The Amity Affliction – Misery
Released: August 24th, 2018
Joel Birch // Vocals
Ahren Stringer // Bass & Vocals
Dan Brown // Guitar
The time has finally come and The Amity Affliction‘s new album Misery has landed in my inbox to review and share my thoughts with you. But first to get you up to speed, let me briefly explain my history with the band so you can get an understanding of where my head is at while writing this. I’ve been an avid fan of TAA since the early years. Back in 2007-ish, I made my transition into appreciating heavy music and the two Australian albums that got me there was Parkway Drive‘s Horizons and Amity‘s Severed Ties so you can say I’ve been a fan for a while. From there, I saw them play to 40+ people at Rosies/Thriller, Soccer Field Clubhouses on the Gold Coast, Pubs, Small Music Festivals, Large Venues and I even cancelled plans when I was in New York to see them at Irving Plaza (when they were supporting Silverstein). As the years went by I’ve grown with them and continued to support them through all of their various lineup changes and musical progression. In saying that I don’t like all of their most recent music, but as a majority, it’s not as bad as what people are making it out to be. So that brings us to today, the band’s new release and first album without drummer Ryan Burt, who departed the band back in February. In my opinion, Ryan was an integral piece of the Amity puzzle, his drumming over the years only got better with age so I was interested to see how the band went without him this time around.
The album opens with the debut single ‘Ivy (Doomsday)‘, a song we’re all too familiar with now with its combination of echoing electronic synth and alluring vocals from Ahren Stringer. It has a very Bring Me The Horizon That’s The Spirit feel to it, but with Amity‘s unique twang, for some, it sounds like it could have been something that was conceived during the band’s ‘All Fucked Up‘ writing session back on their last album This Could Be Heartbreak. Frontman Joel Birch pulls back on the growls in comparison to previous releases, especially for the third section sticking to just repeating the same line of “we could watch the world burn” over and over again. The drums however, are missing the energy and enthusiasm brought from Ryan Burt, the studio/session drummer keeps things pretty basic for this one which is a shame because it makes you wonder what it could sound like if Ryan hadn’t left… ‘Feels Like I’m Dying‘ is up next and this is the one I remember sitting there wondering “WTF is this?” The synth and 80’s electronic sounds are stepped up quite a bit, Ahren has gone full melodic pop rock with the chorus and Joel pops in every now and then for a heavy scream/yell. Over time, bands like to try new things to test the waters and their musical abilities, but I hope this is the first and last time they attempt anything like this. Some fans will dig it (mainly newer ones I’d assume), but for the rest of us, it sounds like a completely different band. ‘Holier Than Heaven‘ starts with a promising intro that builds up to a less overly produced Ahren Stringer singing and Joel Birch finishing off his sentences with a scream. It’s like the Amity we’re used to, with their new influences throughout. The chorus rocks, there’s no denying that (there’s a little headbang inducing stop down just before it starts that’ll definitely get you moving your head), plus there’s also a breakdown towards the end of the song which is heavy enough to please the band’s naysayers, well done Dan Brown you deserve recognition for that. Lyrically, it focuses on battling mental health issues, which is something the guys have absolutely mastered throughout the years, especially with Birch being so open about his own personal demons. At the time of writing this, this is my favourite from the songs that have been released so far (this is the rumoured third single) but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are still nine more tracks to get through.
‘Burn Alive‘ starts with what can only be explained as an 80’s pop-rock infused intro akin to that of Icehouse‘s song ‘Electric Blue‘ (ask your parents kids). I legit had to stop the song a minute in and go back because I was caught in this state of disbelief and confusion. Stringer‘s distant vocals bring us up to a growl screaming “yeahhhhhh” before he’s back again singing his heart out. But the disbelief doesn’t disappear, its back for the chorus which once again highlights’s the obvious influence Icehouse had on the band with this one. The good thing for Amity is, I don’t mind Icehouse, having just resigned from working at Triple M for two years, I heard them every day and can actually appreciate the old school Aussie rock legends, but in that same breath, I wonder if this was the reason TAA made a song like this, to once again break into the commercial radio market (they received a stack of airplay for the radio version of ‘All
Fucked Messed Up‘). Probably not, but there’s a thought. The song is full of excessive “yeah, yeahs”, like how new blink-182 is overrun with “na-nahs” which seem out of place and (to me) just lazy writing. As the song fades out, try to sing the proper lyrics “yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah, burn alive it’s true” and not “I can see, Can see that it may be just a vision for you, Electric blue”. Titular track ‘Misery‘ arrives next to literally put us out of our misery and the emotive lyrics return, along with heavy bass, samples, synth and a fuckin’ weird high pitched chorus singing “Misery Loves Company” alongside Birch‘s yells. The whole package sounds like a consensual, lube-free gangbang involving Skrillex, a saxophone, M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold), the 80’s, strobe lights, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and a keyboard. Upon listening to the song’s climax five times, I can see what they’re going for (an updated revisit to their former sound/style when keyboardist Trad Nathan was in the band), but without him, it’s a shit hot mess. Its been well over a decade since I last stepped foot into an EDM/Dance Nightclub, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that song made its way into their weekend playlist in the not too distant future… that or a seedy strip club. ‘Kick Rocks‘ delivers the bass again for what I would best describe as a sorta-heavy, balladesque track and because I’m a sucker for a ballad it instantly makes it’s way to my second favourite song from the album, so far. When you stop picking apart what they’re doing differently, especially with this one, you can hear the end result they were going for and in this instance, they did it right… finally.
