Unconditional Review

artist: Memphis May Fire date: 05/08/2014 category: compact discs
Memphis May Fire: Unconditional
Released: Mar 25, 2014
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Metalcore
Label: Rise Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
The fourth full-length studio release by the band, there isn't anything game changing going on but there is solid songwriting and an impressive album.
 Sound: 7.3
 Lyrics: 6.7
 Overall Impression: 7.3
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (3) pictures (1) 14 comments vote for this album:
overall: 7.7
Unconditional Featured review by: UG Team, on april 02, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Memphis May Fire is down to only one remaining founding member with Kellen McGregor, who plays guitar and occasional backing vocals. Their fourth full-length studio album, "Unconditional," has eleven tracks and clocks in at just a little under forty-five minutes. They have released 3 singles from the album - "No Ordinary Love" which released in early February, "Sleepless Nights" which released in late February, and "Beneath the Skin" which released in early March. The band has stated in interviews that this album has a more "orchestral," "theatrical" and "mature" vibe to it while also stating that the album will be a little bit like the soundtrack to an action film. I can't speak to any of those qualifiers, but there have definitely been some changes. First off, Kellen McGregor is credited with "programming" as well as lead guitar and backing vocals, and he is also credited as a producer on the album. There is definitely a little bit more in the way of synthesized instruments and programming on their tracks. 

The album opens up with the track "No Ordinary Love," which is also the first single released from the album. This track is probably the most "radio friendly" track on the album and has a very positive bouncy vibe to it. The next track is "Beneath the Skin," which is the third single from the album. I was getting into the album at this point, because the band does a good job of playing metalcore that doesn't sound derivative of other metalcore. This is something that is hard to do in a genre that is basically made up of down-tuned riffs with a lot of muted open string chugging, dirty vocals in the verses, clean pretty vocals in the choruses. The song is basically about a girl who feels alienated and alone and how nobody really sees who she is because their generation is incapable of seeing the beauty beneath the skin. Pretty mature lyrics for metalcore. "Sleepless Nights" is the third track from the album, and the second single from the album. It is pretty brave putting all three singles at the beginning of the album - it is like they just picked the first 3 songs as singles because they felt confident enough that the album was good enough that they could pick any song as a single. "Sleepless Nights" is definitely one of the more aggressive tracks on the album and had me tapping my foot in sync with the guitar riffing. "The Answer" is definitely an interesting track, with a very unique vibe to it - especially in the intro. There is actually some extreme auto-tune used in the clean passages on this one which is kind of cool as an effect. "Possibilities" is a more introverted type of track on the album, but it still definitely brings the heaviness and riffing. "Speechless" is not even a heavy song - there is no screaming, there are no heavy guitars, bass, or drums. This is a straight up "pretty" song, but it is still pretty decent. "Speechless" is pretty much a straight love song. "The Rose" uses melody in an interesting way, especially the keyboard melody that is just barely discernible through most of the song, though more obvious in the quieter passages, it has me leaning into my speakers to hear it. The song is another where the lyrics really won me over, being about how they are the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete to achieve their success. "Not Enough" is one of the few tracks that kind of faded into the background when I was listening to the track, but it grew on me more on my second and third listens. "Need to Be" definitely has my favorite instrumental intro, though I don't necessarily like the auto-tuned clean vocals in the beginning. Unfortunately, I spent the whole song waiting for the heavy riffing to come in, and it never happened - clean vocals and music from start to finish. "Pharisees" opens heavy, as if it is trying to make up for the lack from "Need to Be," but it builds up into one of my favorite tracks, with even the clean vocals being almost screams and an awesome bassline. The album closes out with the track "Divinity," which is an exceptionally positive song with a message about even when you're at your lowest there is a divine purpose for everyone. // 8

