Misery Signals – Ultraviolet
Released: August 7th, 2020
Jesse Zaraska // Vocals
Stu Ross // Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals
Ryan Morgan // Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals
Branden Morgan // Drums
Kyle Johnson // Bass Guitar
After seven years, Misery Signals are back together to bring us their comeback studio album, Ultraviolet. Filled with uplifting takes on some tender topics such as hope, sacrifice, mental health, grief, and hardships in general; an antithesis of the bands’ previous record Absent Light. Needless to say, it comes at a time we need it most.
The record begins with ‘The Tempest’. After a short ambient intro, The bands heavy roots shine through with the opening lyrics “We will be lifted again” being screamed as the instrumentals begin. This melodic piece ebbs and flows beautifully, guitarists Stu, Ryan and Kyle manage to write riffs that manages to speak volumes with its delivery as it compliments Jesse’s vocals and lyrics faultlessly. With a message that feels as Jesse is telling a friend ‘hold on, we still need you here’ or ‘this isn’t your time’, this track is a clear indication that each individual member of Misery Signals has developed as a human and as a musician since the act’s previous release. Originally a B-side from a previous era of the band, which included ex-vocalist Karl Schubach, ‘Sunlifter’, begins with enticing guitar riffs, which leaves me sitting on the edge of my seat as I take it in. Lyrically this song speaks of placing unnecessary expectations on oneself, creating undue strain and stress. Lyrics such as “Trying to lift up the sun” reflect this. I find the drumming in this piece to be nothing short of sensational, seemingly maintaining its position at the core of the track as the guitars build up the momentum from the drums lead.
‘River King’ begins with an ever so elegantly soft, instrumental introduction before choir-esque singing the lyrics “Even words less then nothing” begins, which at first listen left me to believe this track would be a soft ballad. However, I was incredibly wrong; the bands staple heavy sound violently returns. Up-tempo rhythm and riffs bounce between time signatures in a natural progression, creating a smooth listening experience. Vocalist Karl maintains his usual mid-range lows throughout the entirety of this song, which seemingly compliments the instrumentals greatly. The song finishes off with a breakdown which carries a lot of weight and power. Kicking off with a strong, atmospheric, almost doomsday like sample as vocalist Karl screams “Let this bring light”, ‘Through Vales of Blue Fire’ is unlike any song on this record; it’s short, hard-hitting and compelling. Including guest vocals from long time friend of the band, Devin Townsend, this track would perfectly fit as the album opener in my opinion due to its strong introduction from the powerful guitar presence and samples.
The song from this LP which represents getting the band back together is ‘Old Ghosts’ (sharing the same name of Zaraska’s debut book). Lyrically the song is reminiscent of places the group used to spend time together in their early days of conception, with multiple references to ‘Elver Park’. As well as making it clear that the reformation of the Misery Signals original line up came at the right time as Zaraska screams “Open your eyes, can’t you see that this is our time. Reach for the sun.” The band explores their more melodic sound in this piece which is somewhat reminiscent of August Burns Red‘s Found In Far Away Places era. Continuing to display their melodic sound, ‘The Fall’ picks up where the previous song left off. This slower, soft ballad is dripping with emotion in its narrative of allowing ambitions get the better of you. The shimmering guitar work in this track remains the centrepiece as the song trickles between energetic bursts of emotional depth and uplifting lyrics.
Beginning with a slow, anthemic guitar tune with choir-esque singing, ‘Redemption Key’ is unique compared to every other song on this LP, sounding like a film score in certain aspects. Containing more clean vocals than the vast majority of Misery Signals back catalogue, Zaraska proves he is no one-trick pony and that his voice is very adaptable. This is the albums shortest song, lasting 2:30. Similarly to ‘The Fall’, ‘Cascade Locks’ ebbs and flows, following a natural continuance of changes in time signatures. The extensive guitar work in this piece sends shivers down my spine, not due to how technically proficient these musicians are but due to how seemingly easy it all advances. With bursts of spoken word amongst Jesse Zaraska‘s hard-hitting and forceful vocals is the cherry on top with this piece. The album concludes with ‘Some Dreams’. The song examines the feeling of regret while encapsulating the different styles and sounds that were featured throughout this album, making it a perfect closer for the LP.
In theory, writing a comeback album seems like an easy endeavour with an established fan base and sound. However, it isn’t always this simple, as the band members took their own time to grow as individuals and musicians, their interests evolve and ultimately their writing styles, interests and influences develop further, creating clashes during the writing process. With all this comes having to win over a loyal fan base, who thrive on nostalgia, with a new sound that reflects who they are today, a challenge which saw the likes Northlane struggle with for years after their line up change.
In my honest opinion, Misery Signals have come roaring back with this one; it has the band’s staple styles as well as some new sounds which takes us into the new and improved era of Misery Signals.
Misery Signals – Ultraviolet tracklisting:
1. The Tempest
3. River King
4. Through The Vales Of Blue Fire
5. Old Ghosts
6. The Fall
7. Redemption Key
8. Cascade Locks
9. Some Dreams