Released: Aug 7, 2015
Genre: Melodic Metalcore, Post-Hardcore
Label: Rise Records
Number Of Tracks: 10
After the tamer effort heard in their fourth album, Miss May I bring back their trademark melodic metalcore aggression in "Deathless."
DeathlessFeatured review by: UG Team, on august 12, 2015 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: Like many other metalcore bands incepted during the American metalcore boom several years ago, Miss May I came out of the gate swinging with utmost ferocity in their borderline-deathcore debut album, "Apologies Are for the Weak," and though it didn't have remarkable success on the Billboard charts, the titular song of the album would land on the "Saw VI" soundtrack to help boost the young band's popularity. Without wasting time, the band would record and release their follow-up album, "Monument," a year later, which cut down on the death metal influences, but starkly doubled down on their metalcore influences of As I Lay Dying, Bullet For My Valentine, All That Remains, etc.
With their first two albums being produced by the prolific Joey Sturgis, Miss May I's recent attempts to change direction in sound (if ever so slightly) have been influenced by working with different producers. With the enigmatic Machine (who has produced albums for Lamb Of God, Every Time I Die, Chiodos, Suicide Silence and more), Miss May I's third album, "At Heart," upped the band's sonic substantiality, but while the textural aspects were better curated, the reach for more grandeur (e.g. the overuse of gang cheers) was heavy-handed. The band would be even more cocksure about growing their sound with their fourth album, "Rise of the Lion," where the self-proclamation of it being their "best album yet" was backed by the prospect of having worked with veteran metal producer Terry Date (who has most notably produced albums for Pantera, Soundgarden and Deftones). Ultimately, however, "Rise of the Lion" wasn't a revelatory album as the hype posed it to be, and with its toned-down metal energy being the general change of things, listeners felt the album left much to be desired.
Promptly going back to the studio to make their fifth album, "Deathless," it's evident that Miss May I want to rein in their sound back to the heavy home range where it used to roam before, and considering that the band have gone back to Sturgis for the production duty, it's nearly uncanny. This re-appeal to heaviness more or less harks back to the band's days of "Apologies Are for the Weak" - along with the bountiful return of breakdowns which were nearly phased out in "Rise of the Lion" (with the slogging death chugs in "Arise" and the title song being the heaviest of the bunch), "Psychotic Romantic" sets itself as a nostalgic offering of intensity, not only fully abstaining from clean vocals, but also throwing in a blastbeat/tremolo section in the middle.
However, this return to heaviness is ultimately a return to beaten-path territory, both for Miss May I and for metalcore at large. Along with the slew of thrashy double-time rhythms and melodeath-style guitar riffs that derive from the band's metalcore inspirations from a decade ago (see "Trust My Heart (Never Hope to Die)" and "Born From Nothing"), cases of compositional déjà vu occur in "Deathless," like "Empty Promises" sounding like a lost song from All That Remains' "The Fall of Ideals," and the stampeding lead riff in the opening "I.H.E." having the exact same feel as the other opening songs on the last couple of Miss May I albums.
Even in spite of this, "Deathless" does show some improvement from Miss May I. The 2/3 quasi-breakdown in "Bastards Left Behind" is a nifty change of pace, which then hands the baton to one of lead guitarist BJ Stead's best guitar solos ever (an even better guitar solo is performed in "I.H.E." as well). The guitars also do what they can to create some dark ambience to counterweight the reinvested aggression in the album, like in the morose and spatial intros of "The Artificial" and "I.H.E.," or the gothic flavor in "Deathless," and though these extra songwriting elements aren't sufficient enough to stand at the same level as the brash metal energy, it at least keeps the sound of "Deathless" from being absolute regression. // 6
Lyrics: After the fan-inspired subject matter that fueled the lyrics in "Rise of the Lion," which was also an effort for frontman Levi Benton to decompress after the immensely personal bouts of lyrics he wrote for "At Heart," Benton has come back to writing about his own struggles in "Deathless." As he first revealed his issues of abandonment with his parents in "At Heart," Benton touches upon that vulnerable topic once more, with the most direct case being "Arise" ("What's done is done / You want to say you're wrong / How could you call me your son?"). Benton also writes about the general mental tug-of-war he has with depression and anxiety in "Trust My Heart (Never Hope to Die)," "Turn Back the Time" and "Born From Nothing," and adjacent to this, "Psychotic Romantic" is his letter of love and graciousness to his wife for being a beacon of support in his life in the midst of all this - though his articulation of this does come off more overwrought than passionate. // 6
Overall Impression: With the album essentially showing Miss May I tracing back their footsteps to their comfortable home range after their arguably unsatisfactory fourth album, "Deathless" is an updated take on the band's classic sound, wielding equal parts growth and stagnancy. Though the performance is reputable, and some new tricks keep the album from sounding like a shallow and shameless redux of their early material, the album is ultimately shadowed by a "been there before" feeling of staleness. The great ambivalence that "Deathless" treads is a line between Miss May I's ability to fare well in familiar territory and their inability to innovate, which they'll have to figure out how to remedy in the future. // 6
vppark2, on august 13, 2015 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: When you're five albums into your career it becomes a point where you ask yourself if you've made yourselves well known yet. Troy, Ohio metallers Miss May I have certainly made the high status of doing such, from touring with bands such as Of Mice & Men, Whitechapel, Killswitch Engage, For The Fallen Dreams, Five Finger Death Punch, All That Remains, and of course being on Mayhem and Vans Warped Tour lineups for certain years. Ever since they had toured with KsE, these guys have been pushing their limits on who to tour with, and it's most certainly paid off, and given them a ton of exposure. It was mainly the FFDP and ATR tour who I think made them become bigger than ever. A couple of years ago I never would've thought they would make it this far. In fact, ever since Levi took a new approach on "At Heart" with his vocals, I didn't think people would still enjoy the band, but given that they got on a tour with one of their main influences, it was clear that they would keep moving forward. With all of that said, I literally just read an interview where the band was close to breaking up. Read that here. And it's clear that they're not overly happy with their lives, or at least Levi isn't.
