Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster – IV (2011)

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Music

Since their self-titled debut in 2005, Maylene & The Sons of Disaster have built a reputation as one of the more diverse, well-rounded southern metal acts in the business. While rooted in the ‘whiskey-soaked’ riffage that rules the genre, Maylene has continually tried to incorporate new elements to their sound to stay fresh and set them apart. These ‘new’ takes on the scene have given the band a step-up on the competition over the years, providing a unique listen with each new release.

The success of their self-titled was followed by further expansion and maturity with the two follow up releases (II & III). To many a critic, III had grown so far from the traditional ‘southern metal’ core, that many of them discredited the album. For me, I thought the transition was a natural one. While the riotous metal side had softened itself a bit, the songs were smarter, had better construction, and held a pretty high repeat value. In fact, up until my possession of the band’s new release (titled IV), III remained in pretty heavy rotation for me the last two-plus years.

Yes, the sound has changed from album to album – so I was ready to see where the band was heading to next. While many ‘fans’ had hoped for a return to their earlier sound, I knew better. The band had taken too many steps forward the last five years to take one backwards. With that in mind, lets take a look at how big of strides Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster chose to take this time around…

“In Dead We Dream” opens the album with some typical southern metal fare. It has a rawness that has been shelved over the last couple of releases, but also has a bit of a muted sound a bit. I would imagine that this is due to the fact that the band is down from a six-member to a four piece, losing two guitarists. Fans of the band’s older stuff need to pay attention here, as this is really the only true ‘metal’ sounding affair of the album.

The rest wears more of a straight rock mask, as is evident with the albums second track “Save Me.” Here, the guitars are layered a bit, giving the track a little extra ‘oomph’ to heavy up the clean vocals from Dallas Taylor. Apparently the band can do rock well, as this is easily one of the more memorable tracks. A little slide guitar outro gives it an echoing deep-fried flavor that stays in the mouth long after the last bite.

Next up is “Faith Healer (Bring Me Down).” While the title screams southern rock, the track – instead – opts for a more mellow, almost radio-rock vibe. The song would be just as at home on a Foo Fighters CD as it is here. It’s a definite departure, but doesn’t feel too out of place. Again, a natural progression.

As the first single, Maylene focus on a melodic rocker in “Open Your Eyes.” Honestly, it’s a little generic and falls in line behind other rock radio bands like Nickelback and Alter Bridge, but still has the tobacco-spit shine that keeps it their own. What it lacks in creativity it makes up for in accessibility, so take that how you want to.

“Killing Me Slow” is mid-tempo southern rock done right. The only thing missing is the cowbell (and there were some perfect moments for just that), as the song’s swagger invites thoughts of a dusty windshield that you just can’t get clean. It’s a bit fuzzy, exceptionally stripped down, and easily one of the album’s better cuts.

The slower pace of “Taking On Water,” makes it another song ready for the charts. The band stretches out their artistic arms here again, embracing a ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ sound that is bluesy and meaningful. It doesn’t feel like a Maylene song, but I’m all for new experiences – and this was a good song. I’m not sure I could handle a full album’s worth of songs like these, but in small doses, this is enjoyable.

“Fate Games” is a little more familiar, but still puts a new twist on the bands previous sound. It’s more melodic, and gets within striking distance of ‘heavy metal’, but stays true to the ‘rock’ methods this album has been built on. The crunch of the guitars were heavy, and the vocals were exceptionally strong. In the back of my mind, this sound was what I thought was the logical step forward for the band, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

I was a little put off by the overly-mainstream feel of “Come For You.” It was a mix of slowed down modern rock and post-grunge sounds that never seemed to get along with each other. I don’t really like these kind of tunes as it is, and there have been better attempts this year by other bands at almost this exact same song. It didn’t bring the album to a screeching halt, but it definitely washed away a fair amount of the momentum.

“Never Enough” is the auto-correct the disc needed. The faster pace, the rougher vocals, and the more complex drums and guitars deliver another one of the album’s ‘keepers.’ It’s still just rock, but has enough sandpaper grit to rub some skin off. The toned-down melodies are balanced perfectly, and a sexy guitar riff at the end finished off another highly recommended track.

Greasy meets glam in “Cat’s Walk,” which is super catchy and hook-filled and shows the dirtier side of the band that has so far been in hiding through the album. It has that ‘garage’ feel – and that is the best part about it. No production tricks or fancy melodies here. Just rock and roll – and that’s just fine with me.

Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster have always finished off their albums with one or two tracks completely different than the rest of the album, and IV is no exception. The spacey, Pink Floyd-ish “Drought Of ’85” is an acid trip all in itself, and the closer “Off To The Laughing Place” is a spoken word tale of demise and hopelessness. It’s eerie and haunting, and the last minute of distorted echoes and a child saying “bye” really spiked the creep-o-meter. If nothing else, an interesting way to close out an album.

The final verdict here is a difficult one. With so many different styles presented, it’s hard to really ascertain exactly WHICH direction the band is headed – and maybe that was their curse going in. They knew they wanted to go somewhere new, but I’m not sure they plotted the course very well.

There were some really great moments on this record, but there were a few missteps as well, and it felt like the band wasn’t quite sure where they were by the time it was all over. And that’s a major problem for me. When a leader establishes themselves, it is very easy to follow along – no matter where they go – until they lead you out into the middle of the woods and suddenly don’t know where they are anymore. And that’s the feeling I got here.

It doesn’t mean it’s a bad album by any means, but the confusion and scattering leaves it far short of what it hoped to accomplish, and probably will go down as the band’s least favorable recording. With any hope, they will walk away with the strong points securely tucked into their back pocket, leaving the uninspired radio-rock for those bands that know nothing else.

6/10

Tracklist:
01 – In Dead We Dream
02 – Save Me
03 – Faith Healer (Bring Me Down)
04 – Open Your Eyes
05 – Killing Me Slow
06 – Taking On Water
07 – Fate Games
08 – Come For You
09 – Never Enough
10 – Cat’s Walk
11 – Drought of ’85
12 – Off to the Laughing Place

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