November 12, 2018 Memphis May Fire – Broken (Album Review)
The darkest parts of ourselves find its way out one way or another. From that point, the two choices are to hide in the shadows and sulk away, or stare those parts right in the face, and overcome adversity. For Dallas, Texas Metal band Memphis May Fire, challenges have not been a strangers throughout the years – facing constant lineup changes and critic battles. Always moving forward, Memphis May Fire are set to return on Friday, November 16th with their new album, Broken. Due out through Rise Records, and about a year in the making, Memphis May Fire lay it all on the line with this emotionally driven and mentally forward release… so strap in and prepare yourself.
Despite a rocky background, bandmates Kellen McGregor (guitar), Matty Mullins (vocals), Cory Elder (bass), and Jake Garland (drums) have found a near steady foundation since 2013. Together, they have broken records including attaining the biggest-selling debut (at the time) with Rise Records for the release of 2012’s Challenger, and also charting Billboard 200 with 2016’s This Light I Hold and Unconditional. Although, it is arguable that the band has forever changed from their earlier days with a number of fans not being accustom to the newer, softer sound of Memphis May Fire, there is no shock listeners will either love or hate Broken.
What used to be more storytelling, vocal lyrics are now more reflective to diary-like thoughts – choppy and vague enough that nearly anyone can transform them to fit his/her life and relate. The album reflects on shattered pieces of a soul, scattered across the floor and striving to find the courage to pick them up and stand up tall after the fact. Consisting of 10 songs, Broken presents the evolution of Memphis May Fire, shifting from the Metal scene to a more Hard Rock realm. Additionally, traditional screaming and chaotic riffs found in 2009’s Sleepwalking are refrained from and rare compared to the more radio-friendly sound that has been molded from This Light I Hold.
The inner battles and struggles are introduced in opening track “The Old Me,” which is the first track fans got a peek at for the album. Off to an energetic start, sharp cymbals create a catchy beat while the guitars grow heavier with each passing second. A journey of self-awareness and soul-searching begins as Mullins sings about recognizing anxiety-driven facts such as “all my days turn into fight or flight.” The shortest track on the record, “Over It,” also displays the war and turmoil inside. The high energy track takes a turn for the better, gripping onto strength and ready to put up a fight. It is an admittance to having enough, as there is only so much one can take before they are ‘broken.’
Moving on, the fists clench tight and hold on for aggressive power anthem “Watch Out,” creating visuals of the tables turning and taking control of mental illness. “Never backing down; our time is now,” Mullins sings during the high energy track. The punches of the riffs and rattles of the drums get the blood pumping, marking the track one to anticipate for live shows. The fist of defiance stays risen with “Sell My Soul” as the band proves to stay true to their roots in this bluesy Rock tune. Gentle guitar licks, distorted textures and dimmed vocals keep this Pop Evil-feeling track sassy and honest toward the music industry, serving as an extension to 2012’s “Prove Me Right.” Then, the edgy “Mark My Words” keeps the fight strong and spirits up without being overly preachy.
A bold but questionable move for Memphis May Fire is well hidden within “Heavy Is The Weight.” There is a Linkin Park influence that can be appreciated as thick rhythm guitar contrasts the mystical synths, creating a light atmosphere with condensed tension. A simple statement of feeling the weight of the world and pressures of “being” matches the Hard Rock ballad. The surprise comes from a rapping segment in the bridge, and yes, that says rapping. It is unexpected to say the least, and definitely will take a few listens to adapt to, but this reviewer applauds Memphis May Fire for taking such a leap of faith and stepping out of their comfort zone.
On the reverse, “You and Me” turned out to be the most pleasant surprise. The beautifully constructed and longest piece on the record is guaranteed to be a favorite off the record. Holding as one of the most diverse tracks from Memphis May Fire, Mullins sings about letting go of the guilt of heartbreak and having to say goodbye. The song takes on an Industrial sound before striking guitar matches the mellow tempo and delicate strings weaved between the layers.
It has been said in the past that Memphis May Fire has preached to a point of overexertion lyrically, as noted in the 2016 number “Carry On,” however, this is not the case with Broken. Sure, there may be some positive reinforcements that uplift the listener, but comparatively, the tracks are on the same level of 2012’s “Legacy.” Grasping a more electronic sound, final piece “Live Another Day” dances full of spirit as the reassurance settles in that there is purpose for all of us.
While some more cynical listeners may consider the record a ‘sell out,’ there is no denying the personal and musical growths derived from this album for Memphis May Fire. The production of Broken is impeccable, carrying such a full and compact sound despite the “softer” tones. The messages and sounds stay consistent throughout the record, morphing a hollow shell into something listeners can relate and hopefully knock out any self doubts to. Memphis May Fire shows fans it is okay to feel lost and broken, and drive the power of resilience. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Broken 4 out of 5 stars.