Maylene & the Sons of Disaster sound like someone upgraded .38 Special to a howitzer. Since frontman Dallas Taylor left Underoath eight years ago, the Alabama band has released four albums blending fathoms-deep metal throb and greasy Southern boogie, an approach that lands them somewhere between Nashville Pussy and Clutch.
The quintet's name is a reference to Maylene "Ma" Barker, whose brood of notorious gangsters were apprehended and killed near Ocala, Fla., where Taylor grew up. Each year the town stages re-enactments of the shootout. A religious woman, Barker profited from and prayed for her sons, even as they preyed on others.
Underoath and Maylene are also religious, although Taylor is quick to take exception to the self-righteousness of his peers. He has more respect for artists like David Bazan who are honest about the doubt and struggle of their faith than the kind of bands they shared an all-Christian bill with last year. (He won't do that again.)
"It's almost like people who are tired of being normal humans, and feel they're super-human, better than anybody," he says, without naming names. "That was the first tour I'd ever been on that made me question what I was about."
Maylene & the Sons of Disaster are out on the road supporting their fall release, IV, which is the follow-up to 2009's III, an album that bit deep into Southern-fried rock. Its successor is a lot heavier at times, cultivating a classic metal bite amidst chunky, bottom-end rumble.
"We never know what's going to come out when we go in the studio," says Taylor. "I think with that third record, there was a lot of Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker Band and Allman Brothers on at the time."
While the new album revisits their metal influences, it's also their most accessible. That's due to Taylor adopting a cleaner vocal style, trading the screaming shrieks of prior releases for singing. He credits producer Brian Virtue with playing a role in that, though he adds, "It wasn't really thought about."
Instead, Taylor was thinking about his wife's departure, news of which came by phone in the middle of the III tour. Unable to focus, he returned home, as Schuylar Croom (of He Is Legend fame) took over for the rest of that tour and the one that followed.
"It was one of those things where everything seemed like it was going just fine, and then BOOM," he says. "I was not right. I was not very stable, and I didn't want this dark cloud of depression spreading over everyone else."
Taylor channeled his angst into IV tracks like "Killing Me Slow," the searing "Never Enough," and "Faith Healer (Bring Me Down)" a catchy modern rock track that recalls the Foo Fighters.
Touring has also proven to be therapeutic.
"I always call it making friends not fans, because it's just about connecting to people," says Taylor. "That's why I love to do this. It's just meeting new people sharing some stories, or great conversation, things I would never get at home."