August 30, 2022 Miss May I – Curse of Existence (Album Review)
Arising from the isolation, uncertainty, and fear of the past few years, Miss May I howl with a triumphant vengeance on their latest, Curse of Existence. SharpTone Records delivers the mayhem on Friday, September 2, 2022.
Formed in Ohio, in 2007, Miss May I was quick to make some noise; releasing their debut full-length album, Apologies Are for the Weak, in 2009, while still attending high school. Its success instantly put the youngsters on the map and out on the road, while their prolific creativity bore an additional five albums—including 2010’s Monument, 2014’s Rise of the Lion, and 2015’s Deathless—over the next eight years. With songs featured in films as well as video games, and plenty of hot and sweaty summers spent on the Vans Warped Tour, the quintet has worked hard to make themselves a known commodity in Metal, no matter the sub-genre.
In 2017, all of that determination and experience culminated with the phenomenal Shadows Inside, but the world was destined to undergo major changes not long after its release. For a band that has routinely delivered new music every two years, sometimes less, five years between records is a lifetime. And yet, it appears that no amount of time can manage to dampen the spirits of the men in Miss May I—Vocalist Levi Benton, Guitarists B.J. Stead and Justin Aufdemkampe, Bassist/Vocalist Ryan Neff, and Drummer Jerod Boyd.
For their seventh full-length, and second release with SharpTone Records, they manifest some of their most intense energy to date. Produced by Fit For An Autopsy’s Will Putney (A Day To Remember, The Amity Affliction), the 10-song Curse of Existence is the sound of five musicians searching within themselves as their world implodes.
So, victorious as their return might feel, it’s clear that Miss May I has spent their downtime toiling with some serious monsters—their own mental health amid the harsh reality of a divided world existing in fear—permeate the core of Curse of Existence. Yet, the band is self-aware enough to open their latest collection with some powerful reflections of “Unconquered,” finding the answers inside their own shadows. It sets a brutally honest tone that is carried throughout the record, one that is immediately reflected in the striking guitars of “Earth Shaker,” which promises hope can arise from the mayhem.
What follows, however, marks Curse of Existence as a mixed bag of extreme Metalcore. Taken piecemeal by the streaming generation, each song is a solid representation of a talented band. Catchy, chugging riffs (“Hollow Vessel”) tango with frenetic assaults (“Born Destroyers”), and infinite, delicious melody, throughout the body of a record that can grow tedious. While the vocal interplay between Benton and Neff elevates tracks such as “Bleed Together,” and Stead and Aufdemkampe race circles around one another to prove their stellar musicianship (“Into Oblivion,” “Free Fall”), the album can still become overwhelmingly formulaic.
Every song on the record adheres to the cliché Metalcore structure: heavy verse, catchy pre-chorus, then soaring, spirit-lifting chorus. It’s something that Miss May I made work magically on Shadows Inside, but coming off the coattails of that record, Curse of Existence can feel a bit lackluster at times. However, it is not without its exceptional moments, even if the very best occupies the backend of the collection. There’s “A Smile That Does Not Exist,” where Benton confronts the defeatist in the mirror, and the symphonic-dusted duo of “Savior To Self” and “Bloodshed.” These latter offerings dig a little deeper and offer an immensely full sound that blows away everything that has come before—truly displaying the fire that still rages inside Miss May I.
Despite beginning with the answers and taking its time to peak, Curse of Existence is careful to provide continuous echoes of its initial queries and doubts, exploring over the course of its 10 blistering tracks. While it’s a wonderfully heavy record in both sound and word, its failure to break boundaries, sonically speaking, detracts from its overall success as a collection. Instead, when broken down into singular entities, the bulk of the songs stand as solid inclusions to their catalog—some more worthy of praise than others. Where the album will fall within the band’s legacy is ultimately up to the fans, who are apt to find comfort in a hopeful Miss May I that is unchanged by the passage of time. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Curse of Existence 3.5 out of 5 stars.