The Amity Affliction
Release Date: August 24, 2018
Label: Roadrunner Records
Review by Jared Stossel
The past two years have shown an interesting shift in the way that metalcore music is being created. Some bands have turned away from the genre altogether, while other are simply putting a new take on the genre. Come on, now; breakdown after breakdown, with no change in tuning, content or direction can get a bit tiresome with some bands. The Amity Affliction seek out new territory in this ever-changing landscape with Misery, the band’s sixth studio album (released last year via Roadrunner Records). Intent on making songs that were even darker than the preceding albums, yet with less metalcore chugging breakdowns and screaming, Misery takes the Australian band into relatively new territory. It’s easily the darkest album they’ve put out. Vocalist Joel Birch and bassist/vocalist Ahren Stringer do not shy away from any demons; emotional disturbance and turmoil is at the core of every track on the record. Yet this element makes each track that much more brutally honest and powerful with each listen.
The cleanly-plucked guitar notes at the beginning of the first track, “Ivy (Doomsday)”, are backed by subtle electronics and a clean vocal line. The screaming isn’t entirely absent from Misery, just pulled back and even presented in a different manner. “Feels Like Dying” and “Burn Alive” are two of the more electronic-tinged, poppier tracks on the album, and it’s safe to say these are the track that might offset longtime fans of the band, given that it’s so audibly different than, say, the material on Chasing Ghosts and Let The Ocean Take You. But those that have followed the band may also find this refreshing, a change of pace that ones weren’t expecting yet seemingly works well to showcase the power of the material present on Misery.
Songs like “Holier Than Heaven” and “Kick Rocks” show off powerful, soaring choruses that only accentuate the raw sadness that is laced within these emotion-laden tracks. The title track is a somber affair that shows the band introducing synthesized vocals during the chorus. “Black Cloud”, “D.I.E”, and “Drag The Lake” are several standout tracks that most closely resemble the “heavy” aspect that most fans will be looking for, with “D.I.E.” introducing a chorus that will more than likely become a staple of the band’s upcoming live shows. “Beltsville Blues” and “Set Me Free” closely resemble tracks you would hear on top 40 hard rock radio, and they’re not bad offerings. “Set Me Free” is the better of the two, presenting a synthesis of both old and new Amity Affliction.
The final track, “The Gifthorse”, is a heart-wrenching finale track which shows vocalist Birch reflecting on the suicide of a friend who passed earlier in 2018. It’s an incredibly visceral track and one that reflects on the topic of suicide and mental illness, a topic that you won’t always find talked about in traditional popular music. As Birch once put it in an interview Apple Music, “It’s sort of a kick in the teeth, emotionally. But I think that’s the sign of something good, something honest.” This statement rings true not just for “The Gifthorse”, but for all of Misery and the emotion that comes along with it. Whether you are fond or not of The Amity Affliction’s new sound, you can’t walk away from Misery saying that they phoned it in; they put their hearts and souls on the line with this one, maybe more so than previous album offerings.