For the last two decades, Baltimore brutalizers Misery Index have remained a fixture among death metal circles. The kind of band that resonates with all of the requisite pummel of the genre, influences of grindcore, punk, and hardcore make for a stylistic amalgam that have separated the collective from their peers in the best way.
Aside from their embrace of various influences of musical extremity, the band has further differentiated themselves by sidestepping the troupes of the genre lyrically - addressing real like horrors rather than that of the gore, guts and grotesque approach often synonymous with the genre. It's a move that the band concede isn't for everyone, but it has been a consistent aspect of Misery index throughout.
Reiterating that quality of consistency, Misery Index are set to launch their seven full length campaign with the release of what may arguably be their most definitive record thus far in Complete Control. Brimming with the kind of confrontation that makes their hostile sound especially convincing, the album's singles like "The Eaters and the Eaten," "Infiltrators" and the title track point to a unique awareness that make Misery Index as poignant as they are pummeling.
Sourcing the angst and volatility of a society that seems to be coming apart at the seems, the band's bassist and vocalist Jason Netherton crafts the kind of lyrical narrative that sparks the flame of a musical molotov. The nine track firebomb combines breakneck power and instrumental intensity to craft a soundtrack to an Orwellian dystopia that seems more reported than imagined.
Reflecting on the band's two decade tenure, Netherton details the how Complete Control stacks up in the band's catalog and how strange times indeed make for compelling art.
The themes in an album like Complete Control seem especially prevalent given the turbulence of the last couple of years. How much of this album if any was in response to the the climate of the world since you released Rituals of power in 2019?
Netherton - Yes, it was definitely conditioned by the climate of anti-democratic politics that arose in many parts of the world in the mid-to-late 2000s, as well as the Covid situation, which sparked greater tension and social anxiety. Themes like these do tend to fuel the songwriting in some subjective sense, I think, like they do all artistic expression in a given historical moment. So as a response yes, I think the album represents our time and speaks to the anger and frustration of many as our social fabric becomes more fragmented and unstable.
What was the timeline like for the band given the inability to tour. Rituals of Power is only three years old - was the plan to release another record or did the band just find themselves writing and recording to stay productive during the pandemic downtime?
Netherton - When the Covid shutdown happened in the spring of 2020, we were actually on the last days of a European tour supporting Napalm Death. We did the final show in Cologne, Germany and then said goodbye. After that we did not meet up for a year and half. So, we finally got to songwriting and getting the riff-machine oiled up and crunching towards the end of 2020. We wrote songs for the most part individually, with each of us coming up with a few songs for the album, until we finally got together in May 2021 to demo everything out and see what we had. So, it was more or less just how we did the last few albums, writing songs separately, then arranging them collectively. The main thing was, we just did not see each other for a longer time, and we started writing earlier than we might have, and therefore we got an album out sooner than we might have otherwise.
The band remained relatively active during the last two years - even releasing the Coffin Up the Nails compilation. Did digging through the archives to put that release together spark any ideas, any creativity?
Netherton - The idea with the 'Coffin Up' compilation was to put something out that kind of collected the B-sides and bonus tracks from the last ten years and put them all on one release. We did that before with the Pulling Out the Nails compilation which came out in 2010. It was just our way to self-release something on our own in a relatively limited way for our most diehard fans. To cap it off we had the unreleased Bolt Thrower cover "When Glory Beckons" to make it a bit more special. Creatively, I don’t think it contributed to the current record, it was more of a fun thing to curate and release during the Covid downtime.
There has always been a hardcore/grindcore element to Misery Index that differentiates you from your contemporaries. Given that influence, that background, it seems like adding Will Putney was kind of the perfect fit in terms of this album’s producer. How did he impact the direction of this record?
Netherton - Putney definitely provides the clarity we need to work through those influences. At our core, we are a death metal band with old school roots that go back to the early 90s, but the band as mentioned was founded on inspiration from the more Napalm Death side of the genre, so we like to have biting productions that capture that rapid anger and channel into an almost live-like sound. Putney specializes in this, and we knew from what he did on our last album that we were going to return to him this time around, and it we could not be happier.
The genre lines that used to divide heavy music seem to be less and less prevalent. Hardcore bands and death metal bands are touring together more and more and the fans are becoming more unified. Do you feel like Misery Index was ahead of that curve given how you have championed your roots in your music? Hardcore fans love you. Death metal fans love you. Grindcore fans love you. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish.
Netherton - I do think that we’ve always more or less stuck to our guns in the sense we always write songs based first on what makes us happy, as opposed to appealing to any current trends or what have you. I know don’t if that makes us ahead of the curve but we are content with the albums we have made and always stoked when people like our music, come out to shows and support us.
For a death metal band that explores real life horror in their music, how have these last couple of years further fueled the kind of confrontation that drives you guys collectively?
Netherton - These are strange times indeed. It seems like the center is untethered and its hard to grasp commonality among people of differing views and opinions, and our humanity is trampled in the process. There are basic struggles in everyday life that just resonate and I find very powerful, such as those which fight for better livelihood against entrenched economic power. To me, these themes make for more substantive lyrics because they are rooted in everyday horrors and injustices. I know these types of lyrics are not for everyone, but we do use a lot of allegory/metaphor to keep them interesting and relatable to most anyone. So that if you like us mainly for the music, the lyrics are a like an extra way to connect deeper if you want to dig further into those themes.
The band is getting ready to hit the road again for some hefty touring and back on the festival circuit. What’s the anticipation like given the long lay off?
Netherton - For us, there might be some rust but overall I think it will be a seamless move back to the live routine, we are long time road dogs and touring is our home away from home. For the crowds, from what I can tell, they’ve been rabid to get back to shows and recent tours have proven that things are crazy and people love live music now more than ever.
Given the start of the Century Media era of the band and how this record comes off of such a strange time in history, where does Complete Control rank for you in terms of the career accomplishments?
Netherton - Its hard to access right now, as we are still kind of “in” the moment. As I write this today, the album release is one week away, and we are really happy with how it came out. Of course, if our audience likes it too, we are more than stoked, but on a personal level its a milestone, we think –and in relation to the title- its our most tight and complete album, fully representative of the varying influences and songwriting styles all the members bring to the band. Time erodes pretty quickly into the future and the days seem to go by faster than ever, so who knows, in a few years we might have a different view, but for now we mark it as among our best.
Complete Control arrives May 13th via Century Media Records. Order the album - HERE | Catch Misery Index with Origin on the Space Control Tour. Dates can be found below.