Lyrics: Matty Mullins provides vocals on the album, as well as playing keyboards, and while he isn't technically a founding member of the band he has been on every single album they have released. I've got to give this guy props - he is one of the best "overall" metalcore vocalists I've heard when you take into account his screamed vocals and his cleaned vocals. His screamed vocals are definitely heavy, but you can still understand what he's saying and his cleans he makes more interesting with some processing and occasional auto-tune, sometimes even hard-tuned auto-tune as an effect. His performance on this album is pretty much exactly what it needed. The lyrics are a little more iffy, with them being generally more mature than on previous releases, but still some really clichéd stuff going on in there. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the single, "Beneath the Skin": "Another day she sets foot in this prison/ dreading what they'll say/ So much to give, but no one ever listens/ She dreams of running away/ Crippled by the way they make her feel/ she takes a look at her wrists & turns to the blade/ It's not a cry for attention if she just wants to feel anything other than the pain/ Everyone deserves to be loved, but they make her hate everything she was sure of/ Every day feels like her against the world/ Now she's afraid she'll never be enough/ No one knows all the weight that she holds when she feels alone/ The memories, they haunt her/ No one sees all the pain she brings everywhere she goes/ She feels they'll never want her/ She dreams of a day when she won't have to cry herself to sleep/ Staring at the scars on her wrists she knows this is not who she wants to be/ Another night all alone with her thoughts, dwelling on the questions that race through her head/ Scared to sleep, scared to wake up & face the day when she can't forget the things that they said." I can't get behind the lyrics 100%, but the overall message of the song I can get behind. The lyrical content is definitely more well thought out than some of the band's earlier releases. // 8

Overall Impression: This is one of the most standout metalcore albums I've personally heard lately, with the songwriting taken seriously and the performance on each track pretty much immaculate. You still get the clichéd open string riffs, the breakdowns, etc., but it somehow doesn't come off as monotonous. My favorite tracks are "Beneath the Skin," "Possibilities," "Pharisees," and "The Rose." I also enjoyed "Divinity" and the positive message, and I think the band is very brave to be open about their faith in their music. I also hope they don't turn into using all their songs to "witness" to their fans - I did enjoy "Divinity." // 7

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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overall: 5.3
Unconditional Reviewed by: vppark2, on april 03, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: If you listened to this band 3-4 years ago, you would've never have thought of how big of a fan base they would get in just a matter of months. "The Hollow" is said to be basically their breakthrough (or best) album in many MMF fan's minds. Barely even a year later, "Challenger" came out. Many were disappointed, but I thought it was just as good as "The Hollow." I think the main reason why people were disappointed was because they saw how much money they were making, and how much their songs have become mainly about Matty. I've never met these guys before or have seen them live, but Matty Mullins seems to be one of the big figures in today's metalcore scene. Having been on Warped Tour for 2 years in a row is huge. I don't know if it got to Matty's mind, but there was a lot of controversy between him and The Amily Affliction's lead vocalist, about how Matty was basically calling girls "sluts" for what they were dressed as and how he has a wife. That, and bias about him aside, I honestly stand neutral about him as a person. I don't know him personally, nor have I ever met him before. As for his vocals, the singing is decent, and the uncleans are alright, but all in all, they seem a bit weak in comparison to their previous material. Nothing really grabbed my attention. The drums sound insanely processed on some tracks. It's too bad, because Jake is an amazing drummer. The guitars/bass break no new grounds. All in all, the sound is just boring, and feels uninspired and rushed. // 5

Lyrics: Lyrically, they seemed to have used a lot of the same aspects that were found on "Challenger" and some Christian related themes. "No Ordinary Love" rolls through with a cool main riff as the first track off the album, but other that, there really is nothing else special about it. "Speechless" and "Need to Be" were the only soft songs on the album. "Need to Be" most certainly showcases a cool theme.

"With every letter I read, 
I see their desperate cries to find the missing piece.
They just want to believe
someone can take away the burdens they carry.
Who am I to be here?
I am no different than them.
We are the same you see?
I wear my heart on my sleeve
For everyone to see
The man I want to be.
I just hope they see you
When they look at me,
because you are everything that I need to be.
My heart is heavy & torn,
Weighed down by all my mistakes & the chains I've worn.
A constant struggle with fear,
Unsure if I was enough from the day I was born.
But you see the beauty in my flaws;
you pick me up when I fall,
show me the way when I am lost.
In the eye of the storm you show me I'm not alone
& give me strength to carry on!
I wear my heart on my sleeve
For everyone to see
The man I want to be.
I just hope they see you when they look at me,
cause you are everything that I need to be."

The only other track that really stood out to me, lyrically, is "Pharisees."

"Somewhere along the line you must have missed the point, this is not about you. 
You twist the words of The Gospel to glorify yourself, but this is not about you!
Take the spotlight off the things that you've done & realize he did what you never could.
He carries the weight that you could never hold & even if you had the chance you never would.
You think you're superior?
Do you really think belittling is the cure?