In the opening track, "I.H.E." (also lead single) it's given with the line "I hate everything. I hate everyone." And even the chorus Ryan bellows, "My thoughts are fading and the weight is pushing me down deeper in my grave, but I cannot escape if I'm already underground, beneath the agony. In a wake I try to breathe, drowning in my dreams." Granted, people may find the first lyric really immature, but let's face it, we've all been there, and this is metalcore. Keep in mind that Ryan Neff sounds a LOT like Adam Gontier (former Three Days Grace lead vocalist) on songs such as these. Other songs, such as "Bastards Left Behind," "Turn Back the Time," "Empty Promises," and "Born From Nothing" really give off that Adam Gontier vibe in Ryan's vocals. It may be weird to say this, but the opening riff of "Bastards" sounds a bit like "You're Not Alone," and "Turn Back the Time"'s intro riff sounds a bit like "You Make Me Sick" both by Of Mice & Men. Granted, most bands in metalcore can sound similar at times, but there's also the bands that lead the genre that don't sound anything like other bands. I have yet to hear Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red, Darkest Hour, Every Time I Die, Haste The Day, Shadows Fall, Converge, Unearth, or Oh, Sleeper, (just to give a few examples) rip off or sound like another band in the genre.
Speaking of ripping off, I seriously do believe that Miss May I did this on "Empty Promises." Typically, when I listen to an album for the very first time I don't tend to notice these things, and if I do, I usually brush it off, or just say it sounds similar. When I first heard this song, I automatically placed it as my favorite song from the album, just because the riffs are great. I knew it sounded familiar, but it was on my second or third listen where I noticed it sounds exactly like "Beyond the Flames" by Killswitch Engage. Now, the thing is, I would pass this off if MMI weren't overly influenced by them, but they've even stated that they are, and have toured with them before. They did this a few years ago with "Masses of a Dying Breed," but it was just mainly the intro riff that sounded like "Whoracle" by In Flames. Granted, I still enjoy this band, regardless, but they need some originality in some places, and that can be said about other bands who rip off others. That said, there is still some quality stuff in the sound section here.
"Rise of the Lion" (their last album) was where they started using guitar solos, so I definitely respected that, and it definitely held me up on the listens. They continue that guitar solo work most notably on "I.H.E.," "Deathless," "Empty Promises," and "Born From Nothing." Speaking of "Born From Nothing," it is my favorite song. It's got some great blast beats, amazing tremolo picking, cool effects, Ryan's melodic vocals, and riffs that remind me of Killswitch Engage. Ryan is the one who has improved the most on this album, even though he has always been a solid vocalist, this time around he's proven how much of the backbone he makes for the band. He could even front his own band. Songs like "Deathless," "Turn Back the Time," and "The Artificial" instantly prove that. // 7
Lyrics: Most of the lyrics on this album tend to come across as the typical metalcore lyrics you find from bands who can't stop talking about topics such as "I will never give up, I will fight for my life." That said, the lyrics aren't a train wreck, but there's nothing entirely impressive. The last two albums I found a few gems here and there, but this album seems to mix most of the interesting topics with the generic ones that was found mainly on their first two albums. On "Trust My Heart (Never Hope to Die)" they bring up their favorite animal that was found on their first two albums, and the last one. "There's a lion's will inside of me beating harder, inspiring. When the flatline comes, I have to be the one who will carry myself though the trials of life, finding no surrender in sight."
On "Deathless," Levi gets a bit interesting, but still nothing to be overly excited over. "Bring me back now to the surface so I can feel at ease. Exhausted from all my attempts of being more and always seen as less. Write me off this list of disasters. I am over being mortified. Let me reach the summit to look down at my wasted life. All I desire is a hint of serenity after all the passion you have taken from me." "Born From Nothing" probably has the best lyrics, if anything. "To who I was, I'm not running from the past. I'm running from what I am afraid I'll become. A life born from nothing with no one here to guide me. Thrown to the wolves, drained from what I could be. This will no longer be my demise. I've left that life. Now I feel alive." // 6
Overall Impression: The problem with "Deathless" is that there is still two or three songs that did nothing for me, much like how "Rise of the Lion" was. Is this album better than that one? In some sections, yes, but these guys are still a long way from having me being fully impressed. I definitely see the effort, but songs, such as the "Arise" are overshadowed by constantly chugs that really make me question if these guys have stayed under that Risecore tag.
With songs like "Deathless," giving off a huge AILD vibe in the guitar work, and songs like "Born From Nothing" giving off a huge KsE vibe in the guitar work, they certainly sound like they're trying to get somewhere, but overall I still think they haven't formed their own sound yet. This album basically fuses the generic moments found on their first two albums with more of well written riffs and guitar solos found on the last two albums. This album title may have just been used by Revocation last year, but it doesn't make this album bad. In fact, I definitely think these guys are on the higher end when it comes to the newer generation of metalcore. Let's just see if their next album or so has solid content all around so they can get a higher score than just a 7/10 like they have been for years in my world. // 8