Miss May I are made of metal in every sense. They work as hard as they play, having pumped out over 900 shows since 2009, forcing their presence on the metalcore scene. Amongst the plethora of gigs they’ve managed to knock out three chaotic albums and 2014 sees the Ohioans release their fourth, Rise of the Lion.
Fans will note the reference to the MMI Lion that featured on their 2009 debut, Apologies Are for the Weak. The beast returned on the cover of their follow up record Monument, but was missing on their 2012 release At Heart. Realising that it is a key insignia people associate with the band, they needed to bring it back. This time however they wanted it to be “nice, bloody, and metal”, and thus Rise of the Lion exhibits the return of the emblem freshly tattooed on a fan’s back. Whilst returning to their roots in one sense, the boys also aimed to go all out in diversifying their sound, adding influences and to challenge themselves, all the while pleasing their listeners.
A key part of going big on Rise of the Lion involved recruiting producer Terry Date, who has worked with some of their main influences like Pantera and Deftones, as well as the likes of Bring Me the Horizon and Slipknot. The aim was for no two songs to sound the same, although the familiar metalcore formula would prove hard to escape. With the feedback of an amp, its straight into the classic shredding, fast-paced guitar riffs and screamed vocals on opening track Refuse to Believe, with clean singing on the choruses; a method common throughout. Lunatik displays the bands ability and fondness for melodic metalcore, with the clean singing again carrying the chorus, with high pitched zips from the guitar breaking up the tedium of the power chords. Gone then shows Miss May I’s hardcore punk side, with a punkier riff and tuneful singing. The metal returns for the breakdown though, followed by a soaring guitar riff.
Echoes is a standout track, packed full of emotion while detailing the pain of losing someone close. The interplay between the vocalists is engaging as the words “I know you’re already gone / You’re never coming home / I know you’re already gone / I’ll face the night all alone” resonate heavily. The track brings one of the quieter moments of the album, with the breakdown devoid of guitar chords, and even a brief piano outro. You Want Me, Tangled Tongues and The End of Me are straight up thrashers, often making a feature of the impressively paced double kick drums, with Darker Days including some Dragonforce-esque power metal guitar work. Saints, Sinners and Greats blazes the album to conclusion, with a driving, anthemic feel.
With bold ambition, you’d have to say Rise of the Lion mostly delivers. Miss May I have certainly continued to diversify their eclectic metalcore sound to some extent, although they don’t stray too far from the established formula, with Hero With No Name the only track to not feature clean singing on the chorus. They intended to “create a timeless metal record that defines our band”, and whilst the timeless character remains to be seen, it is certainly their most significant album to date.