The South Rises Again
I stumbled across Maylene and the Sons of Disaster by sheer dumb luck a couple of years ago. I was at the Middle East Cafe in Cambridge, MA, to see Clutch, with Murder By Death opening. Maylene was on the bill, and I’d never heard of them. The name made me automatically nervous, as I’m usually weary of names like theirs (they claim it’s inspired by the story of Ma Barker and her bank robber sons). Well, color me surprised. They blew the doors off the place, displaying a raucous stage presence, full of swagger and theatricality. A so-called Christian metalcore with a from Birmingham, Alabama, their music more reflects their southern roots than their religious views (thankfully). As those who listen to metal and its various iterations likely know, there’s Christian metal and there’s Christian metal. The bands that hit you over the head with it, and the bands that have fainter traces of it, but who still entertain.
And entertain they do. Led by former Underoath frontman Dallas Taylor on vocals, they are a shit-kickin’, rowdy-as-hell, pugnacious metal band. Their newest album, III, continues that trend, as well as takes them to some new places. Now, southern rock this ain’t — don’t expect to hear the Drive-By Truckers here. Instead, this is twangy guitars interspersed with glorious shredding, screaming vocals, and rapid-fire, yet complex rhythms. While they are unquestionably talented — they aren’t geniuses, for sure, but they are good — two things separate them from the pack. The aforementioned Southern swagger, and the vocals and charisma of Taylor. “Step Up (I’m On It)” demonstrates this perfectly, combining an ominous rumble with his throat-punishing screaming, while twanging guitars segue beautifully into grinding metal riffs.
They generate a phenomenal amount of sound, due in no small part to their three guitarists. The output is surprisingly un-chaotic, with each guitarist having a specific role and sound — check out “The Old Iron Hills” to hear them all on display in their different parts. Of course, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster falls victim to the same thing that afflicts several metal bands, which is the addition of a slower track. Unlike many of those bands, however, the ones on this album don’t suck. “Listen Close” is just good old-fashioned southern rock and roll — in fact, if anything actually does resemble the DBT’s (at their rockingest), “Listen Close” is it. It’s easily their most accessible track, but that’s not a bad thing. It features some solid guitar work, not to mention a weird, yet fun talk box solo.
In the end, theology is by no means the dealbreaker for listening to and enjoying Maylene and the Sons of Disaster’s newest outing. It’s metal, but it’s not too hard. If you’re familiar with bands like He Is Legend (another outstanding southern metal act), you’ll dig Maylene. It’s solid, unpretentious, well executed hillbilly metal. They may have a message knocking around in there, but it’s hardly proselytizing. Instead, it’s perfect for rocking out, thrashing around for a while, then kicking back with a cold beer and enjoying. Which I just did. Hell, I might just do it again.
TK writes about music for Pajiba. He likes dogs, raising the dead, and tacos. You can email him here.