You stick one foot out the drivers side door of your rusty orange Camaro. You saunter through the soft soil of a Louisiana swamp, up the creaky steps of the Hog House and walk through the swinging door. As you slowly step into the smoke-filled room, silence overtakes the room. Men playing billards stop to look up at you, talking quickly decreases to a murmur, and all eyes are on you. You spot a heavy set man with a handlebar mustache sitting at the bar. You walk over with a crew of 4, boots creaking as the man spins off his stool with his 4 men right behind him. You meet face to face, silence still overtaking the room aside from one of his men spitting tobacco right near your shoe. Slowly you smash a mug of beer on your enemies head, and the wide-eyed man in plaid next to the jukebox gives it a kick right before the bar turns into a chaotic bar fight...into hell.
What comes out of the jukebox in this scene is Maylene and the Sons of Disaster's new album "II". The situation I illustrated before is exactly the place this album takes you. Using equal parts metal, southern rock, and folk, "II" keeps it's foot on the pedal from the opening driving kick drum of "Memories of the Grove" until the last echoing note of the instrumental closer "The Day Hell Broke Loose at Sicard Hollow". Each song grabs you by your shirt collar and doesn't let you go with, as an Alternative Press staff member noted in his review of "II", "shit-kicking choruses" and Lynryd Sknyard meets Every Time I Day-esque breakdowns that hit you in the face harder than a right hook from Big Earl.
The instrumentation and overall musicianship on this album is the stand-out facet of this album. Scott Collum, Josh Cornutt, and Josh Williams perfectly execute the triple-guitar attack, trading off blazing leads ("Darkest of Kin"), skillful solos ("Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong"), technical break-downs (Memories of the Grove) , and even a slower feel ("Tale of the Runaways"). Bassist Roman Havaland keeps a steady groove throughout each track and drummer Lee Turner holds the beat together with thundering percussion and a steady use of his bass drum. All together, these guys create the distinctly southern sound that serves as the foundation, even heart-and-soul of the project.
The piece that really sends "II" over the top is Maylene's front man and ex-vocalist of now metalcore giants Underoath, Dallas Taylor. It was Taylor's decision to create this "concept band" off the story of Ma Barker, a Southern rebel who with the help of her four sons ran through 1930s America wreaking havoc, committing crimes, and eventually being killed in a shootout with the FBI in 1935 (for more info see this page) Taylor decided that he and his bandmates would take on the role of her sons (hence Sons of Disaster).
Lyrically, this album is no standout. However with lines such as Stand up/fist out/wouldn't have it any other way ("Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong), Taylor carries on the word of Ma Barker, to stand strong against adversary, for divine justice will prevail. Taylor even jumps into story-telling mode, narrating bits of Ma Barker's tale in the de-facto closer "Tale of the Runaways".
Vocally, Taylor also shines, but in a very unorthodox way. Taylor's voice, by no means, is technically praiseworthy. Simon Cowell, in no way, would fawn over Taylor for his pitch, tone, and overall note carrying skills. However, Taylor's sound perfectly complements all that "II" stands for. With a voice that sounds as if his throat has been soaking in tobacco juice, scotch, and anguish, Taylor punctuates every track with a yell/scream topped off with a distinct southern drawl.
Although I love this album, it does have its faults. The only glaring one appears to be that many of the songs blend together. Though I don't mind this fact because I love the sound, it remains true that you sometimes cannot remember which track is which because the same formula seems to be used in the middle parts of the album. Similar time signatures, tempos, and even riffs make you double-take if you have already heard the song earlier in the album. Another small problem is in track placement. The high-energy momentum of the album is somewhat severed in the last few tracks of "II". Though one of my personal favorites, "Tale of the Runaways" shows an extremely quick shift to a slower tempo that catchs the listener off-guard. Likewise, the instrumental closer "The Day Hell Broke Loose at Sicard Hollow" leaves something to be desired, for the tempo remains slow and the track fades out without notable vocals, lyrics, or even instrumentation. I do not believe these tracks should be cut, just moved around so that they would fit better into the album as a whole.
The highlight for me, though, is the track "Raised By The Tide". This song captures all that is Maylene and The Sons of Disaster. A chilling opening riff thrusts you right into the song and Taylor's yell grabs you by the heart. Lyrics such as: I've traveled this country/far and wide/ but I'll always be a son of the South, once more encapsulates the overall mood pouring from "II". If you are aching for a song to drive to, kick open a door to, or even just to rock out to...you've found it here.
In conclusion, this release has become one of my favorites so far this summer. The distincty southern feel mixed with all that makes metal awesome brings this album into a class of its own. When speeding (no condoning coming from me through this..cough..cough) through the backroads of your town, no album fits the bill better than "II".
I present to you, Maylene and The Sons of Disaster's "II", the soundtrack to your next barfight.
I love this CD. "Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong" is my favorite track...the lead guitars in that song rock. They may just be copying the solos of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they still rock. I liked this album a lot more than the first.