Sound — 7
Showing their aptitude with relentless riffing and heavy breakdowns from square one, Miss May I hit the marks anyone could ask for in a fresh-faced metalcore band, which led to them quickly getting signed to Rise Records and becoming a name to pay attention to in the millennial metalcore scene. But as things go with any metal band that gets older, the task of how to mature their sound has been a tougher task for the Ohio-based quartet. With their fourth album, 2014's "Rise of the Lion," acting as a pivot point for the band to attempt a more melodic metal style, many listeners were unsatisfied with it being much less aggressive compared to their earlier albums.
In response, Miss May I promptly appealed back to that ruthless metal energy in their fifth album, 2015's "Deathless," and while it satisfied that desire once more, the band knew they couldn't bank on that singular strength forever. Now on their sixth album, "Shadows Inside," Miss May I make another attempt at adapting their metal sound with more melodic characteristics, and the balancing act between that and their expected aggression produces better results. This is mainly accomplished with an ebb and flow dynamic between gentle songs (see the murmuring eeriness of "Never Let Me Stay" or the metal ballad "Crawl") and vigorous songs (see the intense riffing in "Casualties" or the galloping metalcore chugs of "Swallow Your Teeth"). But not just keeping things separated the entire time, some songs show the band blending those two aspects together, like the classical acoustic fingerpicking woven into "My Destruction," or the breakneck melodeath verses paired with a triumphant vocal hook in the ending "My Sorrow."
Because of this initiative, "Shadows Inside" doesn't reach the same level of intensity as "Deathless," but the album still boasts some nice power to it. While the thrash-inspired riffing of the opening eponymous track comes as a bore due to Miss May I having opened their last few albums with the exact same kind of riffing, other moments show them paying homage to the NWOAHM bands that inspired them. The clean guitar riff intro in "Death Knows My Name" bears a faint resemblance to Atreyu's "The Crimson," but more noticeably is the Killswitch Engage inspiration, whether it's "Lost In The Grey" sounding like something from "The End Of Heartache," or the measurement change in "Under Fire" taking a cardinal page from Killswitch Engage's songwriting.
Lyrics — 7
As expected for frontman Levi Benton, his lyrics in "Shadows Inside" mostly cover the depths that mental illness can pull someone down into ("I know I shut myself out / I know I'm in the way / Prisoner to my doubt / Cannot be saved" in "Never Let Me Stay"; "I'm so ashamed and I hate it / It's obvious I've come undone" in "Crawl"; "Side by side, with the pressure that stalks me / I'm walking here with this backbreaking heartache" in "My Sorrow"), and more importantly, the self-empowerment and resilience to overcome it, resonating best in the Phoenixian symbolism of the eponymous song ("I burned away my past mistakes / The ashes fade and I remain") and "Under Fire" ("And the fire won't turn away / Through it all, I will stand / I will carry on").
In contrast to Benton's lyrics in previous albums, not much is seen of him exclusively writing about his family issues, though assumptions can be made that family is the subject in "Casualties" ("In darkness, we buried each other / Divided, refusing to break / The bombs fell but no one surrendered"). However, Benton expands into a more publicly shared angst. With "Swallow Your Teeth" being an apropos, worrisome observation of a society that continues to escalate in its inequality ("Every single night I wonder is this how it's supposed to be? / The rich are getting richer, the poor are meant to bleed / Is there a choice? Is there a way?"), his rallying call for perseverance resonates even more for a young generation jaded about the uncertainty of today's world in "Lost In The Grey" ("We're hopeless, not helpless / There's more to life than what's in sight").
Overall Impression — 7
The effort of cultivating a metal sound that invests in more than just raw power is one that will always be a matter of give and take, but Miss May I's attempt with that in "Shadows Inside" finds a better intersection between the melodic and aggressive. Taking a page from both the mainstream metal aspirations of "Rise of the Lion" and the uncompromising metal energy of "Deathless," the dynamic ebb and flow in "Shadows Inside" does a good job promoting both of these qualities of Miss May I's sound.