April 18, 2014 Memphis May Fire – Unconditional (Album Review)
Memphis May Fire are one of the biggest bands in the metalcore scene right now, making their latest record Unconditional highly anticipated by their immense following. The Rise Records band has been rocking crowds and polishing their style since 2004, making this fourth record essential to their career. The album features the return of producer Cameron Mizell, and upon it’s release on March 25th, it debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Billboard Alternative Albums chart.
Listeners can immediately tell that Memphis May Fire decided to stay true to themselves when producing this record. Although their loyalty to their sound can be commended, Unconditional lacks what is making metalcore bands stand out these days; unique instrumentals. The similar cycle of fast and heavy guitar riffs into strong breakdowns gets old without a hook. Fortunately, certain moments on this record distract from the generality of the instrumentals with their emphasis on captivating vocals by Matty Mullins. While the band successfully delivers the opening track “No Ordinary Love” with exiting melodies, a track like “Not Enough” does not seem to hold the came vocal captivation. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives in this aspect. “Possibilities” and “Pharisees” exhibit a wide range of melodies in their refrains, giving them the liberating power expressed in the lyrics.
Lyrics are the clear concentration of Unconditional. The constant theme in the songs is about moving past the harsh obstacles in life to offer support for their audience. “Divinity” is an anthem of hope on the record, shouting words like, “You are a miracle story”, to reach troubled listeners. “Beneath The Skin” is another track that is heavily influenced by fans. It tells the story of a girl struggling with self-harm and depression, hitting close to home for some of their fans. This message that Memphis May Fire conveys in Unconditional has been done before in this genre, but does not cease the impact it has on listeners.
Memphis May Fire also offers a few tracks that deliver that necessary instrumental power. “Divinity” stands out for its haunting background features and rhythmic vocals that flow throughout the track. This sound is distinct from the pattern of fast paced breakdowns and strong riffs that encompass this record. “Sleepless Nights” follows this original tempo, but is chopped up with staccato riffs and a smooth chorus rhythm that collide attractively and notably. This smooth style is paired with vocals hooks to capture attention on Unconditional. Tracks like these make this album worth listening to.
The lack of musical change in Memphis May Fire’s Unconditional has its pros and cons. The band makes it known that they have surely polished and mastered their presence in the music scene. While some tracks thrive off of classic melodic refrains, others lack in depth of instrumental distinction, making the sound of the album predictable at times. To some, they may lack any major excitement in Unconditional for this expected and familiar style, but they create new favorite songs for their fans, while providing their love and support through each track. CrypticRock gives Unconditional 3.5 out of 5 stars.