Coupling a distinctively dark instrumental side with vocals that bring grunge or contemporary hard rock to mind, Swiss band This Misery Garden stomp their way through their sophomore release with razor-sharp riffage reminiscent of Dream Theater (think Home and As I Am; I should note that Cornerstone does not have an extended solo in sight) and gruff, strained vocals that fit the music perfectly, adding an emotional edge that Cornerstone might have lacked otherwise. The songs are skilfully constructed so as to remain engaging and avoid becoming monotonous; breakdowns are kept short and poignant and ideas are repeated enough to be memorable, but not enough to become repetitive, therefore sounding concise.
However, when listening from start to finish an obvious problem presents itself; despite the aforementioned engaging manner in which individual songs are constructed, the album as a whole is rather one-dimensional, since the same atmosphere of menace and uneasiness is present from start to finish and becomes somewhat overpowering. Whilst this does ensure that Cornerstone remains cohesive, it isn’t expanded enough to make it as much of a diverse, refreshing experience as it might have been. The first four tracks are virtually interchangeable and – although Ropes distinguishes itself by being both more upbeat and energetic, consequentially becoming an album highlight – it is not until track six – Siamese Again, which is far slower-paced than the previous songs and uses acoustics to great effect – that we get a hint of variety. The album looks as though it’s going to really pick up from here, as Crowded Hallway is another strong song, but it quickly reverts to the same standard of the first few tracks for the remainder of its running time. I must reiterate that there is nothing bad here; the album becomes slightly stagnant because it plays it too safe; the band have found a sound that works well for them but don’t seem to have explored it to its full potential, which leaves us with collection of tracks that seem to be firmly inside their comfort zone, and whilst it is excellent to see that they have mastered it so well, it would be excellent to see more innovation on future releases, since they are clearly capable of great things.
I find Cornerstone very similar to Katatonia‘s Viva Emptiness in terms of both strengths and weaknesses; both albums showcase a strong sense of gloomy atmosphere that is maintained throughout, but suffer from being unvaried experiences from start to finish. Although Cornerstone is heavier and more instrumentally complex that Viva Emptiness, the feeling I get when listening to either is nearly the same (they do not sound identical; they are just similar experiences), as is the fact that I enjoy listening to individual songs much more than the whole album. Also like Viva, Cornerstone could have been much better than it is; the clean sections contained in many of the songs are used excellently and would have added a lot if used more often, or for longer (Siamese Again proves this, as it is the only song that does so), and the infectious energy of Ropes shows that This Misery Garden know how to make a song sound alive and engaging. I look forward to hearing any future releases, and for now I advise anyone to at least investigate the recommended tracks.
Rope, Siamese Again, Crowded Hallway
Tracklist 1. Human E.T. 2. Holy Clutch 3. Angry Child 4. Mr. X (was right) 5. Rope 6. Siamese Again 7. Crowded Hallway 8. Warning Zone 9. The First Man 10. Death Head Colors 11. Swallowing the Monster (bonus track) 12. Flower Eye Tree (bonus track)
See also: Katatonia – Viva Emptiness
Alter Bridge – AB III
Dream Theater -Train of Thought