Memphis May Fire is making a comeback (not cowbell, this time). After the mixed reception of their last studio album Sleepwalking, the Texas-based band promised a “heavier and darker” sound on their latest album, The Hollow, and they delivered. But the big question is: did they sell out? Honest answer: yes.
In my earlier thoughts on the band’s first single, “The Sinner,” I predicted that The Hollow would be a hit for the band, despite their newly sworn allegiance to an overdone sound. Prophecy fulfilled. Memphis May Fire is destined to split its fan base down the middle with their latest release. It’s obvious that their earthy, southern twang is gone for good (sorry, guys) and they’ve evolved, thrashing and screaming, into a bona fide hardcore band. Survival of the fittest, right?
It’s pointless to harp on and on about the impending slow, painful death of the genre and the ever-contagious Rise Records syndrome, although Memphis May Fire is obviously the most recent to catch it. The Hollow is just as brutal, apocalyptic, and synth- and breakdown-laden as you’d expect, and there’s really no definable “wow factor” throughout the album. Some of the lyrics are repetitive, alternating the same hooks, verses, and choruses. Tracks like the back-to-back duo of “The Haunted” and “The Reality” are forgettable and boring, and the production seems to have suffered on some tracks, like “The Unfaithful.” The erratic drumming, low, murky guitars (with chugging kept to a bare minimum), and throat-splitting screams worthy of Ollie Sykes come out sounding, at times, like a garbled mess.
But in spite of the relatively absent wow factor, there are countless moments throughout the album that will have you banging your head, accompanied by that warm, tingly feeling and satisfied smile a good breakdown will give you. The war-themed “The Commanded” is the heaviest, fastest track on The Hollow and showcases some of Memphis May Fire’s biggest strengths. While the lyrics are repetitive at times, The Hollow is more lyrically pleasing than a lot of releases from other brethren of the genre. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds of any given song to realize that Memphis May Fire is pissed off, and the lyrics are fittingly just as dark. They’re calling out estranged fathers, ghosts of girlfriends past, and our own twisted society.
Above all, Matt Mullins has proven himself as a truly talented vocalist with an impressive range, mastering both clean and screamed vocals. Mullins only continues to improve on The Hollow. His clean vocals provide the album with its fair share of catchy choruses, especially in “The Sinner” and “The Abandoned,” and his harsh, ferocious screams are the driving force behind the album. (And who doesn’t love a good helping of gang vocals?) As mentioned in regard to “The Sinner,” the composition of the tracks is well-balanced throughout the album, alternating heavy and soft elements as well as high and low vocals.
Sell-outs or otherwise, Memphis May Fire has put their foot down with The Hollow and made it clear that they’re ready for their close-up, new sound in tow. It’s time to accept the harsh reality – the band you used to know and love is a thing of the past. So what side are you on? Do you long for the old Southern metal days of their self-titled EP? Or are you welcoming them with open arms?
Download: “The Victim,” “The Commanded,” “The Redeemed”