Sound — 7
In their formative years, Before Their Eyes made quick work with the prompt releasing of their debut self-titled album, and their follow-up album, 2008's "The Dawn of My Death," safely borrowing influence from the emocore/metalcore scene they entered relatively late (some Bullet For My Valentine influence here, some All That Remains influence there). But with their attempts to branch out into a more mainstream sound in their third album, "Untouchable," Before Their Eyes seemed at a loss for wheat direction they wanted to move the band in. At that point, integral members Nick Moore and Landon Tewers left the band - the former to focus on family responsibilities, while the latter went to tend to his metalcore project, The Plot In You, full-time.
From then on, Before Their Eyes struggled to regain momentum. Moore would eventually come back to front the band again and lift their hiatus to release their fourth album, the focused melodic metalcore effort "Untouchable," but then divulged plans for a permanent breakup. A year later, they reneged and planned a new effort to make their fifth album. But again, they would go silent without fulfilling their stated plan, and everyone stopped holding their breath once more, until Before Their Eyes surfaced with a brand new single earlier this year, not only assuring that they were prepared to finally put out a fifth album, but they stoked everyone's anticipation even further with the fact that Chiodos' Craig Owens produced and co-wrote the album.
Now with the release of that fifth album, entitled "Midwest Modesty," the emulative nature that Before Their Eyes have always been susceptible too has now turned into a direct channeling of Owens' songwriting mind. This is most evident in the Chiodos-esque eponymous song, both in its string usage and in its main progression (it could fit onto "Devil" pretty easily), but the general change in sonic direction that involves less metalcore aggression (the only breakdowns found in the album are in "We Won't Make the Same Mistake Again" and "Anything's Possible in New Jersey") and more melodic nuance is somewhat akin to "Bone Palace Ballet"; not to mention Moore's singing voice sounds more like an Owens clone than ever before, though it's better than the vocal processing his voice went through in the band's earlier material.
If anything, though, the album's sound is a dead ringer of Circa Survive. From the dual guitar melodies in "We Destroyed All the Evidence" and "How It Feels to Be Defeated," to the penchant for spatial, swelling soundscapes in the opening of "It's Dark Inside With You" and the penultimate interlude track "Noise," "Midwest Modesty" uncannily dons techniques prominently heard in "Blue Sky Noise" and "Violent Waves." Yet it's duly uncanny that "Midwest Modesty" has Before Their Eyes sounding more skilled (like the fretwork in the chorus riff of "A Home With No Ceilings" and the tapping riffs in "Adam Was a Cool Dude") and mature (like the tonal guitars juxtaposed by a stampeding rhythm section in "The Positive and the Negative of Being Alone") than they have before, and the fact that the album establishes its sonic realm and sticks to it without throwing any awkward curveballs is a refreshing display of stability that was absent in their previous, shoddily-varied albums.
Lyrics — 7
Just like Between Their Eyes' previous album, "Redemption," the main lyrical theme in "Midwest Modesty" is that of heartbreak and betrayal, but in similar fashion as the cohesive sonic themes throughout the album, Moore's lyrics also bear a cohesiveness that shows relatively more linearity than before. With the opening song "It's Dark Inside With You" revealing Moore's split with a former paramour, Moore travels an emotional arc spanning from initial loneliness (in "The Positive and the Negative of Being Alone"), regret (in "We Won't Make the Same Mistake Again"), a hopeful lust for reconnection (in "How It Feels to Be Defeated"), which he ends up getting in the following "Anything's Possible in New Jersey." But when he realizes that relapse wouldn't result in a permanent reconnection, he goes back home seething and bitter (in "Midwest Modesty," with its geographical theme acting in tandem with the previous song), but soon reverts to sorrow as he identifies the trouble the other person is going through (in "A Home With No Ceilings"), and eventually reaches a degree of closure in the final "Adam Was a Cool Dude."
And though Moore's Christian influence doesn't come up much in his lyrics, they do provide an interesting parallel to the upfront concept in his lyrics. While his fling with this partner also had them discussing the afterlife ("On a modest night with our thick eyesight / We spoke of heaven, made out quick" in "It's Dark Inside With You"), his breakup with this person also throws him in an existential tailspin, not just leading him to questioning the notion of "God won't give you more than you can handle" ("I'm caught in the crossfire of God and my mistakes / Is there more to learn if this is all I can take?" in "We Won't Make the Same Mistake Again"), but having him muse about finality again in "How It Feels to Be Defeated," where his lonesome cloud-gazing represents his slipping faith and love; both for his former partner and his Lord ("I watch the clouds disintegrate in front of me every day / I tell them not to go so soon / And I need you / And I know you need me too").
Overall Impression — 7
At face value, the progress that "Midwest Modesty" makes in Before Their Eyes' catalog is substantially laudable - simply put, it brings the band to a higher level both in terms of music and in lyrics. In the bigger picture, however, it's hard not to disregard the glaring facts of this more evolved sound being cardinally caused by Craig Owens' intervention (rather than the band's own growth), as well as this pathway to a more mature-sounding Before Their Eyes being a tracing of the tried-and-true sound of Circa Survive. But though they may be using someone else's recipe, they ultimately do a good job utilizing it for their own step forward.