A new release from a band walking the punk/metal line since the early aughts, you know what you’re in for pretty early into the first listening session of Misled’s Regenerator Vol. 1. Most of the songs fall close to the grunge/hard rock idiom or the slower side of thrash/groove metal. What are interesting are the accidental convergent similarities the music has with grunge, particularly the Sub Pop records of the Pacific Northwest and the alternative metal of the Northeast of the early ’90s. The sounds often conjure up early Nirvana, the Melvins, Helmet, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, at least as much as frontman/guitarist/singer Chris Rico’s stated influence from southern bands closer to home like Pantera and Crowbar and from classic hard rock, heavy metal and punk bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and the Ramones. It’s in the polished production, punchiness of the bass, co-temporal clarity and crunch in the distortion and balance in the sound between the individual instruments and the vocals as a result of studio compression, and the band’s goal of a pop sensibility evident in the catchiness of the hooks and the format of the songs, many following pop’s familiar formula of verse-chorus-bridge.
Rico’s guitar work at times sounds like a less-polished version of his guitar heroes, Hendrix, Hammett and Iommi, but surprisingly most like someone he doesn’t cite as an influence: Alice in Chains guitarist and backing vocalist Jerry Cantrell, with fuzzy blues rock riffs that crescendo with the wah pedal. A previous review from this publication from over a decade ago remains true today with regard to Rico’s vocals, as equal parts Glenn Danzig and, oddly enough, Mighty Mighty Bosstones vocalist Dicky Barrett. But this band has definitely grown over time, although the extent to which that’s a result of better musicianship and what’s attributable to more studio investment is up for debate. One appreciates how Rico’s gruffer growls, groans and snarls help split the focus between the lyrics, the contour of the songs, and the instrumental sonic palette, rather than attempting the attention-grabbing soaring falsetto or vocally taxing shouts that are hallmarks of many of his influences. While stylistically the band hasn’t changed much in over a decade, Rico’s done a good job honing in on his own strengths and those of his musicians, and hopefully will continue to do so.