Me In A Million - Still In The Balance
Record Label: Redfield Records
Release Date: March 28, 2014
Back in the days when Purevolume was relevant to up and coming acts, I stumbled upon German post hardcore band A Diary Entry, whose aggressive songwriting stood out to me. What was most notable was their use of two equally important vocalists; clean vocalist Julian Coles and screamer Luke Conrad seemed to effortlessly intertwine between each other’s moments in the songs. Instead of relying on cut and paste verses for each vocalist to enact, A Diary Entry allowed them to fluidly finish each other’s thoughts, back and forth, as if one could not exist without the other. Their music often featured cinematic strings and piano backdrops to the alternate chugging and powerchord guitar work. Their EP, Rainbow Washout, was released in April of 2011, but after that the band seemed to die down; they had changed a few members and reformed the band as Me In A Million, still featuring Coles and Conrad as dual vocalists.
On March 28th, 2014, Me In A Million released their debut album Still In The Balance on Redfield Records internationally. Still In The Balance is, at first glance, a post hardcore record that follows many of the same patterns of previous bands – the defining distinction of the album is the way that Me In A Million do it right. They don’t rely on cheesy synthesizers, awkward breakdowns, and vaguely relatable lyrics; instead, they focus on a pummeling, uptempo approach to metalcore with honest, reflective lyrics and vocal ingenuity.
Album opener, "The Rest Is Silence," begins with atmospheric programming and gentle bells, as Julian Coles’ voice fades into the mix, “I’m begging to be heard, but you never listen...” just as Luke Conrad seamlessly brings his dominant screams amongst the first onslaught of chugging, “Endless falling on deaf ears, day after day,” and the song already begins to become a standout track for its relentlessly aggressive verses. Coles and Conrad seamlessly intertwine, taking the spotlight in varying degrees as the music effortlessly drifts between downtuned breakdowns and melodic breaks. Coles takes the chorus, “The unheard words I said are still locked inside my head,” placed against a backdrop of distorted guitars and pumping blast beats. Conrad’s anguished screams become more apparent as the song closes at a slowed breakdown, “All I get is ignorance. Do I really deserve this? Or is it just a bad thing nowadays to seek happiness..” and the dark instrumentation suddenly seems to augment his presence in the song.
Track two, "PaniK," is possibly the best song on the record. It begins with a single guitar’s aggressive string bending, leading to a stuttered, detuned verse followed by a strangely upbeat breakdown along Conrad’s powerful screams, “Though you might despise me, I am the one who shoulders the blame,” only to briefly pause and begin an emotional chorus with dramatic lead guitars as Julian Coles croons “For countless times we’ve tried,” and the band’s talent for melody is once again shown. Conrad’s dominance in the song returns as another breakdown takes the stage. He brutally declares, “This is what we get for being naïve, all the effort we spent is gone with the wind,” and the band rolls into another more lively, bouncy breakdown. "PaniK"’s aggression and assertiveness are similar to the first track, but more melody is shown in the guitar work.
Track three, "Get Real of Die Tryin’," is more pop-flavored as Coles’ opens the song with clean singing; it is one of the weaker tracks on the album. The fourth track, "Wide Awake," is surprisingly aggressive compared to the previous song; Conrad begins, “Wake me up right now. Tell me it’s not a dream,” while dirty guitars and snare heavy drumming pumps the song forward. "Wide Awake" features a lyrical progression and catharsis like "PaniK," as Conrad accepts reality, “Realize it’s the truth and you’re wide awake. Face the fact, it’s the next take you must take,” and the song peters out only to be replaced with an electronic interlude featuring Julian Coles at the spotlight.
The fifth song, "The Warning," was the band’s first single. The song begins with Coles’ clean vocals and a quirky synthesizer effect that leads into a staggering metalcore verse with Conrad’s layered screams taking the stage, “Instead of hindering me, by mistake you make me rise,” and the song continues to develop into a clean chorus with Coles at the spotlight. "The Warning" features strings, melodic guitar work, and an interestingly bare-bones section of the song where the music fades, and gentle bells accompany Coles’ heartbreaking monologue, “Though I should be the only one who knows, I may not be the one to know what’s right for me.. Seems like I am the only one who cares, even if it’s not the two of us against the world,” and the song erupts into a dramatic, blood-pumping chorus. "The Warning" is one of the better songs on the record due to Coles’ monologue and the band’s dramatic instrumentation.
The sixth track, "These Mountains," begins powerfully as Conrad psychotically gnashes his teeth at those who have looked down on him, “It doesn’t matter who tells you that you are not meant to be where you are, because they are just cowards who don’t understand what your purpose is.” His dominant style of screaming takes the cake on this song, and Coles’ clean choruses are as always, flawlessly on key and emotive.
The seventh song is called "Atlas," beginning with quirky programming and a distorted metal verse accompanied by Conrad’s confession, “This is stretching me out to the limit, I am at risk to break,” followed by the band’s usual formula of metal and melody. The song itself is traditional to the band’s style, and while the formula may be similar to other bands in the scene, the vocals really do make it much more interesting to listen to. Soundscape synth pads place a backdrop during the heaviest moments on "Atlas," and Conrad challenges the listener, “It’s your move now, show what you’re made of,” ending the song on a heavy note. Track eight, "The Life of Others," is more anthemic in tone, with a slower tempo and grander feel to it. The guitars are distorted, but the major key chords and choir backdrop add a sense of divinity to the sound. The song ends abruptly, and the ninth song, "Disappear" rolls in. "Disappear" is a dance track with synths and programmed claps fluttering about the speakers as Julian Coles and Luke Conrad both sing. The song is musically very laid back and electronic.
The last song, "Brave It Out," is a reworked version of the song from the band’s A Diary Entry days, and is possibly the best song on the record, closely tied with "PaniK." "Brave It Out" begins with Luke Conrad’s edited, gnarly screams, “One hundred percent are now badly needed, to give your right arm is the name of the game,” adding a masculine, dirty approach to the song. The song’s strong points feature the melody of Julian Coles’ singing, and the intricate lead guitar work in the chorus of the song. "Brave It Out" is one of the more satisfying songs on the records, as others felt somewhat short or underdeveloped. "Brave It Out" is the last song on the record, ending the album on Coles’ powerful vocal outro, pleading with the listener, “Don’t leave it to chance,” as he fades out.
Still In The Balance is dirty and clean, introspective and aggressive. The album is a strong debut for Me In A Million, largely due to Luke Conrad’s absurdly powerful low-end screams and Julian Coles’ high, clear voice. The music on the album does fall flat occasionally, and improvement could be made with more instrumental intricacy, but overall the sound here is distinct and unique to Me In A Million even in the current homogenized metalcore scene. My only qualm with the album would be the use of too many guest vocalists; knowing how talented both Me In A Million vocalists are, the guest vocals seem slightly unnecessary.