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Misery Index    
Misery Index
Exits sometimes lead to entrances that are just as exciting and enlightening-if not more so-than the previous departure point.

Just ask Jason Netherton, bassist/vocalist/songwriter for grind-intensive upstarts Misery Index. A founding member, Netherton commandeered deathgrind stalwarts Dying Fetus from their 'Infatuation With Malevolence' debut (actually, a collection of their '93-'94 demos) through to their 2000 breakthrough album, 'Destroy the Opposition'. With that Relapse release, Dying Fetus immediately reached a larger plateau of popularity, both in terms of musical accomplishment as well as high-profile / hard-working tours. At his side, musically speaking, in this career apex were guitarist Sparky Voyles and drummer Kevin Talley, all three men enjoying the riches of greater visibility than their comparatively modest, self-released days on Blunt Force.

Then, along the way, with the band comfortably nestled in death metal's upper echelons, Netherton left. Soon after, so did Voyles and Talley. Before anyone could comprehend the coup, Dying Fetus were playing shows with a totally revamped lineup, sans said three men. Where did they go? What happened? Who knew?

Netherton and Talley did, as they teamed up with guitarist / vocalist Mike Harrison (most renowned for his Unkind Design Web work) in a new, back-to-basics grindcore trio called Misery Index. Wasting little time, this lineup proceeded to record the five-song 'Overthrow' EP - a lacerating whiplash of old-school grindcore chaos, tempered with the cool-headed intensity and streamlined design of modern deathgrind - in the summer of '01 and released it that fall on their own Anarchos imprint. In the interim, Voyles joined his old 'Fetus bandmates to make Misery Index a quartet, and the picture's been complete ever since.

Misery Index

Now, as of press time and in between bouts of playing regional shows, the Maryland four-piece has recorded three tracks for a split MCD with the equally lethal Commit Suicide, which should be ready for release on Willowtip by the time you read this. Before we get into more pertinent matters, however, the question everybody's been wondering is, why did Netherton, Talley, and Voyles all leave Dying Fetus, especially at a time when the band was enjoying unparalleled success?

Obviously winded by the incessantly prodded subject, Netherton begins measuredly. "For those who still don't know, I will proceed to give the somewhat brief and less-detailed version," he replies. "In late 2000, I left Dying Fetus primarily because I had to go back and finish grad school. I was in a particular degree program that allowed only one semester away for sabbatical or whatever, and I took off that fall 2000 to tour for the release of 'Destroy the Opposition'. It soon became evident that the band wished to tour full time, and I wasn't able to do that, so I split on good terms.

"As for Kevin and Sparky," Netherton's tone markedly changes, "they were actually dismissed from the band after an internal dispute over business. I and [remaining member] John [Gallagher], as well as the new members of Dying Fetus, are still friends. As for what happened with him and the other guys, I'm not exactly sure, [but] I think there are no hard feelings among anyone - everyone is getting on with their music and doing their own thing."

Indeed, Netherton and the rest of Misery Index are doing their own thing: releasing their own music, booking their own shows, handling their own Web site, and, most importantly, locking down their own sound. Not categorically revolutionary, Misery Index's grind onslaught nevertheless returns to a bygone era of both songcraft and urgency, where the two elements collide into a coherent whole-memorable as it is mangling-that would have situated itself nicely among the Earache roster at the turn of the '90s.

Still, the issue remains: Netherton having been a founding and longtime member of Dying Fetus, one wonders whether his musical vision in Misery Index is closer to his "ideal" one than his previous band. That said, he's still proud of his work in 'Fetus, right?

"I am very proud of what I did with Dying Fetus, especially our last two albums [1998's 'Killing On Adrenaline' and the aforementioned 'Destroy the Opposition']," the bassist confidently states. "Certainly, Misery Index is much more personal for me because it's something I sort of envisioned, and, with the help of my friend and band-member Mike, had devised as a way of playing metal in a grinding style that we've always been more interested in. So, yes, it's a bit more of what I've been wanting to do in recent years, and I'm happy to be able to extend my metal 'career' or whatever beyond Dying Fetus, as unexpected as it all happened."

Unexpected, yes, but this writer's sure glad it happened. Comparatively, then, how has Netherton altered his musical approach in Misery Index? From this point of view, it seems closer to the hardcore leanings of earlier grindcore than the more DM-influenced strain of modern grind. A fair assessment?

