In 2015, The Murder of My Sweet released a terrible concept album called ‘Beth Out of Hell‘ which their record company likened to ELO and Queen. A brave but foolish claim: in reality, the album sounded a fourth rate Nightwish and it’s hard to imagine even the most staunch Euro metal fan would’ve enjoyed such a charmless, generic set of songs. Its follow up, 2017’s ‘Echoes of The Aftermath‘, was much better in that it actually gave a concession to some more melodic material, but even so, it still wasn’t the kind of record that would set the world alight. None of the band’s shortcomings lay with singer Angelica Rylin. She has a great voice, and as demonstrated on her solo album from 2013, she’s capable of using it far better than The Murder of My Sweet’s general bombast ever seemed to allow.

A lot can change in a short time, it seems. Two years later still, the band’s fifth album ‘Brave Tin World’ takes an even greater leap into a world of melody. A welcome move indeed, with neither band or record company clinging onto a false hope of reeling in Queen fans (those early comparisons were an absolute joke), The Murder of My Sweet finally sound ready to take on a couple of the bigger symphonic metal bands at their own game.

Things start very well with the six and a half minute ‘Tin Soldiers’, which kicks off with bell like keyboards setting up a fantasy-like world over which Rylin curls her voice beautifully. Even once the heavier elements take hold, her vocal continues to sound brilliant. Riff wise, there are plenty of moments throughout that draw close parallels with Delain, particularly the heavy chug, but there are also various traits which come closer to the musicians’ AOR background. With an impeccably played guitar solo along the way, this really does strike the best balance between bombast and pleasing melodies. The only weak link is the keyboard work: huge stabs of sound approximating a synthesised orchestra cheapen the whole production and a fairly tuneless solo almost sounds like Daniel Flores has opted for poking at random notes. Moving further away from symphonic metal and towards a melodic hard rock with occasional proggy overtones, ‘My Religion’ is a superb rocker that showcases Christopher Vetter’s guitar tones throughout, but in the main, is a fantastic vehicle for Angelica whom sounds really at ease delivering a performance somewhere between Evanessence’s Amy Lee and Frontiers Records’ very own Issa Oversveen. Things threaten to be derailed at the mid point by a couple of unnatural stops and the return of some aggressive keys, but a solid guitar solo and a final airing of a great chorus sets everything straight. Regardless of the rest of the album, ‘Brave Tin World’ is worth checking out just for this track.

‘Head of The Snake’ seems to tackle the subject of corporations and their environmental impact, which sort of suits its hefty musical backdrop. Christopher wheels out one of the records heavier riffs while Angelica manages to deliver a fairly convincing hook from an unlikely lyric. With that, obviously, this number occasionally wanders into the shameless bombast of old. This is especially the case once a Dream Theater-esque keyboard sound rears up and a bad guitar solo take centre stage. It’s all very well showing how technical you can be, but if that comes at the expense of a tune, what’s the point? Thankfully, on either side of that wig-out, Rylin is a joy to listen to. Her gift for making her big voice truly cry throughout is the track’s greatest strength and while the lyrical concerns aren’t always clear, her performance is stellar.

After a very commendable opening trio, ‘Reason To Live’ descends into generic prog metal with mild symphonic overtones and while it’s well played, it’s insistence on crunch over melody makes it one of the album’s most forgettable tracks. When four and a half minutes feels like seven, you know something has gone awry. Likewise, ‘Safe In The Shadows’ isn’t quite up to snuff, thanks to an intro and a few other moments that veer too close to Celine Dion territory and the world of musical theatre. On the plus side, the clean toned guitars evoke a few AOR ballads of old and a harmonious chorus is likable – it’s just a shame it couldn’t have been used on a better song. ‘Everyone Wins’ changes the mood again as the band embarks on something that sounds like a Murder of My Sweet entry for Eurovision. Big on tribal drums, the verses don’t always seem that promising, but the chorus is a Europop gem as a world of sugary pop bursts through the riffs. With such a massive hook, it’ll reel in a lot of melodic rock fans and if you hated The Murder of My Sweet before, this is definitely good enough to change your mind.

Elsewhere, ‘Hit The Ground’ takes a classic sounding AOR riff from the 80s and cranks it up to prog metal heaviness. It shouldn’t necessarily work as well as it does but it’s to the band’s credit that this contrast is used well. While there’s still a tiny tendency to drop in the odd time signature quirk and a section that occasionally hints at a Billy Sherwood production seems a touch misplaced, it mostly results in some fine melodic metal. With Rylin offering one of her very best performances this time out, this has all the makings of an album highlight, even with the flaws. Another real highlight, ‘Keeper of the Flame’ provides some musical invention as TmoMS somehow manage to blend a strong AOR chorus with a few off-kilter metal riffs and an almost Latin sense of rhythm. The fact that they’ve made it all work shows either a sense of guts or absolute belligerence – and based on some of their previous works, it’s possibly the latter. When the track starts, its vaguely Latin riff hints at Miami Sound Machine and DeBarge – most unexpected – and even once the massive riffs kick in, the way that groove is used to keep everything moving really makes the track. As with a couple of other numbers, the insistence on wedging in a couple of busy solos in rather uncomfortably provides a weak link, but as always, Angelica’s voice is great.

In many ways, you have to admire The Murder of My Sweet. They’ve gained mixed responses over the years but have trucked on, always making music on their own terms. This fifth album might just have a few of their more committed fans screaming about it being too commercial in places, but for everyone else, its bigger focus on actual songs will be a huge step in the right direction. After a couple of iffy records, ‘Brave Tin World’ comes as more than a pleasant surprise…

November/December 2019