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Musical Analysis- Anchor by Misery Singals

Here we will explore the progressive structural style of metalcore band Misery Signals through their song Anchor from their second released full length LP "MIRRORS" (Ferret Records 2006).

ANCHOR by MISERY SIGNALS
For the general public, metal and hardcore music are hard to accept as meaningful, progressive, and creative musical works of art. Although to its avid listeners and those who take the time to dissect the musical components, metal and hardcore musicians are some of the most talented in their fields and their music are some of the most innovative and dynamic music out there. To experience a taste of what metal/hardcore music has to offer we will explore the elements of the song Anchor by Misery Signals, one of the more prominent bands in the metal/hardcore music scene within the last five years. Anchor is a song that characterizes not only both hardcore and metal music, but also showcases talents in song writing, musicianship, and progressive ideas. The musical elements presented by Misery Signals can change the mind of many people who deny the talents within the hardcore and metal genres.
The first thing that turns people away from heavy music would be the guttural, screaming vocals that force themselves so violently upon the listener. In fact vocals of this caliber are percussive elements to the music itself, though that does not exclude it from also being a musical hook. The vocals of hardcore and metal music are more focused on rhythmic patterns than they are on melodies and the common person’s idea of aesthetic, although to its regular listeners the vocals themselves do become an unconventional allure.
The melodies of the song, and of the style of this band, are carried through the guitars and their intricate weavings of melodious hooks and thick palm muted power chords. It is within the guitars that the song flows and follows to its destination, and is also where the mood of the music can be found whether it is hopeful and uplifting or thick and crushing tones. In this five piece band, the musicianship here is key, because although the guitars carry the melody of the song, the rest of the band can be heard with equal importance.
Although the song is not in your standard verse/chorus form, in the world of progressive music, this song is not completely something different, although it does yield a very unconventional song structure. The figure below maps out the structure of the song, in time and sections. Where 1 is a sort of verse in the song in that it is a reoccurring idea, although 1 is also divided into four different parts A1, A2, A3, and A4. A’s 1, 2, 3, and 4 occur together and always in the same order, although they are all different short riffs they complete a single idea, thus completing the idea of structural part 1 of the song. Each short riff is a small piece of a larger, longer and more elaborate part of the song; they are mostly variations of the chords used for the breakdown. Riff A1 introduces and eases the listener into the song as just melodic guitars, unaccompanied by drums and vocals.
Three seconds into the song and the riff changes from riff A1 to A2, which now comes in with both drums and vocals to the mix. A1 is more melodic, single note, guitar driven riff, A2 is a simple chords idea, A3 consists of chords and bended notes, and riff A4 is chords played in a choppier rhythmic pattern. The time signature for part 1 goes as 4/4 for parts A1 and A2 with a short 2/4 between and then uses 3/4 time for parts A3 and A4, ending part one as a whole on 2/4.
Part 2 of the song is a short foreshadow of the climatic point to come. This breakdown foreshadow is portrayed by the chords played during the breakdown but only once through. Immediately after the pre-breakdown, comes a short melodic guitar riff (also to be elaborated upon later on in the song) although it is contradicted by the sound of the drums, with a build up, hitting only the tom drums and occasionally hitting the china cymbal.
The song then goes back from the melodic hopefulness to the actual breakdown now, beginning abruptly with choppy, distorted, chords played by one guitar along with the clear and prominent sound of the double bass at a very fast tempo where it gives the feeling of rush, they play this twice through.

The breakdown riff runs through twice more, although this time around there are two guitars and they are not as choppy as they are now sluggish. Where the first two times the chords were played they would have palm muted them, last two times the notes would not be muted but let stand as they were played. The rhythm here is very slow, and in fact the slowest the rhythmic part in the song. Taking back all of the heaviness dropped on the listener from part 2, again with a short melodic riff, the listener is lead back to riffs A’s 1-4
Now two minutes into the song, we find ourselves in the midst of a vocal build up. Strategically using the voice as a rhythmic instrument where the stresses in the words “This attempt has failed? fall in place on every beat, which can also be followed by the drums while the guitars here are played in short, and quick passages. The main focus at this point is in the slow emotionally drawn out vocals and drums in a slow 4/4 signature.
This vocal build up leads listeners to a bliss of melodic guitar intricacies. Every little melodic guitar riff the band has given listeners a taste of earlier in the song all comes together now, weaved, elaborated, and repeated into the last part and outro of the song.
Throughout the song the mood and emotions one might get from the music is a constant rollercoaster of ups and downs. Melody and harmony, dissonance, fast and slow, heavy and light, this song brings forth each emotion so suddenly that listeners may not be expecting what would come next. That is a part of their excellence as song writers to keep their listeners guessing on what part goes where and when it might appear.
This song and Misery Signal’s writing style introduce a short musical idea and then immediately change the flow of the music once the listener gets comfortable with what they hear. They weave musical ideas in and out of the song in short parts (for example part 1 with A’s 1-4) although always bring back those musical ideas in a strong, complete, and structured idea. The song layers parts and change in tempo and rhythm and does what most pop songs do not and that is changes in time signature. Even the rhythmic pattern of the way the vocal is placed is very precise and works around the other instruments. Therefore when someone rules out the talent behind hardcore and metal music solely because of the tone of the guitars, or the type of vocal style associated with the genre, a second listen would surely change their mind, with a song like Misery Signal’s Anchor. The song carries all emotional elements that many CDs try to hold and do it in a mere 3:38 minutes. The ideas presented in the song Anchor are not solely associated with Misery Signals but many talented artists and writers within the hardcore and metal scene find it a staple to think outside of verse/chorus form. As unique as the people who write it, this style of music is surely one of a kind, and only the best of the best can produce the music so flawlessly.


[Misery Signals playing "Anchor" live]

Comments

I like the way you have a clip at the end from Youtube, it spices up the page some. Excellent review of the band, the way you discuss the different instrumentation is great!

Excellent review. This is definitely one of my favorite songs by the band, great choice! I love the metaphor between the title of the song and the breakdown lyrics: "I am chained to everything I tried to leave behind." Not to mention that it's an amazing part. And the emotion from 3:00 to 3:17 just blows me away every time I hear it, the "With all my strength, I'll wash away..." part. I love the call and response in the vocals there too. I thoroughly enjoyed your first paragraph too. Some people just don't understand... Great band, great instrumentalists, great review.