Sound — 8
Known for its twang and natural talent to force out lines about barbecue stains and sweltering heat waves, Dallas seems like a strange home for post-hardcore meltdowns but in fact, it's ideal. Texas is a devoted to punk; some overlook the obvious facts (Austin's concert venue Emo's) and it's a shame as it's essentially prevented heavier acts like Memphis May Fire from breaking out. The Rise Records outfit debuted with 2009's "Sleepwalking", a vulnerable take on hardcore fused with a clear-cut homage to punk and have returned with "The Hollow", a progressive step forward. On the outside, the record embodies the typical metalcore characteristics, what with every track name including "the" in it's title, but it uses certain stereotypes to it's advantage. One being the impression given by keys and programming; in some instances it's too much, but Memphis May Fire candidly balance it out complimenting their trademark breakdowns and new ventures into ripping out a complicated riff ("The Sinner") or changing the pitch of scream ("The Abandoned"). The latter is what strikes; whether it's after the first listen or the fourth, "The Hollow" doesn't embarrass itself by imitating similar artists lost trying to reinvent a sound (e.g. Abandon All Ships). It instead flickers with a bit of everything, channeling The Devil Wears Prada ferocity before dropping into dark Underoath tones that churn out a rhythm section, complete with a synth backbone, that echoes tiny shards of Bring Me The Horizon. The ups and downs seem relentless, but they flow and flourish.
Lyrics — 9
Part of the unconscious stream of little mistakes is due to vocalist Matty Mullins having found himself. As a lyricist, he easily blends in with the norm, letting loose about despair, but his voice plays a commanding role, a trait more apt to find in a group that's released close to five studio albums. Mullins vocals are still raw and exposed but Memphis May Fire couldn't have it any other way. On "The Unfaithful", the clean vocals power the track more than some would like, drawing in present Chiodos-style hooks. "The Victim" has Mullins singing lines with a bit more wail, until the guitars kick in and the growl gets released. The vocalist's transitions sound they're being given too much credit, but it helps distinguish the five-piece and unlike other releases from post-hardcore labels, adds variety, which is why "The Deceived" and a majority of the material on the record aren't slightly identical.
Overall Impression — 8
Memphis May Fire won't be a cult underground name and won't co-headline with hardcore heavyweights; they will however, continue to grow by experimenting with a clear focus of developing their own sound without falling into the shade of comparisons and contrasts. The jump from debut to sophomore doesn't seem astronomical, but on a technical level, it's very much so. "The Hollow" features detailed production to emit blazing guitar work, precise rhythms and melodies that rarely get mind-numbing or repetitive. It's hard to picture, but country music make need to side-step out of the way in the southern states.