Release Date: June 2, 2017
Artist: Miss May I
Runtime: Label: SharpTone Records
Personnel: Levi Benton (unclean vocals), B.J. Stead (lead guitar, backing vocals), Justin Aufdemkampe (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Neff (bass guitar, clean vocals), Jerod Boyd (drums, percussion)
While still in high school, five dudes formed Miss May I based out of Troy, Ohio in 2006. Eleven years later, the same five are still together while putting out some pretty good material. They are Levi Benton, B.J. Stead, Justin Aufdemkampe, Ryan Neff, and Jerod Boyd.
Their Musical Style and Influence:
Miss May I’s style has been described as metalcore and melodic metalcore with an infusion of punk. It won’t take long to pick up on the melodic pieces residing on Shadows Inside. In fact, it’s one of the most notable traits of the album. For the band, their styles have evolved over time. Aufdemkampe has said that he has a blues background from emulating his dad’s Stevie Ray Vaughan records – hardly a bad thing at all. The band has also even subscribed to a pop rock sound in the past, but they have seemed to have gotten comfortable with metalcore and are doing it rather well.
Having listened to Shadows Inside a few times, it’s pretty easy to pick up on their various influences. To name a few, their influences range from Metallica, Pantera, and Avenged Sevenfold, to the likes of White Zombie and Lamb of God. I’ll discuss some of Miss May I’s similarities with one of these bands momentarily.
“Shadows Inside” begins with some superb rhythm guitar licks and double bass drums sprinkled in. Once the song hits full gear, the bass comes in full throat and gives the song body. The song takes a melodic turn once the clean vocals begin, and gives the listener a breather from the thrash pace. There is great variety on “Shadows Inside”, and the combination of dirty and clean vocals are done particularly well here.
“Under Fire” has a good guitar melody that turns into a short, harmonic duet, and is then thrust into the dirty vocals. If you wait for just a couple of seconds, the clean vocals come in to provide variety. Much like “Shadows Inside”, the mixture of vocals are done superbly, and left me impressed.
Initially when I listened to Shadows Inside, I felt that it was a decent album with a couple of good songs. As I listened to the album a few more times, my feelings changed. For me, I rarely feel the same way for any album I hear over and over again. I either like it less or more. For Shadows Inside, I definitely like it more as I hear it more. To me, this is a good indicator that Shadows Inside will probably be one of my favorite metal albums of 2017, which is high praise considering some of the metal albums thus far. To date, we’ve had Mastodon’s Emperor of Sand, Kreator’s Gods of Violence, and Havok’s Conformicide, to name a few – hardly a bad year for metal.
Vocally, Shadows Inside was one of the best metal albums I’ve heard this year. It’s a misconception that the metal music genre doesn’t require great vocals. In fact, I’d even argue vocals are just as important as musical proficiency when it comes to producing great, memorable songs. Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica all have something in common: great vocals. I don’t think for an instance that it’s a coincidence these bands have experienced commercial success over their counterparts. Obviously, these bands wrote and produced great songs, but they all relied on great vocals. Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickerson, Rob Haliford, and James Hetfield are just a few names in the metal scene that either were or are superb singers. Time will tell whether or not Miss May I will get the same recognition for the vocals like the aforementioned bands.
The Elephant (or moth) in the Room:
There are rumors in metal circles that the track “Under Fire” on this album sounds suspiciously like Metallica’s “Moth Into Flame” on their 2016 release Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. So let’s discuss it. In my opinion, it’s a lot like Metallica’s work, but I also don’t think Miss May I was trying to hide the fact they were repurposing someone else’s material.
Here are some lyrics from “Moth Into Flame”:
Pop queen, amphetamine
The screams crashed into silence
And from Miss May I’s “Under Fire”:
Drowning in resistance
Now the words are indeed different, but the flow and tempo are the same. I’ll be honest here, I don’t hold it against these guys for using some of Metallica’s most recent work as inspiration. If you’re going to copy a metal band, Metallica is a pretty good band to copy. If it seemed forced, I wouldn’t dig it, but “Under Fire” happens to be one of the better songs on the album and is done rather well, so I don’t have that much of a problem with Miss May I doing this song.
As I stated earlier, when I first heard the album, I thought there were only a couple of good songs, but this album offers much diversity and creativity that I like seeing in metal albums. The Kreator-like metal ballad “Lost in the Grey”, the pile driver “Swallow Your Teeth”, and the melancholy “Never Let Me Stay” give any music fan plenty of fodder. Like any metal fan should, I look forward to hearing more from Miss May I.
I’m going to give Shadows Inside an 89%