The Miss May I of both 2012 and today could be two completely different bands. One was riding high after the release of At Heart which could’ve thrust them to modern metal’s top table; the other is struggling for relevance and momentum with a series of noticeably diminishing returns. No prizes for guessing which is which, but after the bitter disappointment that was Rise Of The Lion and the much-improved but completely faded Deathless, the Ohio quintet need to pull something special out of their hat to play catch up, if nothing else.
Shadows Inside is most definitely not that album. If anything, it’s actually the band’s biggest step down yet, sticking to a very safe, meticulously planned mesh of metalcore and thrash that’s interchangeable in a way that a band six albums in should most definitely be avoiding. That’s right from the basics of construction as well, which often stoops to recycling tiresome staples without even trying to mix them up. Try to pick a track like Under Fire or Lost In The Grey from a lineup of similarly organic metalcore and it’s virtually impossible, and with its lighter, smoother instrumentation and heavier leaning on clean vocals and synthetic elements, Crawl emits the foetid stink of The Amity Affliction, and that’s never a good thing.
It’s honestly inexcusable how nondescript this album is, as Miss May I have shown countless times how much of a savvy metal band they can be. Hell, there are points where they show it on this album – the storming groove and reliance on screams on My Destruction actually has some substantial metallic power to it, and when a moment of Bullet For My Valentine-style expanse comes in like the solo on Death Knows My Name, it’s an avenue into an area of cleaner metal that could actually see them thrive. Why they would want to do that is a mystery though, especially given how Levi Benton’s title as one of the best screamers in the game remains intact, still bearing a fantastically gnarled growl that owes a lot to extreme metal, and is the one consistent feature on this album that keeps Miss May I in positive numbers.
But beyond that, it’s hard to tell whether Shadows Inside is just a phoned-in effort from a band who know their best years are behind them, or a genuine attempt to find a new home in the Warped Tour metalcore scene they started in. Neither is a particularly positive eventuality, but given how little this album actually does, it’s the only possibility. As much of a technical leg-up that the likes of My Sorrow or the title track have, they still do nothing beyond the initial listen, and with the same basic, garden variety lyrical selection on offer – rising up against adversity, pot shots at haters and plenty of others that have had their corpses beaten countless times already – it’s genuinely baffling as to what Miss May I hoped to achieve with this.
And that might sound harsh, but considering what this band are capable of, to make an album that has as little personality or, really anything of worth as this is just unacceptable. If this is any indication of where Miss May I are going in the future, the same drive and momentum they had half a decade ago has completely dissipated and gone to their contemporaries instead. Sat next to some of the better modern metal albums released recently, Shadows Inside feels like nothing but the lazy shell of a band that could’ve been something far, far greater.
For fans of: Trivium, The Devil Wears Prada, The Amity Affliction
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Shadows Inside’ by Miss May I is out now in SharpTone Records.