"Well, I would say that I didn't alter anything intentionally," Netherton admits. "It was more of a development in writing and lyrics that culminated in the 'Overthrow' EP-the first track, "Manufacturing Greed", was actually a song I had written when I was still in Dying Fetus. In the last few years, I 've been getting into more of the grind stuff and other forms of metal, digging bands like Botch, 324, Nasum, Severed Head of State, Converge and Discordance Axis, as well as busting out the old classics by Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Assuck, Carcass, and Entombed. There was just a sound and style from all that stuff [that] Mike and I wanted to find and do in our own sort of way - that's what produced and inspired 'Overthrow'."

Makes sense, no? Considering how quickly Misery Index formed from the ashes of one lineup and proceeded to record an exceptionally well-written and executed slab of grindcore, you've gotta wonder what the group's goals were when they first began, and whether these goals were brimming in their heads while still in Dying Fetus.

"The goal was to put energy, anger and life into the music and vocals as much as possible," Netherton responds point-blank. "We were just gunning for some driving, grinding metal, and we sat down over two weeks and wrote out the four original songs [plus a godly plow-through of Terrorizer's 'Dead Shall Rise'] with Kevin - who, at the time, was jamming with MOD - and the goal was achieved with the recording of 'Overthrow'. It was more of an afterthought after I left Dying Fetus, after discussing and focusing on what I really wanted out of a band, if I was going to give it another try. Mike and I worked out the ideas, and we went with them."

With three fourths of Misery Index having been in Dying Fetus, at this juncture it must be rather difficult to outlive expectations and comparisons.

"It has helped us a lot," he counters, "because we made many good friends and contacts throughout the years with Dying Fetus, good people who we can trust and who are cool enough to help us out as we are trying to make an initial stab at getting our music out in Misery Index. The comparisons have been few, and although I expect them to arise periodically, I have much confidence that they will subside, as Mike and Sparky also have a strong songwriting role in the band, and we all contribute to the songwriting process much more than we ever did when writing in Dying Fetus."

One element integral to the 'Fetus aesthetic of yore-and, arguably, the band 's strong point-was Netherton's intelligent lyricism, a passionately personal strain of political commentary that safely sidestepped preachiness. His gift for verbal incision continues unabated in his new band, and on Overthrow, in particular. So how would Netherton describe his political stance, especially as it pertains to lyric writing for the Index?

"First, I try to keep my political ideas from being too overt and up front," he says. "While they are very important to me, the extent to which they're an all-encompassing ideology for the band itself is very limited. The lyrics are written in abstract terms and represent situations in everyday life, observations and criticisms that are politically and socially driven at the foundation, but can and might be interpreted by different people to mean different things.

Misery Index

"Personally," Netherton continues, "my own views are rooted in anarchism and socialism - as a criticism, or as a way of viewing and understanding the world in materialist and humanist terms. I don't subscribe to doctrines or philosophies that mandate basic inevitable or unchanging rules for humanity or society. I try to remain open to different ideas, and the biggest problem today is that there are no alternatives or dissenting ideas being discussed. The guiding light of the world is now the neo-liberal model of monopoly corporate capitalism, and any discussion about the values of the social good are never considered - only the economic interest is considered. This lack of discussion and blind acceptance of the commercial framework is what I find most disturbing, and that concern is vented through the lyrics, along with other topics which are not necessarily political or otherwise. There are no lyrical boundaries with Misery Index, and as far as I'm concerned, we are not a 'political' band - we're in it for the music."

And therein lies the dilemma: medium versus message, and which of them takes precedence. With the lyrics being as well-written and passionate as they are, does Netherton ever worry that the audience often overlooks them and only focuses on the aggressive nature of the music? With the glut of popularity after 'Destroy the Opposition', it seemed that way with the ' Fetus fanbase.

"Well, the music is prime, and we want to focus on that first and above all else," comes Netherton's reply. "The lyrics can be taken for what they are by whomever may take the time to read them. Hopefully, they like and respect the ideas, or may even agree with them a bit, and that's fine. I'd like to think that people like us for our music and songwriting and not for whatever political ideas I'm interested in, and as such, the lyrics are attempted to be written as poetic and abstract as possible, so that there is no overt preachiness to them - or, even worse, a pretentious or condescending ring."

In the meantime, be on the lookout for the aforementioned split MCD with Commit Suicide. I've heard the master tracks, and they righteously rip. And as we speak, the band's currently working on songs for their debut full-length "on an as-yet-to-be-determined well-known label," says Netherton.


review of Misery Index 'Overthrow'

"Pulling Out The Nails" from 'Overthrow'


DYING FETUS interview with Jason Netherton




c/o Adam Wasylyk
3150 Spring Creek Crescent
Mississauga, Ontario

Interview: Nathan T. Birk [ ]

MU Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
MU Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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