Review Summary: Hey...this sounds familiar...yet different...
Recommendations. The situation is there are a bunch of bands you really like, but you don't know where to go from there. What do you do? You make a list asking for recommendations and put a band you like down in the hope that you will find another band similar to the artists you like, that can bring out the same thing inside of you as the original artist you love did. The thing is, you don't want a carbon copy of the original band. In reality you are hoping to find a band like the original band, but one that gives you something else. Today I Caught the Plague could be seen as a recommendation band for Protest the Hero, due to the variety of similarities between the two. With their debut EP, Ms. Mary Mallon
, Today i Caught the Plague (TiCtP) display their influence but also carve a niche all their own.
So, what do these terribly named Canadian bands have in common? Most noticeable is the vocals. Vocalist Dave Journeaux uses the same basic approach as Rody Walker (high-pitched singing, yells and growls), and he too proves to be the star of his band. His singing sounds like the child of Rody and Darroh Sudderth (Fair to Midland) with more hardcore-ish screams than Rody's and more guttural growls (though too few of them for this reviewer). Ben Davis and Steve Rennie's guitars are also similar to PtH's, technical, keep you on your toes riffage but with a twist (more on that later).
These guys sound awfully like a rip-off, why should I look into them? The reason is because these similarities don't tell the true tale. What makes Ms. Mary Mallon
and TiCtP themselves interesting is how different they are both from PtH and other technical metalcore acts out there. Where PtH's appeal comes from their, almost non-stop aggression (minus the interludes) and"hey where did that come from" climaxes, TiCtP are willing to build up to their climaxes rather then just hit you in the face with them out of nowhere. They are willing to include soft passages not just segueing between sections of the album, but during songs, which works to both catch the listener off guard and accentuate the heaviness/insanity of the fast parts. Take "The Artisan Movement." Beginning with an all-out blazing assault of screeching vocals and speedy riffs, the song gives way to an acoustic-driven soft passage that then leads to a build-up resulting in one of the best moments of the album with Journeaux screaming his head off and the keys contributing beautifully to the moment. It then gives way to growls, synth and a beautifully song chorus finally leading to key-driven outro.
That is not the only time Matt Young's keyboard play drives the music to new levels. On almost every track, his play adds that little extra "wow" factor. Never breaking his fingers on the keyboards, he plays to fit the music. His solo in "Columbella" alone makes the track and at the one minute mark in "Dead Girls Don't Smile" the entrance of the keys during the chug-fest is so restraint and minimalist, yet perfect, that it becomes one of the highlights of the album. Eventually this track leads to a moment that can only be described as beautiful with perfect vocals, keys, and musical backdrop perfectly restrained that gives way once more to an onslaught of aggression. That's really the key to the EP. TiCtP's willingness to see their ideas through while still changing things up at the drop of a hat.
Though this EP is most often brilliant, some flaws do pull down the effort and show the band's lack of reaching their full maturity. The vocals are very hit or miss and could irk many a listener, especially because of how high in the mix they are. The bass is often lost in the mix, which hurts the experience because when it's audible, it fits well. The prouction in general leaves something to be desired but it still delivers most of the time. Otherwise, not much in the flaw category. The album really lacks anything incredibly obvious.
Ms. Mary Mallon
by Today i Caught the Plague is a surprisingly refined album. The band knows what they want to do and do it exceedingly well. Though having similarities to technical metalcore acts, most notably PtH, they are able to produce their own unique sound by sticking with ideas, building to climaxes, and catching the listener off guard with soft passages that are well-orchestrated as a balance to the heaviness and are also superb in their own right. The EP demonstrates that the band uses their elements well and have a bright future ahead of them if they maintain the things that make them unique. It is a perfect recommendation to Protest the Hero fans because it gives the listener exactly what they want, a band that feels very similar right away, but that when delved into is a completely different beast.