Listen to Dallas Taylor growl on an old Underoath record and you might not be able to believe where he is today. Last fall, southern rock influenced hardcore group Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, released their simply titled IV, which if you haven’t guessed is the fourth record. This record was and remains polarizing among hardcore Maylene fans. It sheds the “core” in southerncore for much of the record, a move many do not like. This has largely resulted in mixed reviews in music forums. I will try to stay objective here, reviewing this record as a standalone project.
The direction the band chooses on IV shouldn’t be a complete shock. They experimented with this sound a bit on III with tracks such as “Last Train Coming” and “Listen Close.” However, Taylor proves he’s still got his trademark vocal ability with “In Dead We Dream”, a classic roaring Maylene opening track (though not as chaotic as some of the no-traditional-song-structure tunes on their debut). They go head on into pure Southern rock in anthems such as the catchy “Faith Healer” and “Killing Me Slow.” Objectively, nothing is really wrong with what is heard – it is actually quite enjoyable. Having heard their previous records, I get the sense that Dallas Taylor is holding back in his vocals but I have to remind myself this is not really the case, given that they purposefully choose to explore more melody. In other words, the record remains intense, but in a different way.
This different intensity manifests itself in the short, sweet tracks “Never Enough”, “Fate Games” and “Cat’s Walk”. The first treads dangerously close to the dreaded butt-rock genre shunned by music snobs that love to hate Nickelback and their contemporaries. Things take a folksy turn with “Taking On Water.” Here it seems like they are trying a bit too hard to make that style work, but its still a fun track. Taylor really shows off his range here, but I have to question whether this consistently exists – haven’t seen evidence of this live but if it does, kudos to the band for taking a big risk!
The record ends with an acoustic track and an eerie interlude apiece. This is not the first time they have done this (see “Oh Lonely Grave” and the instrumental “The End Is Here…The End is Beautiful” off III). The latter track comes across as somewhat pointless and I don’t feel particularly inclined to listen to it again anytime soon, but then again I tend to feel this way with most spoken-word tracks.
IV is solid record that is an essential part of the Maylene discography. Its vibe may leave fans scratching their heads, but I think years from now when people reflect on the bands career this record will make more sense. As with any experiment, there are hiccups and IV is no exception. The hiccups that do exist objectively do not matter a whole lot – enjoy the record for what it is, and think about what the band was really trying to do (hint: I don’t think it was selling out).