When it comes to southern metal, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster have been one of the more revered names to come along in past decade. From their self-titled album to their two follow ups (titled II and III), Maylene spent their time finding new takes on the southern metal sound, and they've grown and matured as each new album released. 2009's III was released to mixed reviews, but it seemed to be their strongest album to date. Two years later, the anthology continues with IV, but does it continue their usual pattern of growth?
IV opens up with "In Dead We Dream," which gives us a taste of that Maylene sound we've come to love. It seems to lack something, but you have to keep in mind that they've gone from having six guys playing on stage to being a fourpiece (which removes two guitars from the mix, though they have layered guitars where needed here). This may also be the explanation for the sound change during the rest of the album, which isn't anything like typical Maylene. "In Dead We Dream" is the only song that can really be considered any type of metal. The rest of IV is like a southern rock album, but with traces of influence from bands like Shinedown and Theory of a Deadman. One of the singles they've released before the album's release is one called "Open Your Eyes," which is a perfect example of this sound change. It's pretty generic rock, with some heavy riffs, but a severe lack of creativity or that Maylene charm that fans expect from the band. Then there are songs like "Taking On Water," which sounds like a modern and moderately-heavier Lynyrd Skynyrd song. Two songs later is "Come For You," which unfortunately brings to mind the band Hinder. I do like the hook a little, but I feel like I enjoy the catchiness of it rather than calling it well-written.
So far, I've given the impression that Maylene's new direction in sound isn't a good change. While there are some tracks that really left me disappointed, IV also has some shining moments as well. Even though some of the tracks are really reminiscent of some of the current worst rock bands, I do like the touch Maylene gave them. Whether it's the abrasive lyrics from Dallas Taylor, or the hard-driving guitars that are prevalent throughout the heavier tracks, they do give the songs a little bit of a Maylene twist. The song "Drought of '85" is really slow and down to earth, with a heavy Pink Floyd influence; it's odd, but I like it. However, the top tracks are closer to the beginning of the album. The classic-Maylene-style song "In Dead We Dream" gets things off to a great start (even if it is a little misrepresentative of the rest of IV), and I enjoyed "Faith Healer (Bring Me Down)." It's a mid-tempo rock song, with almost a (dare I say it?) pop rock vibe in the verses. It may be the most uncharacteristic Maylene song of all of IV, reminding me somewhat of bands like Blue October and Finger Eleven.
For the last two tracks, we have "Drought of '85" and "Off to the Laughing Place," which are both odd tracks. As odd as they are, they're also pretty characteristic of a Maylene album ending. I mentioned the Pink Floyd qualities of "Drought of '85," but it's also similar to past Maylene songs like "Tale of the Runaways." "Off to the Laughing Place" is actually borderline creepy. Like "Just Wanted To Make Mother Proud" from their self-titled album, it features quiet music with Taylor's slightly-broken, almost desperate-sounding vocals telling a tale of despair that keeps in line (in some part) with the story of Mother Maylene and her Sons of Disaster.
After three successful albums from Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, I can't help but be disappointed at the outcome of the fourth installment. It has its moments, but the majority of IV is filled with mildly-altered-for-Maylene rock songs that may have come from some warehouse full of them. However, this is only one album; Maylene is a good band, and they deserve the love and support they've received over the years. I don't feel like they've improved on their sound again, but I don't think this is the end for the band. I, like many fans who may be turned off by this addition to their discography, look forward to V.
- Review date: 9/23/11, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com