Finding Love in 'Misery': A Review of The Amity Affliction's Latest Album



The metalcore genre as a whole is in a very strange place. Bands left and right are changing up their sound for a more pop and radio rock oriented style. The frontrunners in this movement are Bring Me the Horizon, who even as early as 2013 with Sempiternal were softening up their sound. In 2016, The Amity Affliction put out This Could Be Heartbreak which slightly abandoned their previous metalcore stylings for a more post hardcore and rock tendency. While that album wasn’t their best effort, it had some good songs. I don’t think critics and fans were expecting something spectacular out of these Aussie boys with Misery, but when the lead single "Ivy (Doomsday)" dropped, boy, were they wrong.

Accompanied by the first part of a professionally shot cinematic style music video series, "Ivy" is a large change-of-pace, even from their previous release. This time around, they’ve perfected their softer stylings, as well as their ability to incorporate in heavier sections simultaneously. With Joel Birch now doing some clean/pitched scream vocals, he carries the soaring chorus through the air. The second single (and second part of the music video series) "Feels Like I’m Dying" was a more polarizing track. The inclusion of some pop leaning synth sounds was a real drag for some listeners. It sounds great, though, and both vocalists perform very well.

Though the instrumentation is never spectacular or technical, it provides a great foundation for what the band is trying to do. The uniqueness in this album resides heavily in its subtleties. The best parts are in the vocals or small synth melodies. For example, the main synth melody in "Ivy" is astoundingly catchy. Again, the synth line in the chorus of "Feels Like I’m Dying" is infectious as all hell, and is something that will catch your ear for sure. There are many small background instruments and sounds that provide a spectacularly spacey, but at the same time full sound. The inclusion of electronic bells in the chorus of  "Feels Like I’m Dying" is a great example of this, as well as a sampled line from Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech in "Set Me Free" (which is followed up by a fantastic and to-the-point guitar solo). If I took the time to describe all of the subtle things that make this album amazing, it would take forever. There are so many minor details in the background of this album that you have to pay attention to catch, but when you do, you’ll be singing every little intricacy in the production there is.

Misery is also full of crazy good choruses, and in your face breakdowns that are way more explicit than the intricate production effects. "Kick Rocks" may have one of the best choruses in all of Amity’s discography, along with the chorus found on "Drag the Lake." This track sees lead singer Ahren Stringer use beautiful falsetto vocals. It’s absolutely infectious. Thankfully, Amity have not strayed from using breakdowns in their music, though they come in slightly different forms. They have innovated what you can call a breakdown in post hardcore music. In the title track, they use electronic beats and noises almost reminiscent to a bass drop in electronic music. The drop is preceded by a girl yelling “I just want to die,” which sets an eerie tone to the entire moment. There are also much more traditional breakdowns here, the best example of this is in track 3, "Holier Than Heaven," one of the best tracks on the album.

Even with all of the great things about this album, it isn’t without its flaws. There are a few outlying moments that come off as very campy or awkward. For example, in "Burn Alive" there is a bridge section where the word “yeah” is just sung over and over again (about forty times between the bridge and outro, to be exact) which gets a little obnoxious. In ‘D.I.E’, the way “D-I-E M-Y D-A-R-L-I-N-G” is spelled out isn’t executed too smoothly, and comes off as campy, but it still is melodically catchy. "Black Cloud" is a bit forgettable, with a pretty weak chorus, but the main intro section is very catchy. The closing track, "The Gifthorse," is a very somber track dedicated to someone close to the band who has died. It isn’t the best track, but the sentiment gives it more points. They incorporate some modern hip hop/RnB stylings into it, and it works in some ways, but not in others. 

Other than a few forgettable moments and some awkward sections, this album is packed with emotion, well executed experimentation, and some of the catchiest and most unique choruses of the year. This album is certainly The Amity Affliction. They were very adamant about saying this album would give everyone who always says they make the same album over and over a reason to shut up. While I believe that holds true, they managed to make a record that seems like a perfect fit in their discography. Misery’s mature sound makes it clear that This Could Be Heartbreak was just an awkward puberty phase for The Amity Affliction's career, and everyone has that phase at some point.

Misery is out now on Roadrunner Records. Don’t pass this one over. You will regret it.

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