Album Review: Mayday Parade – Black Lines

Over the course of the last ten years, Mayday Parade have built up a large following which they’ve garnered through touring relentlessly and doing everything in their power to get people listening. Whether it be sell CDs in the parking lot of a Vans Warped Tour stop, or travelling nationwide in a beaten-up van, Mayday Parade were always one band one a mission. The Tallahassee, FL quintet now have plenty of miles to their name, having released the hotly anticipated new album Black Lines this week. Read on for our verdict.

The record opens on One of Them Will Destroy the Other, which is a world away from the previously commonplace pop-punk undertones Mayday Parade employed. “It’s gonna come around any one of these days” sings frontman Derek Sanders on a track which is explosive from the word go. It may well be one of the best alternative rock songs of the year, sounding equal parts traditional Parade as it does fresh and exuberant. There’s an effects-laden solo towards the end which bears resemblance to the most emotional musical passages on a Muse album circa 2004, whereas the chorus is just pure anthemia from the word go. Real Friends’ vocalist Dan Lambton also features throughout, his higher-pitched vocals adding an extra sense of urgency to proceedings. As album openers go, One of Them Will  Destroy the Other is spellbinding. Just Out of Reach goes back to Mayday Parade’s earlier pop-punk days, with Sanders’ vocals sounding quintessential to the genre. An opening lyric of “I’m fine” sets the scene for the rest of the song, with chugging guitars appearing throughout alongside gang vocals light-hearted emotion. It’s an extremely well-constructed track, combining various different instrumental undertones to accompany Sanders’ ultimately leading vocal line. “You’re just out of reach” he sings, before the song speeds up courtesy of Jeremy Lenzo’s pulsating bass and the caterwauling guitars of Brooks Betts and Alex Garcia. It’s here that the song truly builds up and becomes anthemic, leading into Hollow’s fuzzy guitar intro. Sanders sings of a “cold blooded killer” during the first verse as Lenzo’s dark bassline is accompanied by high pitched guitar screeches and Jake Bundrick’s drums. Haunting interspersed riffs add to the demure tone of the song, one which builds up and breaks itself down throughout its course. The fuzz-heavy mid-section underpins wailing guitars and huge vocals, sounding almost as if they were made for stadiums and arenas. Letting Go is the first acoustic track on the album, utilizing by-numbers chords and slightly cliché-d lyrics which are synonymous with the genre Mayday Parade operate in. That this band laid the foundations for many more to follow (see: Real Friends) is very evident, especially if you consider this band’s longevity and ability to change up their sound without an issue. Letting Go is a slow-burner, with a solo to die for appearing just after midway. You don’t get it very often that a band like Mayday Parade releases an album which is already near-flawless after four songs. Still, it happens.

Let’s Be Honest kicks off with reverb and feedback, both of which are obliterated by a massive, dark riff and forceful bassline. The verses are faster, with chugging fuzz underpinning Sanders urgent vocals. “I made my bed, but I don’t belong here” he sings, proving that even in 2015 you can write memorable lyrics. The chorus heads more down the poppier side of Mayday Parade’s abilities, sounding ready for everyone to jump up and down to frantically. “Best friends stick together like best friends always do” declares the floppy-haired frontman later on, once again proving the point made earlier about writing fantastic songs. Recent single Keep in Mind, Transmogrification is a New Technology namechecks The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, opening on finger-picked melodies which eventually morph (or transmogrify, you decide) into a fast-paced verse. This one is a quintessential pop punk banger of Mayday Parade’s old calibre, yet you can sense that a new bout of energy and prowess has been injected this time round. “Seems to me like everyone around here is just waiting” claims Sanders, his vocals sounding as to-the-point and urgent as ever before. He tells us that he’s “selfish”, and that he’s the “blister on the side of your wall in the back of your room”. He’s also the “envy of what you’re afraid to write”, although here it seems as though Lambton hasn’t been afraid to write whatever he wants. Narrow slows the pace down a bit once again, making more use of finger-picked melodies yet again as Lambton reflects on the past. It takes about 2 minutes for the track to kick into full force, but when it does it sounds absolutely magnificent. The last two minutes, however sparse they were, have built up to this emotional moment. It makes way for Underneath the Tide, which uses grunge-y riffs and slow-burning verses to eventually lead into an emotional chorus. It’s one of the weaker songs on the record, although the bar has still been set pretty high on the whole based on Black Lines’ opening four songs.

Keeping in line with the grungier elements, All On Me starts on doomy, Nirvana-esque riffs and Sanders lonesome vocals. “I’ve got a feeling you’re the reason that I let you down, down, down” he declares, before the rest of the band joins proceedings. The bass is quite prominent here alongside Bundrick’s drums, with the guitars occasionally doing their own thing in the background. The chorus takes a turn for the massive, intertwining with more subdued verses. Until You’re Big Enough sounds emotional from the word go, presenting itself as the third downtrodden track on the album. It’s emotional for the most part, with the whole band coming together as one universally powerful whole during the powerful build-up. “You speak like a man who believes he’s got no destiny” declared Sanders, before the track comes to a crashing climax. Penultimate track Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing is one of the most musically intriguing songs on Black Lines, as it makes use of an effects-laden synthesizer. Sanders vocals have also been altered to give the song a whole feeling of hollowness, whilst still sounding quite grand. Space-y guitars and twinkling sound effects take to the foreground during the track, before the final minute of the song consists almost entirely of near-hypnotic instrumental passages. Alex Garcia’s lead guitar takes a screeching lead here, adding an extra layer to the reverberating combinations. Black Lines comes to a positive close on One of Us, which quickly shifts from major acoustic chords to extremely upbeat pop-punk. After a few more demure songs, One of Us instils plenty of hope and positivity into the album for one last hurrah. “Here’s exactly what you’ll need to make it through” sing Sanders and bassist Lenzo before Garcia’s sprawling guitar solo takes the lead. “You’ve got to fight the beast inside” continues Sanders as all he does consists of injecting positivity into the listener’s mind. The record ultimately comes to a close on a high note, which is exactly something that we need in the dark times that are 2015. On Black Lines, Mayday Parade have proven that they are so much more than what everyone thought they were initially. From the powerful alt rock of One of Them Will Destroy the Other, to One of Us’ emotive close, it’s pretty much conclusive that Black Lines is one of 2015’s best rock albums.


Black Lines is out now. Listen to One of Them Will Destroy the Other below.