Review Summary: A return to form (sort of).
Memphis May Fire’s five year climb up the “rise-core” food chain may have hit a few stumbling blocks. The one-two punch of The Hollow
, which brought the band to the very top of their genre, was made a distant memory after 2014’s Unconditional
. On that less than stellar effort, poor production and appalling lyrics -- along with MMF’s apparent unwillingness to divert from their standard metalcore formula -- disappointed both longtime fans of the band as well as newcomers expecting to hear an excellent metalcore record.
Fortunately for Memphis May Fire, some of the problems that plagued Unconditional
are solved on their newest release, This Light I Hold
. The production is stellar, as the vocals of Matty Mullins are placed very comfortably in the mix; his growls are striking and powerful without overpowering his bandmates. This allows the guitar leads of Anthony Sepe and Kellen McGregor to be prominent once more, unlike the muddy “wall of noise” that was heard on Unconditional
. The drums of Jake Garland are also punchy and dynamic, especially on the heavier songs such as ‘Sever the Ties’.
As far as songwriting goes, This Light I Hold
is par for the course, by Memphis May Fire standards. As expected, the band show that they are perfectly happy staying in their comfort zone; supplying catchy, fun metalcore with no groundbreaking elements and no massive surprises. This is in stark contrast to several of their contemporaries (Bring Me the Horizon, Crown the Empire, Of Mice & Men) who seem to be doing all they can to distance themselves from the “risecore” genre, for better or for worse. While this obviously gives weight to the claims that Memphis May Fire are generic and a one-trick-pony, it’s oddly refreshing to see a band that knows what they’re good at and sticks to it. The placement of well-crafted guitar solos where one would normally expect a “chugging” style breakdown (‘The Antidote’, ‘This Light I Hold’) is also a welcome addition to their sound.
Unfortunately, the largest problem that plagued Unconditional
has not been rectified on This Light I Hold
, this being Matty Mullins’ lyrics. While not as terribly preachy as his last effort, Mullins’ lyrical output on This Light I Hold
ranges from generic hopecore: “Don’t let your fears keep you from dreaming/It’s all a lie when you believe you can’t (‘Not Over Yet’)” to horribly cringe-worthy and defensive cliches: “Decrease the morals/Increase the funds/Don’t be too preachy if you wanna be loved (‘Carry On’)”. Throughout the record, there is absolutely no hint of subtlety or nuance in the lyrics. At this point, this lyrical train wreck has become the norm for Memphis May Fire, and it unfortunately brings the album down several notches.
At the end of the day, This Light I Hold
is, in many ways, a return to form for Memphis May Fire. While the lyrics are as bad as ever and Matty Mullins’ ego is still fully on display, several of the elements that made The Hollow
top-notch metalcore releases are prevalent. If you’re a fan of the band’s previous work, then you’ll probably find something to enjoy in This Light I Hold
as well. But, for those that have already decided that Memphis May Fire isn’t for them, this album will do nothing to change their mind.