Chrisitan Älvestam has always been a commanding vocal presence on the many albums he has contributed to, with a superb ‘clean’ singing voice, a throaty roar and a piercing death metal scream in his repertoire.
Perhaps best known for his work with Scar Symmetry, he left their ranks in late 2008 to concentrate on his other projects, and in the main Miseration. On this, their third album, he seems more focused than ever on the demonic guttural rasps and death metal barking – and he does it with aplomb.
The rage is palpable from opener “Stepping Stone Agenda” which shifts straight into first gear, pounding away nicely with few twists or surprises other than a smattering of dulcimer, which adds a pleasingly discordant and eerie flavour to the flurry of 8-string guitar abuse and kick-drum thunder.
From thereon-in it keeps cranking up the fury notch by notch, as we are treated to a barrel load of precision riffing and blastbeats with an intriguing selection of folk instruments adding touches of melody here and there to keep the wall of noise from becoming a blur.
Employing Mongolian throatsinging, mandolins, Indian harp accompaniment and strains of piano here and there may seem like a gratuitous idea to mark the band out as ‘a bit different’ from their contemporaries, but it really works. These elements don’t clutter the songs but instead ramp up the feeling of unease and visceral power, used as sparingly as they are. Similar to the (surprisingly) powerful use of saxophone on Napalm Death’s latest, this is the sound of a band trying to move forward in a crowded genre that is stagnating in places as it becomes ever more difficult to raise the bar for ferocity and sheer nastiness.
As we approach the midway point of the album they somehow manage to kick it up yet another gear with “Hill Of The Poison Tree” – possibly the most wonderfully aggressive 2 minutes of aural violence to vomit out of my speakers since I heard “The Roar Of A Thousand Throats” teaser from the last Lock-Up album. Pleasingly brutal enough to grab your attention from the off, but sufficiently diverse and well-crafted to leave you discovering more and more on each listen, this is an album that finally displays Miseration’s songwriting ability to its fullest.
If you’re a fan of Decapitated, Napalm Death and accidentally shitting your pants when you put your best headphones on then I urge you to get hold of this album.