Review Summary: While this genre of music might be in need of an overhaul soon, it can't be said it doesn't come without its gems...R
ise records- a label that has generated mixed opinions from fans of the genre for the past few years. What seemed like a sudden and enduring series of events in the past 4-5 years has shot the label up from an independent label with 4-5 bands to a label that currently has signed over 25 bands. A more recent acquisition in Memphis May Fire in 2011 seemed like a predictable, butter on bread move for this label which has the reputation of signing many bands that sound extremely similar to each other in the post-hardcore/metalcore genre. Where Memphis May Fire won’t stir the balance in uniqueness and creativity they do what many have well. Critics called the early demise of this band after the departure of original vocalist Chase Ryan in 2008. The addition of replacement vocalist Matty Mullins ultimately might’ve been the asset that pushes this band over.
With each release he seems to get stronger on delivery and is building quite the momentum. With “Challenger”
he delivers a memorable and admirable performance that will be much approved by long time fans of this band. With this being said it should be no misconception of what the listener is getting into if he has heard the previous releases from this band. Riffs feel razor sharp, hit hard, and tasteful electronics are common trends that continue with ”Challenger
“Challenger” starts off in a serene setting with Without Walls
. The piano feel is eerie and subtle that leads the rest of the instruments into a blaze of fury. The track is a prelude sampler that ultimately leads into the rest of the album at a fairly steady pace. Alive In The Lights
wastes no time to rip through the listener at an explosive pace that is kept up by the end of the first track. The song structure is consistent with previous releases but you can already tell the increased range and dynamics added by Matty Mullins. Instead of having what seemed a lot of the time in the past, a simple A and B approach for heavy and clean singing the lines are varied even more then before. Deeper growls are exhibited at points of emphasis and impact while on the other end of the spectrum has a more dynamic range for his clean vocals. While you’ll hear a lot of open chords and chugging in the background throughout this album you can take note to the simple yet plush lead riffs that come and go during the hooks of many verses and pre-choruses. The ultimate result feels refreshing and without it might be a make or break to many listeners who are becoming more critical about recycling on the sheet music pages.
Prove Me Right
was the first song previewed on the album and has grown on me quite a bit. On first listen I have to admit that I was extremely disappointed by the direction of this song. The topic that comes up more than once during “Challenger” is the literal conversation that Matty Mullins has about the music industry. This turned me off lyrically almost instantly because it’s hard to believe that a band that is signed on a prominent label can have the audacity of complaining about corporate greed in this industry. Musically though everything falls into place once again. Everything about the recording feels well placed and well balanced which I feel many of us take for granted these days. I did find the last resounding line of “So count your money and I’ll count my friends. We’ll see who’s richer in the end” with the X-files like synths to be in good taste. I’m sure a lot of younger kids will feel the same way about most of the electronic parts throughout the album. Red In Tooth & Claw
finally feels back to normal on a personal relation in terms with lyrics. Points where the lyrics feel corny and cliché are nearly washed away by the dominant performance that they are delivered in. A short return to the southern roots are displayed during the pre-chorus and hooks of this song. Lead riffs are displayed with a “here and there” approach but when present are such a prevalent piece of the construction of the song. Since they were found scattered all over this song I feel like this will be a notable song that stands out on “Challenger”. By this point of the album you will start to either be a hit or miss for the infectious hooks that are delivered in the vocals. It’s really easy to forgive the shortcomings in the lyrics when everything is sung and screamed with what feels like bold sincerity.
This leads perfectly into Vices
, which is my personal favorite song off of the album. Lyrically this song feels the most wholehearted since it goes through personal vices. You can expect breakdowns to mark out his best lines that people will appreciate if they can handle breakdowns on top of breakdowns. The chorus is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in this genre in quite awhile. It has a deep lasting effect with subtleties that I can hear under my breath long after the song is over. The backing harmony during the chorus is just a killer for anyone who loves catchy hooks. The band just piles this strong trait about them by the tenfold. Legacy
features some serious synths in the background that create a new dynamic of atmosphere but make me feel like I’m listening to Winds of Plague. By now you can sense the literalness of the song titles and how they match the topics of the lyrics. To me this is nearly refreshing since I spent too much time growing up in genres that the title was really irrelevant to anything about the song.
is the softest song off of the album and contains guest vocals by Kellen Quinn. I was extremely worried about the guest slots on this album since I am really not a fan of any of these guys. I think everyone will be surprised by how Kellen’s spot works in this song but I’m not so fond about this song. I know for a fact that this song is going to be skipped a lot when I listen to this album in the future because it’s a mood killer. This band has made a living on being really upbeat and hard- and won’t be winning any awards for their soft and slower tracks. Anyone who found Mullins clean tone to be whiney will quickly be reminded of what seems like Kellen Quinn whimpering at times upon pronunciations. Jezebel
retreats to the steady pace the band was on before it slammed on the brakes. The heavy groove in this song always picks up the pace and feels good. The chorus in this song isn’t one of my favorites but isn’t terrible by any means. It does feel like it doesn’t have the same luster as some of the previous ones heard.
is a song that follows closely to Red In Tooth & Claw
in procedure. The vocals are shining as much as they were since the start of the album with the lowest lows and highest highs I’ve ever seen this vocalist deliver. Danny Worsnop’s part in this song almost feels irrelevant to me because without a trained ear it’ll be hard to notice where his part begins and ends. His mark with his cleans are in his signature style but doesn’t stray too far from what Matty Mullins has done in the last 9 songs anyway. Generation: Hate
looks like a title that should’ve been out of a nu-metal album but the song focuses on the subject of the computer generation and online comments where everyone’s a critic. Honestly, I can’t think of any songs that have touched on this manner but the topic does feel somewhat corny. The instrumentals feel sluggish to me on this song where the focal point seems to have been placed purposely on the vocals and lyrics. Vessels
is a cardinal no-no for me where the album leaves off on an instrumental track. I’m sure it’s supposed to tie in with the piano and atmospheric sounds of the introduction track but I’m not too fond of leaving on a note that’s not exactly accurate with what this album has created. One being the fact the vocals on this album are extremely strong and carries the band through other points where they’d probably feel generic.
Alive In The Lights
Memphis May Fire might not vary too much from a set song structure with the only asymmetry coming with softer set songs to break up the series of heavier songs that are riddled with breakdowns and bass drops. Previous fans of this band should have no problem adapting to the little changes made but will appreciate mostly all of them. While it will be said that the music produced here is nothing ground-breaking it is for me above the cut that feels rehashed and produced daily by anybody’s and people jumping on this trend of scream + cleans = signed- that has been established a few years back. The production of this album is and their last have been above average but leads the impression that if you saw this band live, it might be extremely hard for them to reproduce the songs. Any concerns of whether this band needed to pick someone else over the vocal spot have been crushed with “Challenger”. I remember following this band from the first EP and original lineup and honestly saw the potential but also saw how they pretty much were doing what was popular at the time with the whole mixture of southern led metal core. I thoroughly am satisfied with how this band matured even if it departed from most of the southern parts that were relevant in the first two releases. The real elitists will hate albums like this no matter what for the lack of individuality within the tracks but where I believe bands like this excel in their effort on a whole and doing what they do well- making this very catchy and contagious. “Challenger” moves the band in the right direction again with everything still working out in their favor.
Original Release Date:
June 26, 2012