Last summer, metalcore veterans Miss May I announced they were leaving Rise Records after five studio albums with the iconic label. Their sixth album, Shadows Inside, became their debut release with SharpTone Records, and is no doubt another polished album to add to the band’s perfect report card in metalcore. Not only does the album speak to the band’s dedication to full-length studio releases, it also prevails with an unadorned metalcore sound.
The unfortunate aspect is that it is nothing less and, sadly, nothing more. The album comes up short in originality and doesn’t blow the listener away, lacking a distinctive identity to set itself apart in the genre. While it certainly hits the mark of technical excellence in the realm of melodic metal, they should also be aiming for something outside the band’s safety net. Considering their incredible talent and boundless potential, their new record falls flat from its expectation.
Regardless, Shadows Inside proves once again that Miss May I excel in their wheelhouse of forceful speedy riffs and catchy melodic hooks. “Shadows Inside,” the first song and title track, is quite the introduction with heavy layered screams, smoking riffs, and a catchy chorus. It’s the entire package, offered right out of the gate. On “Under Fire,” the drums get a bit more creative toward the end, and the gang vocals open up the sonic space drastically. As the album progresses, so do the electronic elements, prominently found in songs like “Never Let Me Stay” and “Swallow Your Teeth.” Along with the ethereal atmosphere, vocalist Levi Benton incorporates a healthy distortion into his melodies, resembling volcaist Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon. Throughout the entire work, Benton’s vocals are undeniably strong. Unfortunately, they are exhausted by safe, repetitive lyrics from beginning to end. The character of Shadows Inside is surprisingly found on the softer side of the album. The acoustic guitar in “My Destruction” and contemplative feel of “Crawl” add a refreshing sense of texture, something MMI incorporates tastefully and well-proportioned in a guitar-driven setting.
Shadows Inside is by no means a bad record. Quite the opposite: It’s technically proficient, full of talent, and hits the marks of what you expect from a metalcore album. You just have to hunt for the signs of growth. For the most part, every song follows the same general formula, preventing any one track from standing out among the others. While it is a metalcore purist’s dream, Shadows Inside leaves no bold impression. If you want to get a new MMI experience in this album, you will have to work for it. Miss May I’s new record has enough chops to tread water, but their music could certainly stand a healthy dose of risk.