Miss May I – Shadows Inside Review

Band: Miss May I
Album: Shadows Inside
Label: SharpTone Records
Genre: Metalcore
Country: USA
Release Date: June 2, 2017

If you’re familiar with the metalcore genre then you’ll probably have heard of Miss May I. While some of the biggest metalcore acts like Killswitch Engage, August Burns Red and Trivium are still reigning over the scene, bands like Miss May I are rapidly on the rise from the bottom up. Miss May I started back in 2007 in Troy, Ohio. Made up of Levi Benton (vocals), Ryan Neff (bass), B.J. Stead (lead guitar), Justin Aufdemkampe (rhythm guitar) and Jerod Boyd (drums), the band signed to Rise Records shortly after and released their first full length record “Apologies Are for the Weak” in 2009. Since then, Miss May I have been consistently releasing solid metalcore albums, with a lot of influence from some of the bigger metal bands like Lamb of God and Slipknot. I was a huge Miss May I fan back in my college days, and now I’m about to find out if this record makes me just as excited as Monument did when I first heard it at the age of 16.

Now to be honest, I haven’t really enjoyed a Miss May I since the release of “At Heart” in 2012. It’s been 5 years since Miss May I managed to impress me. While there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the previous two albums, “Rise of the Lion” and “Deathless”, they just didn’t really nail what Miss May I are about for me. Yes, metalcore clichés like tremolo riffs, breakdowns and singing can become tedious when overused, but Miss May I always seemed to use them to their advantage rather than over-saturate them. Now we’re in 2017, and Miss May I are back with an album that holds a lot of promise. But does it deliver?

The opening title track “Shadows Inside” instantly reminds you of what classic Miss May I is all about. Machine gun double bass, bouncy riffs and pained shrieks from Benton make for a typical metalcore song but still done with taste. Some “woah-ohs” are added by backup vocalist/singer Ryan Neff, another metalcore niche thrown in for good taste. This album starts with an absolute rager of a track, with plenty of promise. You really can’t help but yell along with Benton mid-way through with “I don’t wanna change”, and I feel this album is going to represent a lot of Benton’s personal struggle, perhaps with self-identification or self-worth. We’re followed up with a flashy guitar solo from lead guitarist B.J. Stead, which goes to show just how talented these guys are at what they do. We then shift back to the same riff that made an appearance just before the first verse, bringing the song nicely to a close. This opener is metalcore by numbers, but done to a very high standard.

“Under Fire” is again another classic metalcore tune, but that doesn’t tarnish it in any way. Although some metal fans might find this a little tedious, fans of the genre will definitely enjoy it. The opening lines of the first verse however “Lights out, undressed humanity, drowning in resistance” sound rather similar to “Blacked out, pop queen, amphetamine, the screams crashed into silence” in “Moth Into Flame” by Metallica, which in no way is a bad thing, but I just wish any influence on the music had been made slightly less in your face. Is this a show of respect and love for Metallica, or just a sign of the creative well running dry? Following on, Ryan Neff’s soaring ‘clean vocals’ as people like to call them comes flying in, combining perfectly with the melodies being played by both guitars. This band have always been good at using melody to their advantage, rather than be an arrogantly blunt and brutal band.

The third track “Never Let Me Stay” brings about a slight shift in atmosphere. Driven by melancholy guitar melodies and floating vocals, this feels more like a post-hardcore tune than a straight up metalcore track, which is interesting to hear from a band that you would usually associate with other metalcore acts like As I Lay Dying or Killswitch Engage. Neff’s singing really shines through on this track, with even some more aggressive yelling coming through to really emphasise on the emotional weight of the track. “My Destruction” is also another track that doesn’t exactly stand in line with Miss May I’s earlier discography. The track takes on a Parkway Drive Ire-esque vibe, with stomping rhythms and early 90’s metal riffs that sound like Metallica and Earth Crisis had a baby. “Casualties” is a return to the more traditional metalcore sound. With riffs that sound like they were pulled from Miss May I’s 2010 album “Monument”, this song is a return to strength. The only problem I have with Miss May I is that the structure of their songs never seems to change. There’s only so many times that you can listen to a song that goes intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, breakdown, end. Despite this, this track does use some other elements of metalcore, such as the thrashier drum beat which brings about a change of pace. But for the more seasoned listener, this could be the point in the album where they start looking for something new.

Up next is “Crawl”, and even from the beginning we can tell there is something different about this track as well. A simplistic drum beat mixed with atmospheric synth and Ryan Neff’s singing makes for an eerie introduction to the song, while still retaining a sense of mystery before the song really kicks in. This song is packed with a sense of emotions running high, and has the potential to be one of the most emotionally charged on the album, without being cheesy. But this isn’t just a song of emotion. Halfway through, we are given another dose of the Miss May I fury that was established so well in the first two tracks of the album. Bouncy riffs and a hefty breakdown is all it takes for the Miss May I sound to return, which contrasts well with the first half of the song. The track finishes by combining the two styles, the harsh tortured growls of Benton and the twisting, floating melodies of the guitar combine to create a horribly beautiful Frankenstein of a sound.

The next three tracks on the album, “Swallow Your Teeth”, “Death Knows My Name” and “Lost in the Grey” all do pretty much the same thing. While they are decent tracks, with some banging riffs, meaty breakdowns and singing that could shame most other singers in the genre, these songs don’t bring anything new to the table for me. While previous tracks have tried experimenting with different aspects like synth, different rhythms or singing styles, these three don’t stray too far from the path. But despite this, they are enjoyable songs, with some well written lyrics and instrumentation.

The album is brought to the end of the road with closing track “My Sorrow”. And of course, Miss May I have chosen to go out in style with an absolute metalcore rager. Despite the introduction of the track not suggesting this, with twinkling guitar melodies and (for use of a better saying) clean vocals, we are thrown headfirst into machine gun drumming and thrashier, hard hitting riffs that remind us just what Miss May I are good at doing. This song maintains its energy the entire way through, and personally I feel this is the best way to finish off your album. Another fantastic guitar solo makes an appearance from lead guitarists B.J. Stead, who I have to praise for such fantastic lead work on the album. The track then fades out, leaving only bassist and backup vocalist Ryan Neff to chant “my sorrow” until the end.

Well, this album is a ride of chaos from start to finish, and definitely not in a bad way. While the metalcore sound does become a little boring from time to time, the experimentation and diversity Miss May I have put into this album makes for another great creation. While I don’t feel it stands up to Monument, I definitely feel it is a step in the right direction when compared to the last two albums the band have done. This album truly is a return to form for Miss May I that should please fans everywhere.

Rating: 8/10

1. Shadows Inside
2. Under Fire
3. Never Let Me Stay
4. My Destruction
5. Casualties
6. Crawl
7. Swallow Your Teeth
8. Death Knows My Name
9. Lost in the Grey
10. My Sorrow

Total Playing Time: 35:21

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