Review Summary: No groundbreaking elements, no problem....
“Generic” is an overused word in the metal community. For as long as I, or pretty much anyone for that matter, can remember, keyboard-wielding musical elitists have been laying down the hammer left and right on various bands in the metalcore scene; not because they necessarily did anything wrong, but just because they aren’t really reinventing the wheel. Fortunately, for every 10 or so of said elitists, there always seems to be somebody who brings up an oh-so important and incredibly overlooked point; if the songs are concise, played well, and enjoyable, then what exactly is the problem with this (over-exaggerated) genericism? For all intents and purposes, Memphis May Fire happens to be a band that falls squarely into this category. Challenger
is by no means the most original record you will ever hear. I am willing to bet tomorrow’s dinner that you have previously heard a record created in a similar fashion to this one. Factoring that in of course, Memphis May Fire have still pumped out an unbelievably solid record that will undoubtedly remain near the top of many end-of-the-year favorite albums lists.
Verse, breakdown, catchy chorus, breakdown, verse, catchy chorus, bridge, breakdown, catchy chorus, breakdown. If you have listened to pretty much any band on Rise Records before, you know this song formula to a T. You weren’t expecting anything out of the box, were you? Most of Challenger
, much to many people’s dismay, follows this structure, rarely popping out of its shell to provide something truly groundbreaking. Fortunately, Memphis May Fire is so adept at keeping their songs enticing and ear-catching that the lack of something ground-shatteringly original seems very, very forgivable. For starters, vocalist Matty Mullins’ performance is absolutely unbelievable. His songwriting skill set is fairly limited, with the lyrics mostly remaining in the realm of clichéd topics such as heartbreak and anger, but his vocal delivery is so passionate and believable you cannot help but overlook them at times. Mullins’ screams are in tip-top shape in Challenger
, ranging from half screams/yells, higher-pitched snarls, and the occasional low, guttural howl. As good as he is at screaming, he is even better at clean singing; his voice is moderately high pitched, but never enters the realm of “whiny” or “annoying”, and he consistently delivers some of the best choruses the band has to offer with absolutely no flaws or proverbial holes to be found. Songs like “Prove Me Right”, “Vices”, and “Jezebel” contain ridiculously infectious choruses that display his voice in top form, going up, down, inside out, and back to screaming at the drop of a hat, and he seemingly does it with ease; if Mullins had yet to cement his place as one of metalcore’s top vocalists, to say he has not with Challenger
Mullins’ vocals are not the only points of interest Challenger
has to offer; the musicianship displayed here is nothing short of superb. Fans of Memphis May Fire’s older work will know that they were once a band with a heavier emphasis on southern undertones. Although those undertones are still mostly set aside, they have brought them back in bursts that make you take notice, if only a little. The excellent post-chorus guitar solo in “Red In Tooth and Claw” is peppered with a moderate amount of southern rock flavoring that caused me to perk my head up and grin; these elements were not really present on The Hollow
, making them all the more welcome and interesting on Challenger
. Drummer Jake Garland is supremely talented, and while he mostly fits into the mold of most metalcore drummers, he spices up nearly every song with frantic and interesting fills; as a drummer myself, I never felt bored or disinterested with his performance, which is a major plus taking the rest of the album into consideration. Challenger
features two of the most overrated and obnoxiously annoying guest artists in the metal/post-hardcore scene in Sleeping With Sirens
’ Kellin Quinn and Asking Alexandria
’s Danny Worsnop on “Miles Away” and “Losing Sight”, respectively. While I dislike both of their works, they fit in well in the songs which they are put in; Quinn’s high-pitched, feminine voice adds an interesting and powerful dynamic the bridge of the mellowed, ballad-esque “Miles Away”, while Worsnop provides tension and raw aggression with a bellowing low note to end the second verse of “Losing Sight”. I wasn’t expecting much from either performance, but I was pleasantly surprised by both.
does not deserve to be ignored. Although it is not the most original piece of work to ever grace the earth, it is passionate, rock solid, and extremely impressive. I can’t think of much to detract from Challenger
; if I had to single out one song as less impressive than others, it would have to be “Legacy”, but at the end of the day, Challenger
is a monster of an album that will most definitely be in the running for album of the year at 2012’s end. Don’t miss out on this one.