Monday, November 21, 2011

Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster IV Mixes Up Swamp Rock Without Metal

What happens to an up-and-coming band with a loyal, devoted following that makes a sweeping departure from their characteristic sound? Backlash. Some fans might even post scathing and disappointing reviews. And some bands might question the wisdom of the decision.

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster IV finds the Birmingham, Alabama-based band on just such an unexpected detour. They are breaking away from their Southern near metalcore lifeblood and into more of a Southern hard rock sound that would be easily appreciated by the Marshall Tucker Band.

Do Maylene and the Sons Of Disaster really deserve a fan flogging?

While some fans (and reviewers too) are up in arms over the perceived commercial sound, IV deserves a few serious spins before passing judgment. It's cleaner. It's more melodic. It's anything but all bad.

Since its inception, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster (MATSOD) has crafted a conceptual and lyrical thread based on Ma Barker and her criminal gang of sons. All of it evokes images of outlaws, prohibition and a little violence. Even IV's cover reflects the concept. Designed by Forefathers Group (In Flames, Children of Bodom), it depicts the dangerous backwoods mood of the dirty South.

With each new album and up through III, the band has always made subtle progressions in their sound. It's also what makes IV such an abrupt and startling shift. But it's not as surprising as some people think.

The band has always had a revolving door of members, with the only constant being frontman Dallas Taylor. With the latest change in the lineup, I suspect it contributed to the dramatic shift more than anything else.

The new lineup includes the charasmatic and big-voiced Taylor, Jake Duncan (guitar), Chad Huff (guitar) and Brad Lehmann (bass). For recording the album, the band also leaned on a host of supporting musicians on everything from keys and pedal steel to drums. James Butler recently stepped up as touring drummer.

There were other changes too. Although still with Ferret Records, IV was produced by Brian Virtue (Audioslave, Jane’s Addiction). He might have influenced some of the experimental sound while keeping the gritty guitar riffs that always helped to keep the band from being pigeonholed.

The trick is to pick the tracks that work on their own merit.

The album kicks off with In Dead We Dream, a song about conflict caused when someone bends the truth to look like a victim. It's solid from start to finish, and would have fit nicely on III in my opinion. And no surprise, the song sounds very different on the road.

Never Enough is a song about love that isn’t returned, and about things never turn out the way you plan. It might even capture something from Taylor’s own recent bitter divorce. Open Your Eyes is a complete departure of pace, more in common with Lynyrd Skynyrd than any MATSOD track. And Off To the Laughing Place seems to haven been slapped on as an afterthought, complete with spoken words by Taylor’s young son, Corgan.

As a whole, the album is solid enough, especially when Taylor punches his voice, making it dirty and nasty. Other times, it does feel like he is holding back. Not something I expect would happen live.

Taylor has been quoted as saying he knew the new album would upset some fans, but this was still the record the band wanted to make. Good for him. Greatness only happens for those who take risks.

Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster IV Scores 3.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The band will be completing its current eight-state tour in mid-December in South Carolina. They've been trying to connect with fans regularly on Twitter. Even more interesting is their YouTube channel, Maylene TV, which includes something from almost every stop along the way.

There is no reason to look for the deluxe edition of IV. It features two additional songs, Carry Us Away and Save Me (High Top Kicks Remix), both of which are best forgotten. Again, the trick, across the entire album, is to listen to the pick without being mired down with the occasional miss. So don't count Taylor and company out yet. IV is an album set to help the band rediscover who they want to be.

You can find Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster IV on iTunes. You can also order the CD from Barnes & Noble. IV is also on Amazon. The tune used in the teaser, by the way, isn't on the album unless maybe it alludes to Drought Of '85.
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