O V E R V I E W
As with every artistic endeavor, there’s so much more than meets the eye and the resulting outcome is dictated more by what people don’t know than what they do. The outcome is, as expected, a representation of the personal dealings that the artists have undergone and a direct reflection of their expressions and feelings while it’s being created. Music is much more evident of this as the lyrical content reflects the minds eye in written and sung form than other expressive outlets, but it exists within all of them. Throughout five previous albums, The Amity Affliction have never been one to shy away from what their music about — it’s a very emotive process that has helped members of the outfit progress past very personal and life-altering experiences and one that is very well documented. That process hasn’t changed with their sixth album, Misery, which is more than simply being personally life-altering as the outfit have moved in a drastic genre-changing direction that will throw some for a loop, while others will wholly embrace a much needed shift sonically that ultimately sees the band in their rawest form yet.
F L O W / L O N G E V I T Y / O R I G I N A L I T Y
Out of the many artistic decisions that were taken for the end result of Misery to come out the way it has, the albums flow may be one of the most curious. This actually goes hand in hand with the composition as there’s definitely some songs that feel as if they are part of two halves of a project spliced together to make a whole. The currently released singles and teasers all come from the first half of Misery, displaying a heavily electronic driven post hardcore sound that while still existent, takes a step back to more orchestral somber moments and wailing guitar riffs on the latter half. This doesn’t really ruin the cohesion as The Amity Affliction have one of the more recognizable vocalists and songwriting patterns in the genre, which helps the album feel as one.
On the longevity end, it gets tricky as it’s more about what a fan is interested in hearing. Misery clocks in at just under 43 minutes with a only a song or two feeling like it overstays its welcome and those who enjoy varied, prominent electronics will find themselves enamored. Others may not find much notable or lengthy about the album if they’re looking for the TAA of old (sonically) or for a sound that relies more on instrumentation and less on programming. On the originality front, this same concept applies — it truly at moments sounds similar to what other bands have done and are doing — while at other times highlights what has always made The Amity Affliction who they are. If you were to look at it objectively for what the band has done with their previous five albums, then yes, this is completely and utterly unlike anything they’ve ever crafted.
V O C A L S / I N S T R U M E N T A T I O N
Ah vocals, perhaps the most “known” aspect about The Amity Affliction. That changes in many ways with Misery, first and foremost with bassist / clean vocalist Ahren Stringer sounding better than ever as his singing has less of a monotonous delivery and shows off a better range. This is also exacerbated by lead vocalist and lyricist Joel Birch also delivering several moments of singing versus his usual foray into screams (don’t fret — they still exist, just used more sparingly while executed at a higher level). The first moment where this really jumps out is with the second single, “Feels Like I’m Dying”, which has Joel delivering the verses in a raspier, more unfiltered manner than what Ahren is known for. Moments like this are carried throughout a multitude of other tracks, such as “Burn Alive” and “Drag the Lake”.
When it comes to instrumentals, many tend to think that the utilization of electronics ultimately means the deviation from actual instruments…that’s not the case at all, especially throughout Misery. In actuality, the electronics are driven by the instrumentals throughout the whole of the album with guitarist Dan Brown being center stage as the guitars rip throughout each track, backed up fully by strong percussion from Joe Longobardi and some extremely bouncy basslines. The perfect example of this lies with “Beltsville Blues”, which has a very groovy style with a more subdued approach, but for those more keen on something with more flair need to check no further than the lasting minutes of “D.I.E” and “Set Me Free”.
C O M P O S I T I O N / P R O D U C T I O N
To truly understand the composition and production that went into the final product that is Misery, it’s extremely helpful to understand where The Amity Affliction approached the creation of it from and that comes best from the mouth of the members. “It was definitely somewhere that we were headed. Everyone’s a bit older and musical influences change, and how we envision the band changed,” explains Birch, who goes on to stress that they did not rely on outside musicians to help them realize this. “We always handle everything ourselves, and our producer Matt Squire helped us get the electronic stuff the way we wanted it. We came to him with clear ideas and placeholders of the sounds we wanted, and he helped us nail those down.” In this regard, the band took a different approach to how they wanted their songs to sound, but the creation of those tracks stayed within their usual creation process of Dan Brown writing all the music with Joel providing the lyrics and Ahren weaving them together. This just goes to show how much outside, personal growth can influence the direction of an artistic project versus drastically changing things up for the sake of it…one that deeply should be understood.
The production aspect is where things really took a turn as the desire for electronics was there from the start, and instead of trying to create this style with a producer that wasn’t fit for this particular style of music, The Amity Affliction decided to work with Matt Squire, who is more known for poppier sensibilities. This became a cornerstone of the sound that makes up Misery, especially on the first half of the album as electronics soar over the backing instrumentation, vocaloids are utilized in spades to provide distinct transitions throughout songs and breakdowns blend harsh growls with skittering synths to create extremely memorable moments. The execution of these moments comes across nearly flawless while sounding extremely vivid and crisp, with each aspect working together in cohesion rather than against one another, resulting in one of the strongest produced records from The Amity Affliction in their career.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
There will undoubtedly be a lot of noise made about Misery, but it’s truly a The Amity Affliction record at its heart as the lyrics mirror the life of the band, and more directly Joel himself as it reflects the difficulties he continues to face in his everyday life, including his sobriety. The outcome of all of this is in one way or another, a band defining record that sets up the future of the band in a stronger way than ever seen from them before. This should be such an appreciated album if not for its directional shift, for its raw, real life message and truthfulness. As Joel put it best, “It was time for a breath of fresh air, and more so for us than anyone else. We’re all really excited about the new direction, and we’ve made a record of which we’re super proud“, and this couldn’t have been more truthful.