M.A.I.M. - The Frozen Pass (2011)



Hailing from Belluno, Italy,  Celtic folk six piece M.A.I.M. are wandering a slippery slope. they have taken all of the dance-inducing melodies of new wave folk metal, and slammed them face first into the punk scene, causing some sort of musical fender bender. And while those two styles may not seem entirely different, there are subtleties to each that must be addressed and appeased. On "The Frozen Pass," this group of newcomers better watch their step, or risk sliding down the icy path.

With an intro like "...And The Journey Begins," you are left with a feeling that this will be an epic and grandiose offering. Some lightly played synthesizers and pianos are all that greet you, but they are performed with a touch of grace and power. Unfortunately, the sparkling clarity of this intro does not carry over into the rest of the album. Immediately upon entering "Dark Wings Over Me," you notice a distinct problem in the mix. There is a uneven nature to the sound, with rhythm guitars barely making a splash. It sounds more like a drum and bass track with vocals over it at the onset. And while the lead guitars do emerge later, they rarely make a true impact on the music, sans for the wailing solo section. However, the fiddle and gang vocals do exactly as intending, maybe even bringing you to your feet for a quick jig.

That same condition unfortunately befalls the following track, the uptempo "Four Kings." If ever there was a home for the punk sound in the metal world, Celtic folk would certainly be the place. The band take on all of the characteristics of a strong folk metal band, while somehow channeling the energy of the Dropkick Murphys. The fiddle is the lead, driving you every inch of the way. Once again, the gang attack on the vocal chorus is refreshing, as simple as it may be. This is the strongest track on the album, offering some of the more glowing musicianship in the later half of the song. With a burst, "Beyond The Horizon" finally gives a little kick to the sound quality, seeing a noticeable jump in the levels. That punk sound is still present, perhaps even taking the lead. The vocals bring to mind the latest, and only, album by the band Hell, coming through with a shrieking tone that will easily command your attention. But oddly enough, despite the improvement in sound, this track sees the least effective guitar work, with the solo portion falling flat.

The fiddle melody that opens "Under The Winter Sun" gets things moving in the right direction, but as the band fall further into the punk realm, and farther from the metal riffs that kept the early moments alive, things seem to lose steam. There is a lack of punch, a lack of the "in your face" kind of melodies that the folk genre is so famous for. Each separate section feels like it was conceived out of necessity, rather than cohesion. Combine the lack of emotional investment with some of the sloppier instrumentals on the album, and you may come to a grinding halt. And, unfortunately for the band and the listener, "Glory Bound" is anything but. While it may finally have the right idea, the delivery just falls short of the intentions. And while the mix is once again askew, it can't be blame for the problems the finale exhibits.

M.A.I.M. seem to be in the midst of an identity crisis. To be punk, or to be metal; that is the question. And while there is certainly room for both to coexist, they must do so while sharing a common need for power and precision. The punk outbursts are energetic, but lack the balls to get your head moving. The metal portions, as sparse as they may be, lack the attention to detail to turn a meandering riff into a true song. Whether they chose to go one route or the other, it appears they slipped and broke a hip on "The Frozen Pass."

5/10

Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/maimbelluno