The key word to describe Memphis May Fire’s latest release, Challenger is fun. This band is a name I’ve heard thrown around a lot in recent months, and some friends have recommended checking them out for a while. The oversaturated metalcore market combined with other bands vying for the review spotlight has kept me from doing so until now. When I was given the opportunity to review Challenger, I jumped on board. Now, allow me to explain why the key word to describe the album is “fun.”
As with most metalcore, the louder the better. A quiet or passive listen won’t allow you to detect the nuances that distinguish each song from one another. At best, you’ll be able to pick out the occasional hook and the result would be less than satisfying. The opening track “Without Walls” is just what the doctor ordered to get the listener in the correct mindset. Memphis May Fire isn’t out to reinvent the wheel – simply get people moving to fun, loud music with themes the band members care about. “Alive In the Lights” serves as an anthem to living a meaningful life, which from the band’s point of view means not settling for 9 to 5 monotony. This is our first glimpse of With Roots Above and Branches Below era The Devil Wears Prada influence, though the breakdowns sound more like something from a Haste the Day record.
The record continues with “Prove Me Right”, with clean vocals reminiscent of Johnny Franck (formerly of Attack! Attack!) and most of the tracks are in the same vein as the first two. There are a few change-ups in the formula however. One is in the poppy power ballad “Miles Away” which speaks on the hardships on being on the road, specifically separated from one’s spouse. Another is in “Legacy” which features one of the most memorable hooks, which also carries some subtle electronic influence. An unexpected quiet interlude is juxtaposed with one of the most brutal breakdowns on the record, driving home the point that we “were created to do great things.” The album ends with a whimper in “Vessels.” It’s the type of ending that only works as an album ender and not as a stand alone track, which isn’t a bad thing, it just is.
While the record is at times downright formulaic, it is really fun to listen to. I can’t tell you how many times I thought “this isn’t terribly unique, but gosh I want to mosh, headbang, or smash something…” Memphis May Fire is rocking faces off everywhere at the time of this writing on the 2012 Vans Warped Tour, and their popularity should only continue to grow.
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