Sound — 6
Nearly two years ago, Miss May I released their last album, titled, "At Heart," which I also covered on this site. What new changes have they brought to the table since then? First off, they got a great producer to record this album. He goes by the name Terry Date. He is well known for a number of big name hits in all kinds of metal. His last remarkable hit was found on Bring Me The Horizon's "Sempiternal." And while that album may not suit everyone's taste, Terry most certainly helped the band in creating an effort that basically made their format even better than their previous efforts. The same thing goes for MMI on this album. The guitar parts are exceedingly heavy, with crunchy guitar riffs, and solos that will remind you of some '00s era of metalcore. The drumming is fantastic. They sound like they're back on point, after the downfall the sound on "At Heart." Now for the vocals, I can definitely say that Ryan's cleans sound better, but Levi just sounds painful. They're basically shot, and it makes me worried to see where he goes in the future with them.
Lyrics — 9
The very first track on the album (although, not the first one I heard) gave me fairly high hopes for how the rest of the album would turn out to be. "Refuse to Believe" brings in quite a heavy riff, very similar to Killswitch Engage's main riff in "A New Awakening." It almost makes me afraid that they took a bit too much influence from them, after the touring cycle, etc, but they seemed to have put their own twist to it to make the song sound original enough. Lyrically speaking, I really enjoy the line, "It is not the time to feel alone. It's time to look in the mirror, and know you're not a ghost." Other than that, that chorus gets really repetitive, but this song definitely will make a good crowd jump up and down at a live event. The first single, and third track off the album, titled, "Gone" has a catchy chorus, really heavy guitar riffs, and a guitar solo that will make you think twice that you're actually, in fact, listening to Miss May I. Levi just left a bad taste in my mouth, unfortunately. But I do like the lyric, "I've spent too many days thinking of sorrow. / We've spent too many years planning for our tomorrow." The album itself has topics that have a lot to do with life's struggles. I don't recall Miss May I ever having lyrics this good. "At Heart" seemed to have hinted that direction, but this album just expands upon that. Each track has a really meaningful message. Here is a video of Levi and Ryan explaining each track.
Overall Impression — 7
I'm really torn between this band. I really enjoyed all of their past efforts at some point. I love just about everything about this album EXCEPT Levi's vocals. I understand how raw they sound, but they just sound insanely painful. Other vocalists in this scene who seem to have just about the same struggle seem to do it a bit better to fit the music that they're trying to create. Mike Hranica, for example, may have not done the greatest vocally on 8:18, but his parts fit the songs well, and also created a very poetic album. My favorites tracks are "Refuse to Believe," "Darker Days," "End of Me," and "Saints, Sinners, and Greats." That being said, the last few tracks seemed to have impressed me a bit more. I hear more hints of "Apologies Are for the Weak" and "Monument" era type of sound. The first half of the album (excluding "Gone") seemed to have a more "At Heart" sort of sound. "Hero With No Name" also sounds like something that could have been heard off of that album. Other than that, I really do enjoy Ryan's vocals at times. At other times, the execution seems a bit off, but nothing to really let the album down entirely. The only huge flaw about this album is again, Levi's vocals. Everything else has matured, drastically, and hopefully, this will continue, and in turn, make a mix of Levi's vocals that actually sound good, and not so... uhh, layered. I would probably only buy this album if I saw them live again. The artwork for this album is mediocre, but it mainly represents a fan's tattoo, and the band as a whole.
This a pretty good interview where they explain:
The other thing that you will notice from listening to this album is how much more they want to be a bigger metal band, rather than other Rise Records bands. Surely, this album will mark one of the better releases to come out on their label this year, but the even smaller bands (Only Crime, Emarosa) will most likely make better albums this year. That's not to say that this is a bad album. They're maturing, and it seems to be paying off. Well done, guys.