Queensland veterans The Amity Affliction have returned with their sixth studio album, ‘Misery’, seeing the band continue their trajectory into more commercial-sounding territory, this time with the help of electronic elements.
Anyone familiar with The Amity Affliction knows that, on a song-based level, this is not a total left turn.
But there’s a particular method of doing this that has pervaded, which is what they’ve opted for here. Examples: Linkin Park emulated Diplo produced pop on ‘One More Light’; Bullet For My Valentine emulated the sample-and-synth-heavy production of ‘Sempiternal’ on ‘Gravity’. To say that this has gotten tediously boring is an understatement.
Opener ‘Ivy (Doomsday)’ sees them going for the anthemic jugular, and is one of the better cuts. But then we have ‘Feels Like I’m Dying’, an otherwise passable song tainted by not only the jarring “FEELS LIKE I’M… bu-du-bu-du-duh” bit, but the worst idiosyncrasy of this trend; the chipmunk vocals in the middle eight. Do we not hear enough of these already?
And what’s with that noise in the chorus of the title-track? Was any semblance of humanity deliberately pulverised from that vocal? With every listen, you find yourself relating to the poor woman they sampled, and not for the right reasons.
When you consider the subject matter of the songs on ‘Misery’, Ahren Stringer‘s vocals showcase nothing resembling any character, decadence, or emotion of any kind, compared to Joel Birch‘s harsher delivery. Almost impressively, he can switch from his lower register to his higher register and sound just as devoid of personality as he did previously.
After ‘D.I.E.’, which lazily contains many repeats of the song title, there are some better moments. ‘Beltsville Blues’ has a welcome hint of heaviness in its middle eight, and ‘Set Me Free’ has a better use of electronics and samples. There’s even a key-change and a guitar solo here.
The dark, personal narratives at least make this a believable album lyrically; lines like “I’ve seen the devil at the bottom of the well” (from ‘Holier Than Heaven’) will certainly strike a chord, yet musically, you can almost hear the band second-guessing themselves. Most of ‘The Gifthorse’ sounds like it could be on Kiss FM. Diplo-rock has simply outstayed its welcome.
This review isn’t the work of someone who listens to nothing with synthesisers, nor recorded after 1996; it’s just that rock and electronic music mixed together should be exciting, and there are plenty of bands who do it brilliantly. But The Amity Affliction, and many others, have made it boring. There is no room for this.