstrated the force of his thundering lows. Exhibit A:

"Weight of the World" from the 2008 release, Controller.

The albums Mirrors and Controller were released in 2006 and 2008, respectively. I was fortunate to catch them three times between those years, all at the same venue. The first time I saw them open for Between The Buried & Me and Norma Jean, they blew me away, opening up with "Something Was Always Missing But It Was Never You" - a song that has directly influenced one of the songs written for my band - and closing with "Five Years" just like they always did.

Each time they were better and better. They went on a hiatus after Controller, and stopped touring for a number of years. However, it was announced earlier this year that new material was being written, despite most of the band members living thousands of miles apart. The resulting effort was Absent Light, the band's first new music in five years. I can't remember the last time I was so excited for an album. I jumped on the Indiegogo campaign and donated the heck out of that. I needed new Misery Signals.

Not only did I get it, but in conjunction with their album, they announced a headlining tour in the fall. I flipped when I saw the Seattle date and purchased tickets months in advance (I have a habit of doing that). I hadn't heard new music from them in five years and I hadn't seen them live in even longer than that. It was going to be a momentous blast to the past.

And indeed it was. Just like the New Found Glory show, I had decided against going through with my normal concert attending demeanor, which is usually to stand well out of the way of the imminent chaos (if it's that kind of show) and admire the music. It was that kind of show, and I wanted to be in the front.

Studio Seven is a tiny venue plagued with scores of high schoolers and scene kids. It's bad. I showed up super late on purpose and managed to miss three openers, but was unfortunate enough to witness the shipwreck that is The Color Morale. Thoroughly uninspiring, I emerged from the shadows when they were done playing and made my way to the front. It was relatively easy, considering most people left after that.

I remember standing next to two massive dudes discussing how stoked they were for the band. I looked around. I was blown away by how many people had left. At the same time I was relieved because most of them were the annoying scene kids, leaving the most unassuming concert-goers to be revealed as Misery Signals fans. If there was one thing I learned that night, it's that you can't tell if someone listens to MS just by looking at them.

When the band took the stage, a rush of memories flooded over me. I had't seen these guys in so long. They ripped through the set, stopping between songs to say that they didn't normally travel out this way very often, but promising that they would do so more in the future. Karl related to the crowd how amazed they were that people still came out after all these years of little to no news of touring or music from the band and that they still screamed along to every lyric. I was one of those people, and it was a great feeling.

Despite having seen them three times in the past, I've never seen the band perform the song that turned me on to the band, "The Year Summer Ended In June" live. I think the reason for this is because the song was penned by the original vocalist Jesse Zaraska about how two of his friends and former bandmates of the group Compromise were killed in a car accident. The song is extremely personal and thus was never performed by the band with Karl as vocalist. However, they started playing it in the past couple of years, and that night was no exception. I got to check something off of my live music bucket list - get handed the mic during a performance of this song. Karl gave me the opportunity several times throughout the set, but I'll never forget the moment he did when they played this song.

Here are the highlights and lowlights.

Highlights: Being in the front. Having Karl's sweat slide down his wrists into my mouth (something I distinctly remember from previously seeing them). Getting the mic multiple times. My cool new fight shorts and shirt. At one point Karl said they were going to play some really old songs and asked if anyone knew them. I raised my hand and he gave a disbelieving look, asking "Really? From our first album Of Malice & A Magnum Heart?" I nodded resolutely. DUH. One of the most important albums of my youth! 

I also got to talk to him after the show as he sat on the edge of the stage chatting with fans. I never stay after shows to meet band members, but this was Misery Signals - few bands are more important to me musically. I told them how I had seen them three times - all at the same venue down in San Diego - but that it had been over five years since the last show. He responded by telling me about the super small venue they had played at in San Diego just the week before. He ended with a firm handshake and a warm "Welcome back."

Lowlights: As always, the most annoying part was the crowd. Holy cow, the crowd. There was a girl wearing a backwards had that said YOLO on it. I nope'd out of there and stood in the back where I could easily ignore the antics of the youngsters dancing like buffoons in the pit.

Also, there was exactly one stage dive during Misery Signals' set, and the diver's right foot just happened to make contact with my left temple, leaving a lovely mark that I didn't notice until I got home and my roommates freaked out, asking what happened. SO METAL.

I'm too old for this stuff.

I'll leave you with this because Misery Signals:

I'll be nursing my not-so-serious wounds until the next show. See you there!


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