From metalcore to technical death metal, these are albums I truly think stand out above the rest. Albums that I listen to on a regular basis because they’re original, executed well or even both. They may not be front-to-back perfect and they may not be for everyone, and perhaps many of you will find that you disagree. Nevertheless, these are albums I think people should at least give a listen.

It was inevitable I had to write another review for this column that I bestowed upon the interwebs. And it was also inevitable that I mention Miseration‘s 2nd album, The Mirroring Shadow, somewhere, sometime, on this blog. Alas, here we are with what I consider to be the #3 album of 2009.

I’m writing this at 2 in the morning so bear with me.

Miseration’s supergroup death metal assault is led by none other than the iconic Christian Alvestam, ex-Scar Symmetry and current vocalist of many side projects such as The Few Against Many, Torchbearer and most recently, Solution .45. Not only is he a multi-instrumentalist, he is an amazing vocalist. His range is seemingly infinite, going from natural, harmonious singing to earth-shattering growls at the flick of the wrist. Not only is his range phenomenal, everything he does is catchy. Whether it be the inane growling or the god-like singing, his composition and technique is unprecedented. I hate to be the one to hype up something, but this guy incredible and part of why The Mirroring Shadow is such a monstrous release.

As mentioned, this is Miseration’s 2nd album. The first album, Your Demons – Their Angels, sounds nothing like The Mirroring Shadow because the music went from modern melo-death to bold, in-your-face death metal. This was to the dismay of many fans, but I disagree with the reaction for one reason: it was more of the same. The previous album was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was something that Christian Alvestam had already done before (and better) in Scar Symmetry. The change was warranted and bands who evolve their sound get a thumbs up from me.

So, what makes The Mirroring Shadow 5/5 material? First, they’ve dropped the clean vocals and melodies entirely and opted for standard death metal instrumentation. “Well, Gein, that seems pretty boring!” you say. And on paper, it does. Originality is not something that Miseration excels at, nor do they need to. It all lies within the execution and many people seem to forget that. Sure, you can throw didgeridoos over the sound of dog’s barking and arrange it to make a beat, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Miseration’s forte here lies with their ability to do death metal RIGHT. And they do exactly that. Bass heavy, bone-crushing riffs run throughout this album like blood in your veins and the foot-stomping never ceases to end. There isn’t much to say about the album from a musical standpoint since it’s very standard. If you’ve heard death metal before, you know what this is going to sound like. However, it’s the arrangement of the album’s ambiances, underlying tones and sheer brutality that convey the album artwork, lyrical theme and direction with utter perfection. If I could give a visual representation, it’d be like dropping a slab of concrete on a puppy. Yeah, it’s pretty metal.

But everything is too good to be true to some people. The kicker? The production is clean. No, it’s not artificial and sterile, sucking every possible microscopic form of life out of it, but it’s certainly not untampered. It’s clean without sounding like shit, but I can see those who advocate raw production having trouble getting into this album. But anyone who is willing to open their mind and accept that the production helps immensely, you’re in for something good, I think.

Obligatory negative passage. Well, the only negative I can say here is that the album never really lets up. Every track is ruthless, relentless death metal, though varying in tempo and structure, that can get a little monotonous. This is mostly remedied by the catchy choruses of Mr. Alvestam. Yes, the growled choruses are catchy because what he says is audible. Every time I listen to the track “Theca” I constantly have the chorus running rampant in my head. Motherfucker.

All in all, The Mirroring Shadow is a MUST listen for any modern death metal fan. Clocking in at only 36 minutes, it never overstays its welcome. I can’t say many people will be as impressed with it as I, mainly because of my undying love for Alvestam and the fact this albums fits my taste perfectly, but I think many will find this an enjoyable release at least. Being at the top of my annual album list is difficult and Miseration manages to do it. That should say something.

If this isn’t your cup of tea and fails to impress in any way then I would recommend checking out all of Alvestam’s projects. There’s something for everyone, I think.

Check out my second favorite (with a catchy chorus), “Theca”:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzdHBzJ3MZA&]

And my personal favorite, the behemoth title track, “The Mirroring Shadow”, here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGgI8_RxRio&feature=related]

Unfortunately, the quality of the song sucks on YouTube so do yourself a favor and check out a higher quality version if that sounds remotely good. Enjoy!

-MK

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