Miss May I - At Heart review


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Band: Miss May I
Album: At Heart
Release date: June 2012

01. At Heart
02. Hey Mister
03. Opening Wounds
04. Leech
05. Second To No One
06. Sirens Song
07. Day By Day
08. Bleeding Out
09. Road Of The Lost
10. Found Our Way
11. Gold To Rust
12. Live This Life
13. Ballad Of A Broken Man

Solid but unspectacular.

Banging loudly on the glass ceiling to the upper tier of metalcore and cracking the glass in the process around the early 2010's were Ohio's Miss May I, a band who always came close to but never fully broke through the way they had threatened to. Following on from the momentum of Monument came At Heart, a solid though not spectacular record released at a time when the genre itself was starting to fall by the wayside.

At Heart sees the band carry forward with the formula established on their prior work, though with evident experience added to the mix. The band sound tighter and know how and where to maximize their effort to reap the biggest rewards, bringing this to bear on tracks like "Second To None" and "Gold To Rust", seemingly designed with a keen eye on what works well and what fat can be trimmed from their sound.

Many of the album's tracks will hit you in familiar places and ones that will see you act on instinct to sing along or bang your head, almost as if Miss May I have hacked your brain and know how best to induce the response they want from you. From the epic sing along moments of "Hey Mister" to the call to mosh breakdown in "Bleeding Out", each song seems designed to cover all the elements to craft a memorable album.

Benton and Neff form a solid vocal partnership, from harmonising each other or creating a light/shade dynamic to the dopamine-flooding choruses, they are the ace in the hole on the album. The rest of the band are no slouches on their instruments, crafting and carrying out these specially designed moments to fruition.

While the band know where to target their abilities to elicit the response they want from the listener, it is done with a somewhat mechanical and calculated application and feels more like a cheap dopamine burst than a song with the warmth that organically produced songs possess. This is where At Heart falls short; ultimately it is not able to go that extra step to create a truly great song. Each track on the album is solid in its own way, but does not have that extra something that elevates it to the same level as a Killswitch Engage or As I Lay Dying, radiating the feeling of less than rather than equal to the forerunners of the genre. Where a "Hey Mister" or "Day By Day" could go down as a genre deep cut and one that will give fans of the genre a moment of nostalgia, they are unlikely be chosen to represent the genre at large.

Where the guitar pairing of Stead and Aufdemkampe fall short though is in creating a memorable riff or imposing themselves on a song. Much of the album follows the formula of an interesting opening riff that segues into generic verse territory before returning to a variation of the riff later in the song, rinse and repeat. While this does help catch your ear to begin with on tracks like "Found Our Way" and "Leech", it isn't carried through and does make you wary of getting too close to the opening riff because you know what is going to happen next. As a result, the guitar duo can't impose a personality on their playing or cast much of an impression on you.

While At Heart is made in the mould that had forged many metalcore classics before it, Miss May I are unable to fully fill each section in and as a result produce an album that seems to hit all the right notes but is lacking overall. The album is an ok listen but will only rarely tempt you away from other bands once in a while, if for sake of variety or if it were to come on shuffle.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 8


Written on 04.12.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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