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Memphis May Fire touted their first record, ‘Sleepwalking’, as a “new breed of rock n’ roll.” For this reason, I avoided it. Any band who thinks they’re a new breed of anything needs a swift kick to the groin, as they’re often not. That said when their sophomore record ‘The Hollow’ landed in my lap, I forced myself to have a casual listen – and slap my balls, I’ve learnt to not judge a band by their ego. They certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel over the course of two records, but they’re certainly on their way to being a noteworthy act, I’d say.
The first thing folks will notice about ‘The Hollow’ is that each and every track on the record seems stylized, being prefixed with the word “the” – bizarre, no? Fans content with resting on laurels are in for a reality check, as ‘The Hollow’ is supposedly a darker, heavier effort than their previous records; always a welcome change. This record does retain the group’s signature “southern swagger” in guitar play, though they’ve incorporated some electronic sounds on this occasion. Don’t fret; they’ve put it to good use – exactly what a group like Escape the Fate couldn’t.
For their first effort at Rise Records, these guys are sure to win a few fans. There is a lot to love about the record. A handful of brilliant tracks, including a mind blowing interlude track certainly outweigh whatever filler tracks there are.
The thing that was immediately apparent to me when listening to “The Sinner”, the first track on the album, is that it is a triumph in mastering and mixing, so here’s to getting the obligatory, but deserved, hat tip to producer Cameron Mizell out of the way; fine job, sir.
While “The Unfaithful” is a half decent track to follow up the underwhelming opener, I think “The Victim” is the first track that made me stop and think “hold on, what’s going on here?” It’s a sublime track for Matty Mullins, lead vocalist, whose range is put to the test but delivers with aplomb. That said, even it was abrasive upon first listen. This is certainly a record that grows on you over time, but once it does, it’ll likely get a few spins.
“The Abandoned” backs it up immediately with another strong outing. Another soaring vocal chorus, and perhaps my favourite from Mullins, seals the deal for the track as everything in between each chorus is the icing on the cake. While I’m not sure of the underlying meaning of the record, and this song specifically, a lot of the lyricism is vague – perhaps in an attempt to force a relatable experience for the listener. In any case, “The Abandoned” tells a pretty heartbreaking story, who can’t relate to that?
Along with Mullins, Kellen McGregor is a pretty vital cog in Memphis May Fire. As one of the primary songwriters, guitarist and back-up vocalist, it’s fair to say he might even be the most vital. That said, his performance spanning this entire record can’t be understated. He is, simply, a weapon of musical destruction. Aside from guitar duties, he also mans the synthesizer and keyboards which are fairly prominent on ‘The Hollow’, “The Commanded” is a synth heavy track that plays prelude to the most impressive songwriting effort on the record – the interlude track, “The Burden”.
It’s sweet, sombre and simple, but also perfect in execution. McGregor obviously played a big role in engineering the shit out of the track, and it certainly pays dividends, as it’ll forever be the defining moment of ‘The Hollow’ for me.
The record then closes out with three consistent tracks, each riff happy with memorable enough choruses. There’s a really great breakdown near the end of “The Haunted” that leads in another pretty neat breakdown, it’s one of the few times on the record they back up heavy with heavy, but it isn’t too tacky fortunately. The closing track “The Redeemed” opens with the signature swagger I spoke of earlier, and rarely lets up as it delivers until the closing seconds as an epic, sweeping chorus leads in an electronic loop before haunting, howling guitars fade out, closing the record.
Memphis May Fire might very well be one of the surprises of the year, so far, for me. I mean, they weren’t even on my radar a couple of days ago and yet here we are. ‘The Hollow’ is a capable, and occasionally brilliant, metal record, with big vocal melodies. They’ve delivered a record that had me pretty animated in my chair, like all ‘southern swagger’ metal should, but also hit a deeper chord at times – that interlude is an astounding track.
1. The Sinner
2. The Unfaithful
3. The Victim
4. The Abandoned
5. The Deceived
6. The Commanded
7. The Burden (Interlude)
8. The Haunted
9. The Reality
10. The Redeemed