Back in May, I was able to catch Memphis May Fire on a show they added to an off night on their tour with Sevendust. I was fortunate enough to have secured a VIP for that show, part of which included a pizza party and getting to listen to the new album well before it was even announced, much less released. While the pizza was good, the listening party aspect was pretty rough; not so much because the album wasn’t any good, but hearing it was a bit of a challenge with everyone hanging out and talking and everything else going on. What I could hear though, I remember being impressed with.
So here we are, a little over six months later, and the band’s latest release, “Broken” has finally dropped. God bless those guys, I have no idea how they could be so patient waiting to release an album. Now, in between their previous album, “This Light I Hold” and “Broken”, the guys dropped a one-off single called “Virus” which, to many, held something of a change in sound (personally, I didn’t think so), but honestly ended up becoming an instant favorite of mine. The band said it wouldn’t be on the next album, but how telling was “Virus” as to what we could expect to hear on it? Let’s take a look.
“The Old Me” is heavy, but not as aggressive as other MMF songs we’re familiar with until the bridge. Without question, it’s a good song, I think I’ve just come to expect more aggression on the tracks used by them to kick off an album. This track is also the first single off “Broken” and seems to be a pretty personal one where Mullins opens up about his struggle with anxiety and depression.
“The ‘Me vs. Me’ concept of this video represents my inner battle with anxiety and depression,” explains vocalist Matty Mullins. “[It’s] the two versions of myself that are constantly at war with each other.” Director Caleb Mallery gives life to Mullins’ internal struggle throughout the video’s surreal confrontational scenes. “[I’m] trying to remember what life was like before I lived with the symptoms,” Mullins continues, “ultimately hoping to one day become that person — ‘The Old Me’ again.”
“Watch Out” has the all the aggression you would’ve expected to find in the opening track. The first verse features a really nice guitar riff underlying Mullins’ vocals; simple, but a perfect fit. Gang vocals are present on the choruses, shouting out a countdown until we’re full swing into the choruses of this fight song.
The first song to feature a strong deviation from what Memphis May Fire fans are used to is “Sell My Soul”. While the message (refusal to conform) isn’t an unexpected one (thought that’s not a bad thing), musically, the song has a strong electronic vibe to it from instrumentation to vocals. This track may throw some off a bit, but I could also see it sneaking under the skin of a lot of people as well. While it’s certainly not what you’d expect from these guys, it isn’t bad either. Just…unexpected.
“Who I Am” gets us back into the swing of the hard hitting album we’d all hoped for, but the song seems very commonplace and easily forgettable; there isn’t much there meriting mention. While “Who I Am” is certainly one of the more aggressive tracks found on the album, it’s just in time to bring things back down to a mellow (and odd) place yet again on “Heavy Is The Weight”.
“Heavy Is The Weight” is similar to “Sell My Soul” in that it carries that electronic vibe, but this time around it’s relegated to the music (though not as pronounced) and doesn’t touch the vocals. The oddest part of the tune is the appearance of one Andy Mineo. The rapped part doesn’t feel like it fits well at all and may have even been an afterthought. Certainly, another area the band seeks out new ground on this album.
“Mark My Words” is worth mentioning because the main guitar riff is really something if you’re listening for it and the song contains more screaming on it than the rest of the album combined. And that bridge! Far too short for such a great moment on this album, but you’ll be happy to have heard it at all, it’s pretty great, albeit short…as I already said.
“You & Me” dials things down the most on this album and deals with the end of a relationship, and I believe speaks of forgiveness as well if you read in between the lines enough. This song really resonates with me on a personal level and I suspect that will be the case for many others who hear it, and for that reason, along with the hook, I feel like it will be one of the more memorable songs on “Broken”.
The album closer “Live Another Day” is a mix of everything heard on the rest of the album; aggression, hard hitting, soft, electronic…if you’ve already heard it, get ready for a tornado of it all mixed together in one. It has an anthemic feel to it and implores those considering suicide not to give up.
Two albums ago, was the album “Unconditional” and man, I loved that album. There were a lot of great songs on there that stood out to me, I loved the message in many of the songs, it was aggressive, in-your-face, and the vocals were a beautiful mixture of brutal and beautiful. “This Light We Hold” was quite a bit less so, and there wasn’t a whole lot that really grabbed me there, but there were still a few.
Now I know that many other listeners will trace things back even further than I just did, but I only went back so far to illustrate the progression here; and “Broken” seems like it’s the next step in what would appear to be the logical progression of things. Unfortunately, this is not a good thing in my opinion and how it’s being executed only makes things worse.
Upon a good solid listen to this album, it’s like being on an audible rollercoaster. It’s up, then down, up, then down again. Any sense of continuity is nearly non-existent, although I’m sure it could be argued that was done intentionally to mix things up. The issue presented with this is that we’ve gone from a band with a dominantly heavy, hard-hitting, aggressive style to that same band throwing in one or two mellower tracks, to that same band having an album that is nearly half and half. Follow me there? Make sense?
Most of this album, on its heavier tracks, is heavy, but not in an aggressive way and brace yourselves…there is virtually no screaming on it whatsoever. It IS there, but even less than what you’d call intermittent. Here, I’d say it is used very, very sparingly, and even then, it’s more for accentuation than anything else.
Lyrically, this album appears to consistently fall into one of three categories; fight songs, songs about betrayal or the end of relationships, or mental/emotional issues, that I suppose would likely result from the second category; God knows many of us have been there or maybe even are there now. It may even end up that that very relatability may be what could potentially draw many people to disagree with this review and find the album to be exactly what they’re looking for.
Overall, this isn’t your typical Memphis May Fire release and is far from what I was hoping for or expecting. If you thought things were softer on the last album, you haven’t heard anything yet. I would split this album halfway and say half and be considered hard rock while the other half is mellow(ish). While part of me wonders if my score is a result of the band’s significant change, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case; but for longtime fans, this one will definitely come as a shock to the system.