Release date: June 26th
Memphis May Fire first entered the scene in 2009 with their debut album, Sleepwalking, which introduced them as a band who had travelled through gusty deserts, abandoned towns, crumbling motel rooms, ashtray bars and various living-room floors until they’d reached their destination: the border of post-hardcore/southern rock. Camped outside the walls of the town they’d travelled so far to get into, and with no money, the band decided to play some songs to pass the time and to maybe earn some money from the desolate wanderers and the tarnished shadows who passed them by from time-to-time. However, it wasn’t long before the guards at the border heard the band playing and were so impressed that they let them in free of charge, with one clause – that the band played all day long in the little town of post-hardcore/southern rock. The band, hungry and thirsty, obliged and entered the town and went about setting their instruments up while grabbing something to eat and drink to replenish their souls.
Fully energised again, the band exploded into their music and tore the town a new one. The locals, who’d become stuck in a stagnant cycle of the same, stale-sounding bands were blown away and it wasn’t long before the band started to record Sleepwalking and move on to bigger things. An example of one of these bigger things is the track Ghost In The Mirror being featured on the Saw VI soundtrack. The band then said a sad farewell to the locals and the town of post-hardcore/southern rock and went on tour with the likes of Asking Alexandria, From First To Last and Alesana and later released their second album, The Hollow, which showed a shift in the sound – combining elements of melodic metal, southern rock, and a splash of electronics, which allowed the band’s sound to seamlessly move forward yet still maintain the aggressiveness and emotion that their debut had.
Now, we’re on to the band’s third album – Challenger. Will the band continue to shape the progression of their sound, as we’ve become used to? Or have they found a place of solitude in what we’ve heard before and are happy to remain in a tried-and-tested formula?
First track, Without Walls, opens things up in a slow-tempo, chilling, cold way that feels as if you should lock all the windows and doors to keep the night terrors out. The greyness is soon cast aside, though, and we’re introduced to Matty Mullins’ low, angry vocals and a winding, snarling guitar which is joined by relentless drumming and snapping breakdowns.
Prove Me Right shows Mullins switching his vocal style from effortless, velvet clean vocals to gut-busting, in-your-face, harsh vocals which are complimented by the gluey, sharp drumbeat and the juddering breakdowns of the guitar which wind away for a more melodic and accessible rhythm. The breakdown near the end of the track, which is strangled by the sinking electronics, is definitely going to be a favourite live and it’s hard to nod along to it from the comfort of your computer screen, let alone a live environment.
Jezebel begins with atmospheric electronics which lull you into a false pretence until the vocals tear open your closed eyes, ensuring your full attention. A nasty riff scuttles along beside the (as always) consistent drumming before it squeezes into a crack in the wall and climbs through the structure before pulling down the rafters with a huge breakdown which leaves the dust swirling in the air, more than dynamite would.
The album ends on Vessels, the black sheep of all the tracks. For fans of the band who prefer the all-out, blood-boiling aspect to the band then they may not agree that it’s a great way to end the album but I, for one, disagree. The track is slow, thought-inducing, ambient, atmospheric and what it lacks in the band’s trademark heaviness, it makes up for in its climbing, encompassing sound of electronics which leaves you with a feeling of lost time and thoughts of people you miss, people you need to speak to, people you don’t speak to and of lost opportunities.
Memphis May Fire have certainly moved further in their sound and the maturity which this album shows belies the band’s young age. The band keep rolling forward and this album may be their strongest to date. The town they started off in seems long-ago forgotten now.