Synth-heavy ‘Black Cloud‘ is up next and for those of you playing this stupid game at home, there’s another reference to the ocean too. But what the song also has is screams, a slow-jam breakdown and Ahren Stringer‘s perfectly executed singing. This one screams early meets new Amity, like something off Youngbloods, slowed right down and combined with a similar sound off one of their last two albums Let The Ocean Take Me and/or This Could Be Heartbreak. It’s not perfect, but it’s listenable. ‘D.I.E‘ starts with a fuckin’ piano but brings the tempo back up for the remainder of the song and despite the Debbie Downer lyrics, “D-I-E, we’re all gonna die, we’re all gonna die”, it will get you nodding along. I can picture this one being a big sing-a-long at their live shows, but then I wonder how they’re going to pull it off because I can’t picture Amity wheeling a piano on stage anytime soon. It’s also worth mentioning, like the “yeah yeahs” from earlier, there are some really overdone moments of Ahren spelling out “D-I-E, D-I-E, D-I-E, D-I-E, D-I-E, D-I-E m-y d-a-r-l-i-n-g” which are not only repetitive but lazy writing once again. However, they do lead into another signature Dan Brown guitar solo which only just saves the song. ‘Drag The Lake‘ brings the piano intro back again and transports us immediately back to a high school formal/prom in the 80’s, you know the ones where all the chicks were wearing shoulder pads and had perms. That’s what this song reminds me of. I’m also a little confused because the singing at the start of the song doesn’t sound like Ahren at all, so I’m left wondering, “is that Joel?” Mainly because after the initial first paragraph, Ahren shows up and you can distinguish his voice perfectly. So, once again, IS THAT JOEL???? My initial reaction was he’s not bad, but he’s obviously getting some assistance from autotune it seems. There’s yells/screams in there, there are high notes sung too (autotuned though), and, well, to be honest, it’s a really catchy as fuck earworm song. Good luck getting that one out of your head after hearing it, but in a strange Stockholm Syndrome kind of way, it works. I rate it.
‘Beltsville Blues‘ brings the ROCK back with a riff city intro and it’s at this point, something clicks in my own brain, the guys must be doing their best to pay tribute/homage to Australian rock bands from the 1980’s era. I get major Ac/Dc, Divinyls, Icehouse and (to an extent) INXS feels with this one, but it also has an exceptional screaming section that’ll please Amity‘s heavier fans. I’m actually really fuckin loving this and I can guarantee you will too. ‘Set Me Free‘ picks up the pace again for yet another rock filled banger from the boys, it’s almost as if they’ve saved the best songs for last on this album. There’s a deep, heavy breakdown that’ll, once again, please the heavier side of Amity‘s fanbase, another Dan Brown signature guitar solo too, but it’s this motivational speech/quote/sample right before it from Major League Baseball legend Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees that really highlight’s the song’s message about hope and perseverance:
“Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”
It sounds very similar to ‘I Bring The Weather With Me‘ too so if that song was up your alley, then this one definitely will be. The album wraps up with ‘The Gifthorse‘ which really brings the mood back down a few notches and kinda/sorta sounds like Justin Bieber‘s combination of fast talking/singing in the bridge of his song ‘Sorry‘ and something Thirty Seconds to Mars have done with their last two albums. It’s a genre-crossing blend of pop, stadium rock and ballad material which all leads to a large-sounding sing-a-long at the end (which redeems the mistakes the band made at the start of the song). I can see this being the band’s new closing track complete with streamers, confetti and sparklers… kinda like what they used to do with ‘Open Letter‘ back in the day. But despite the elated feeling you get when you reach the end of the song (and album) you can’t help but think there’s so much missing potential from it.
For one, the majority of it is just produced beats, snares and synth (until you get to that end part I mentioned above), but the lyrics touch you in a way that just leaves you wanting more, especially with Joel‘s raspy sounding vocals yelling:
“there’s a message at the bottom of this bottle, and it’s calling out to me, there’s a message at the bottom of this bottle, singing I can set you free”
So there you have it, The Amity Affliction‘s new album Misery momentarily lived up to its name throughout with a collection of songs that’ll certainly make some fans question what happened? And possibly bring others in closer than ever before. The boys have attempted something different to change things up a bit, and while the meaningful, lyrical content is still present, the backing instrumentals on some of the songs sound completely out of place. For a band that used to be considered top-shelf material in Australia’s heavy music echelon, this is a gigantic leap in a completely new and unknown direction/territory that will no doubt alienate a large chunk of their loyal long-term fanbase.
The Amity Affliction – Misery tracklisting
1. Ivy (Doomsday)
2. Feels Like I’m Dying
3. Holier Than Heaven
4. Burn Alive
6. Kick Rocks
7. Black Cloud
9. Drag The Lake
10. Beltsville Blues
11. Set Me Free
12. The Gifthorse