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Mist of Misery – Severance Award winner

Mist of Misery
by Gary Hernandez at 19 December 2022, 12:37 AM

Symphonic Black Metal. What a perfect genre, and MIST OF MISERY is one of the best. Their fourth full-length release, “Severance,” is not to be missed. The album sees the Swedish foursome tighten their focus on the symphonic elements of their craft as well as weaving an album length narrative of sadness, tragedy, and a fuck-ton of cold . . . because you can’t have Black Metal without cold. It’s like love and blood—you can’t have one without the other. Anyway, perfect winter season album, this one.

Quick background on the band. MIST OF MISERY formed in March 2010 and are based in Stockholm, Sweden. Over the last 12 years they’ve issued a balance of four EPs and four LPs. They have also navigated through several lineup changes. Artistically, the band has seen a steady evolution of their sound, exploring different variations on their core approach but never straying too far afield. No Experimental, no Prog, no Pirate (whew!). Although “Severance” is the furthest out of all their albums, it follows a natural trajectory and shouldn’t be too shocking to anyone. It’s also an incredible album, so that should afford a degree of forgiveness for fans who might be inclined to grudges. This is also the first album on which the vocals are handled by Änglamakaren (Ken Romlin of NIGHT CROWNED), but, again, stellar performance so nothing to complain about there.

Thematically, the album follows the tragic story arc of a lone outcast in rural 19th century England. !!SPOLIER ALERT!! Skip the next two paragraphs if you don’t already know the storyline.

The character is a stereotypical Black Metal persona—scorned by society, alone in a world turned against him, forlorn and downtrodden. But not with any real due cause. The world is just full of uncaring assholes (with one exception to be revealed later), so at a very early age the protagonist turns inward and learns to subsist in the cold. Essentially, he shares the basic origin story of most metalheads. He does, however, find one beacon of light. His one true love—but she dies tragically, and he might even be accused of her death (I’m not clear on this point). Turn that light out and bring in more cold.

So off to the wilderness with him. In the dead of winter. Wandering, he finds a decaying structure out in the middle of nowhere. This becomes his place of solace as well as his prison. Every attempt he makes to leave only finds him circling back to it. (Metaphor anyone?). He does lots of ruminating on the qualities of loneliness, remorse, and solitude. The only bright moments are his memories of his love—but she’s dead so snap back to the despair. The story ends as every good Depressive Suicide Black Metal narrative should . . . with cellars and nooses and a nod at—but not depiction of—the inevitable.

Adding atmosphere to the storyline is the cover art by Sulphuris. Unadorned and crude in its execution, it is the perfect companion to the album.

The music, of course, is also fantastic. The production values are supreme, so you can really immerse yourself into the album. The album isn’t stuffed with superfluous or self-indulgent performances—every note, every movement has a purpose. The tracks and movements therein shift with the narrative—conjuring atmosphere here, invoking archetypes there, and revealing cold truths with orchestral movements, icy riffs, tempered rhythms, and razored vocals. This is the type of album that should be listened to from beginning to end, but if you need to listen to one or two tracks to get a taste of the album, try “The Long Road” or the title-track, “Severance.”

Altogether, “Severance” is a supremely well-crafted album. MIST OF MISERY has summited a whole new level. It’s a craggy, frozen, and forlorn crest, and largely unpopulated too. My recommendation is to pick up “Severance” as soon as you can and stake a claim on that icy plateau. Chances are it will soon be crowded with new and old fans alike.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. An Ode to Solitude
2. The Long Road
3. A Sombre Solace
4. Into the Embrace of Winter
5. A Wasted Life
6. Through Night's Gloom
7. Oceans of Grief
8. Severance
9. Reflections
10. Towards the Descent
Änglamakaren – Vocals
Mortuz Denatus – Vocals, keyboards, orchestral arrangements
Livsnekaren – Drums
Tenebris – Bass
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Edited 23 March 2023

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