Review Summary: Pastiche that has become pitiful.
Miss May I, for the last couple of years, have given us the idea that classic traits in metalcore can still be fashionable and punchy if trimmed and tucked into neat 3 minute treats of instant gratification (not excluding the incredulous amounts of production). But as of late, the Ohions seem to be missing the damn point about what got our attention in the first place; Miss May I unassumingly had the potential to subtly transgress metalcore's boundaries while still sticking to the recipe. Maybe we knighted them too soon with this , with "Apologies are for the weak" misleading the masses into thinking they would progress. Yet, all they have done is blindside us again with their latest installment of rust ridden salvages of better bands from before. Yes, there are those who have cried copy and paste from the start, but it is fair to say that these guys had the position of proving naysayers wrong with their first two releases. Maybe I missed the signs in "At Heart".
If you were trapped in a soundless box for ten years and missed the entire evolution of the genre, then this album would be your horns to the revelation of metalcore. This is the problem, we have all heard this before, for the fourth time. "Rise of the Lion" is an album one tries to enjoy, and no matter how many times you listen to the 38 minutes of snoring minor-scale upstrokes and melodic cliches, this LP begs you to appreciate its unapparent edge by hinting elements of thrash, rock, deathcore, and hardcore. The benefit of the doubt is what you want to grant it as "Rise of the Lion" is not the worst thing you've heard. But they take your objective mind and muddy it with poor mixing and lazy song-writing. No Miss May I, we will not accept blatant plagiarism and cheap thrills any longer.
Instrumentally, this album is everything you'd expect from the Miss May I camp; template metalcore. While Aufdemkampe does shine in some moments with soothing though forgettable solos and Stead heating up some hooks, in tracks like "Darker Days" and "Gone", with Boyd keeping a solid position behind the kit throughout the album, the muddy mix and often antiquated riffage reinforce the presence of completely uninspired song-writing. Although, you can hear a definite improvement in structure in regards to the transitions in each track, though please exclude "Echoes" from this observation. In fact, "Echoes" is the naked truth to the assumed amount of effort that went into the writing of this album. It makes us question whether they purposely spilled coffee over Killswitch and Soulfly tabs to blotch out the credits and claim it as their own, while smearing half of the good ideas.
Now for the sad truth which culled this "risen" lion; the vocal performance. What ever love you have for Benton's vocal work in the past shall be scrutinized after the "Rise of the Lion". Not necessarily the worst performance one has heard, and the overall sound is not as discomforting as many claim it to be, but on many a occasion his belting resembles that of a toddler running around a garden, barking down a perspex gutter pipe. A sad truth considering what we have heard in previous outings, and all credibility is lost in forced vocal patterns and tacky lyrical phrasing. And lyrically speaking this is not a strong album at all. The whole quasi-inspiration stance gets old after the second song, and we are left with an album that takes tips from Atreyu's glittered filled book of cheesy hackneyed lines. Moving on, a way worse conclusion can be made on Neff's clean performance. Neff's voice has never been the most mind-blowing experience, but on this occassion his over-layered sigh-fest of processed choruses do not work well with the already dull melodic background. Additionally, his presence sometimes conquer the instruments with his vocals sitting right on top of the mix throughout the entire album. Tracks like "End of me" and "Lunatik" had serious potential, with "End of me"'s jumpy verse and "Lunatik"'s solid chorus bearing space to be profound in execution, though they are ruined with Neff's over-produced whining. It could be something of preference, but some may feel that his vocals simply do not fit in any space during one's experience of "Rise of the Lion".
To get straight to the point, Miss May I are in a state of regression. In fact, after this outing their entire discography outlines Merriam-Webster's definition for the word and it is damn infuriating. Miss May I are one of our dirty pleasures in the world of metalcore and this decline is slowly burning away whatever pleasurable elements they exhibited in "Apologies" and "Monument". Their sound and structure reenacts the entire template of what we know and love about metalcore, and it would be unfair to dismiss their presence in the contemporary metal scene. Even Benton has stated that they try to be as old school as possible, as "it's been working out" for them. Well after this release Levi, please reevaluate such a position as there is a clear line between amped-up metalcore classicism, and pure pastiche; pastiche that has become pitiful.