Review Summary: The band make some adjustments to their alt. metal sound - some work and some don't.
Opening track, "Beautiful Bride", is a terrible song to open Memento Mori
with. The riffs are boring, the vocals are lackluster, the hook is weak, and the group-singing near the end is awful. If that song was representative of the quality found on this album the band would have been in trouble. After a complete listen, though, it turns out that it is easily the worst track on the album and probably should have been completely omitted. Where that song’s riffs feel dull and lifeless, the rest of the album’s are chunky and energetic. Where Lacey’s vocals fall short on the opener, they excel everywhere else – and most importantly while “Beautiful Bride” is instantly forgettable, the rest of the album is full of strong hooks and entertaining songwriting. This is largely achieved by the band being content to simply make minor adjustments to the formula that worked so well on their debut. The unfortunate thing is that not all of these adjustments work, resulting in an album that is basically one step forward but two steps back.
The most noticeable modification is found in the removal of a majority of the aggressive moments in favor of a poppier undercurrent. This change actually works reasonably well as it enhances the strongest element of the band’s sound – the choruses. This means that while listeners aren’t going to find an equivalent to “I’m So Sick”, they are going to get a collection of memorable alt. metal songs that don’t sound as forced. Songs such as “Missing” even go so far as to almost take a page from Paramore
in its upbeat, chorus-driven direction. When the band focuses on Lacey’s vocals and the power of their hooks it often leads to some of the strongest songs of the album – it’s when they go back to the grittier alt. metal of their debut that they begin to waver.
It’s obvious that some effort was made to develop the riffs and melodies beyond the simple forms they contained on the debut, but it doesn’t always seem to work. First and foremost, they aren’t nearly as instant as they were on the debut which often lessens the impact these heavier songs may have had. The lack of instant riffs wouldn’t be horrible if they simply required a bit more time and attention to click, but that’s not the problem. The issue is that they sometimes just sound awkward and disjointed. When this is combined with melodies that don’t gel with the rest of the music (see “This Close”), it results in songs that seem to falter and languish. That’s not to say that all of the riffs are bad, because quite a few of them work quite well, only that when they don’t it can get pretty bad.
It seems that Flyleaf made their best attempt at avoiding the sophomore slump, but that they didn’t quite succeed. The band’s removal of a large majority of the pseudo-aggressive moments was probably for the best and their embrace of a poppier angle really took quite a few of these songs to another level, but other adjustments weren’t quite so positive. There are just a few riffs and grating melodies that spoil what could have been an album that was at least as strong as its predecessor. As it is, though, this is still a good album that contains more than enough for fans to hold on to, but also enough for them to be disappointed about.