First and foremost, be on the lookout for the "Of Malice and the Magnum Heart" reunion show!
This band has always fascinated me. Their music is creative, the lyrics are thought provoking, and most importantly they possess a certain charm which made them stand out as a unique force in the early 2000’s metalcore scene. Back when they released their debut in 2004, metalcore was obviously starting to become the status quo in metal, particularly in the mainstream. Yet instead of adopting the formulaic sound of the giants in Killswitch Engage and Underoath, the guys in Misery Signals defied all convention by creating their own signature blend of this style. Ironically, the sound they established on “Of Malice and the Magnum Heart” turned out to be somewhat popular in later years as bands such as August Burns Red, Erra, and Volumes borrowed heavily from it (all of which are great bands in their own right). Hell even the more dimwitted Emmure took cues from them. Misery Signals created something fresh and unique with their debut, so what made it that way?
Granted many of the metalcore standards were present on this album, particularly with the mix of screamed and spoken word vocals and the use of breakdowns. The major difference with this album was the way in which the breakdowns were placed within the songs. Many of the mainstream metalcore bands at the time relied on breakdowns as a way to release tension in between periods of fast riffing. As a result the placement of the breakdowns within the song became somewhat predictable; usually during the bridge section or near the end of the song. On “Of Malice and the Magnum Heart”, Misery Signals placed their breakdowns in fairly unconventional areas. In many cases they were added right into the middle of verses, and although one would expect this to sound disjointed, it actually worked because their breakdowns weren’t always there to release tension; they were often a part of the building up of tension.
The very composition of the breakdown sections even sounded different. Much more technical in nature, they generally contained interesting double bass patterns and drum fills. This was a nice change of pace seeing as how most of their contemporaries still relied exclusively on the same old Pantera-esque groove. With respect to the guitarwork, diversity was never an issue for them. There was still plenty of hardcore chugging, as one would expect, but these songs also displayed a fair amount of technicality and cleaner sections. The melodic approach they took with their lead guitarwork is what really stands the test of time. To this day “Of Malice and the Magnum Heart” contains some of the most memorable and overall catchiest melodies found on a metalcore album. They refined this approach on their sophomore effort, “Mirrors”, but unfortunately the sheer impact was lost in the mix due to sloppier production (This is why bands should stick with Devin Townsend). Regardless, their truly innovative melodies are what help to make them so unique and influential within the scene today.
Did Misery Signals help to reinvigorate the metalcore subgenre? I would say so. The approach they took with respect to their breakdowns, melodies, and overall song structure was a breath of fresh air and even provided a template for some of the most popular bands in the scene today. If it weren’t for their influence, every metalcore band post-2005 would probably sound like a Killswitch/Acacia Strain hybrid, and that would get old quickly. Go back and listen to this album. You may be surprised with how far ahead of its time it actually sounds.