ALBUM REVIEW – “Rise of the Lion” by Miss May I

Having always been one of the more traditionalist frontrunners of the current wave of popular metalcore bands, it’s no surprise to see Miss May I move yet closer towards the roots of the genre with their fourth record. What is surprising is how fresh they manage to make the style sound – with the majority of their contemporaries keen to embrace electronics and increasingly focus on breakdowns and how low they can tune their guitars, the move toward Gothenburg metal riffs and frantic leads on Rise of the Lion sets them apart from the crowd despite being a clear throwback to seven or eight years ago. The fruits of their labours may well be the strongest record their career.

The guitars are the most immediately arresting aspect of the album, lacerating riffs ripping through ‘Refuse to Believe’ with a ferocious energy. More groove-oriented songs like ‘Lunatik’ mix things up a bit, but for the most part the band take a more thrash and classic metal influenced approach that allows them to show off their musicianship. Fortunately, such an approach doesn’t compromise their songwriting. ‘Echoes’ represents the sole real excursion into anything approaching a ballad, and even then its punctuated by Levi Benton’s raw screams; elsewhere it’s relentless chaos all the way, the final double shot of ‘End of Me’ (an All That Remains-esque rager) and ‘Saints, Sinners and Greats’ seeing the record’s intensity peak. The latter is something of a fan service track, far and away the closest thing to their early material and proving they can be as visceral as ever when they want.

A few things hold Rise of the Lion back from being a truly excellent album, though. The raw production work does enhance the thrash throwback feel but robs some of the riffs of their potential gut-busting impact, while occasionally leaving Benton’s vocals exposed and somewhat ragged sounding. Clean vocalist (and bassist) Ryan Neff has often fielded criticism, and his lack of progression is frustrating: the choruses he sings are usually catchy (‘Gone’ is downright anthemic), but he lacks the range to truly propel them and his vocals are monotonous over the album’s whole. Standout track ‘Hero With No Name’ benefits from his being pushed into the background, the song recalling Lamb of God in its brutish guitar crunch and growled refrains.

Overcoming for the most part the inconsistency that has plagued previous albums, Miss May I nonetheless continue to suffer from problems that have dogged them for their whole career up to this point. The move on Rise of the Lion towards more traditional metal does sound comfortable for them and has produced a batch of excellent songs, but as an album it fails to achieve the same standard as some of the seminal records it’s inspired by. It is however an overall improvement on their past works, and will serve as an enjoyable listen for metalheads.

Rating: 7/10

[Michael Bird]

‘Gone’

‘Echoes’

MMIRTORG

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