Miss May I - At Heart (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Miss May I

At Heart (2012)

Rise Records

Metalcore certainly has become a dirty word within the scene, hasn't it? It's a subgenre so oversaturated with mediocre, unproven-yet-entitled bullshitters that it's a little surprising when a young band stick to their guns and release a pretty good record under the guise of it being metalcore. That's what Miss May I have done with their third full-length, At Heart; there's no overly processed vocals, no obvious bass drops, no overwrought ballads and no Ke$ha covers on this album--just a shitload of massive riffs, guttural screams and metronomic drumming tightly squeezed into a mostly fun, concise package. It's neither revelatory nor offensive; it's just good, and an album in which most recovering metalheads should find something to enjoy. Or, more directly, If you vibed to Unearth and/or Killswitch Engage around the turn of the century, there's a lot you'll like here.

The hugeness begins with "Hey Mister," with the dual guitar attack of Justin Aufdemkampe's rampant soloing and B.J. Stead's downtuned riffing wrapping themselves around frontman Levi Benton's massively harsh yell. Bassist Ryan Neff gains a nice clean vocal showcase on "Leech," one of the album's heavier tracks. Neff's presence is felt throughout At Heart, but luckily his singing style is straightforward and, perhaps most importantly, not whiny.

Miss May I are at their most punishing in "Second To No One": Benton's screams here are almost demonic in nature, the guitar interplay is perpetually interesting (even during the breakdowns) and the drumming of Jerod Boyd is downright pulverizing. The tempo changes are calculated, but show that the band have a bit of flair in that department when they feel like exercising it--which makes one wonder how much smarter their next album might be.

At Heart isn't without its missteps, though. "Day By Day" plays it a little too safe in terms of sound and structure, especially in the chorus, in which the "sing/scream" dynamic is brutally overutilized, and the track that follows it, "Bleeding Out," isn't much different. One can hear the breakdown coming from a mile away, which respectfully isn't the case on the majority of the album.

There's also that issue of sameness that plagues a lot of modern metalcore. The backend of At Heart largely fades into the ether without making much of an impression, as it seems Miss May I get a little too comfortable in their established routines. The kids will surely eat it up--and they should, as this is one of the better bands they've got in that scene--but for more seasoned listeners, the album may become background music as it winds down. While that's a shame, there are plenty of encouraging factors that make Miss May I a band worth following going forward. They're still extremely young--Benton is only 21 and the rest of the band are roughly the same age--which means those good ideas will surely be expanded upon in the future.