You walk around with your head held high as if you're not the one that's living a lie.
You're living a lie!
What makes you think that you'll change their minds?
They'll never see the light if all you preach is hate from a mountain top that you couldn't climb."

The album finishes with "Divinity," a song that opens up with piano. This sort of reminded me "Artist Vs. Who?" by Secrets. So all in all, that track did not impress me very much. All of the other songs are basically about Matty's love life or his relationship with God. // 5

Overall Impression: Not a terrible album, but not a very good album either. I really was not expecting much after hearing the singles. If you really enjoyed "Challenger" then you may like this. I liked "Challenger," but I found that that was when they were starting to go downhill. I don't know if these guys are in for the money and fame, but this album seems a bit like rehashed material from "Challenger." Who knows. Maybe they'll keep selling out arenas like they've been doing. They may just become as huge as Sleeping With Sirens or Asking Alexandria one day (irony is that all 3 vocalists are "friends"). This album could sell as much as Issues new album will, but I don't think it will beat Of Mice & Men's. My favorite tracks are "Need to Be," "Pharisees," and "The Rose." // 6

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overall: 8.3
Unconditional Reviewed by: Frankieanime78, on may 08, 2014
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: For a post-hardcore/metalcore album, it's definitely solid. Memphis May Fire has a strange ability to take these heavier genres, and turn them into something that is hard to describe (positively). And as usual, you get brutal screams, catchy as hell chorus, drums that make you "air drum" like a bada-s, until you realize you look like an idiot, and heavy... oh so heavy riffs, acoustic, and some electronic filler for the breakdowns. It's mixed really well, leaving me not trying to really "listen" to distinguish what's going on. Guitars are a little blended, but it blends in with what they're doing, since Memphis May Fire isn't very "riff" and "lead" driven. But anyways, lets jump into this song by song. // 9

Lyrics: 1. "No Ordinary Love" - The first single released from the album. An obvious choice for the radio, but even as a single, it doesn't come off as too obvious, and annoying. The guitar in this track really sticks out to me, which is something difficult to say for Memphis May Fire. They're not very riff driven, give or take a few songs, but this one I could really get on board with the guitar. It's 70% clean vocals, which Matty does beautifully. And the screamed chunks that come along make you wanna smash your face on the wall. When it comes to lyrics, it's hard to understand (for me) what the song is clearly trying to state. At first it seemed more driven towards a girlfriend. But when the video came along, it made me assume it relates to the relationship with the father. Either way, solid song.

2. "Beneath the Skin" - This song is great, it's weakness is the obvious lyrics. I understand the message in the song, but it seems a little overused material, and an area I never imagined them diving into. Singing about an girl (or ever girl), feeling left out, and pushed away, and judged by their appearance. Dealing with some mature, and morbid thoughts, it's still a little bit different than I'd expect. Overall, the song is heavy when it needs to be, and catchy when it needs to be as well.

3. "Sleepless Nights" - The second single released. This song is fun! This one really gets the juices flowing. It's heavy, it's fast, it's dirty. It's got a nice headbanging tempo to it. At first, I was a bit turned off of the chorus, it seemed a bit different than usual. But it grew on me, and now I catch myself humming it for no reason. At first I thought it was about drug addiction. But I believe it's about anxiety. Regardless, the lyrics are pretty brutal. "In-hale, ex-hale, why is it so hard to breathe. In-hale Ex-hale, why isn't this working." Absolutely love this part. Great song.

4. "The Answer" - Honestly, this is the song that doesn't really stand out to me. It's not that it's terrible, but it just seems to me, like a leftover track they threw in to extend the album. I honestly can't say much for it, because I tend to skip it. But it's solid from what I've heard. Just not to my own taste.

5. "Possibilities" - It has a very mainstream feel to it, but not in a disappointing way. The scream are nice, and to the formula of Memphis May Fire, and the chorus has a very rock and roll feel, it's addicting. The lyrics are strong in this. They speak a point, about (I think), that so much can be changed, we have the power to stand up for our beliefs in the world.

6. "Speechless" - Asides from "Miles Away," Memphis May Fire doesn't have any other soft, melodic, relaxing songs (not including "Vaulted Ceilings"). They definitely have a talent with making a soft song that makes you reflect on very personal issues, and this is no exception. If you listen, you WILL feel something. It's powerful, but has little to no guitar in it. But it's got this addicting, overdriven bass during the verse's that I absolutely love. The chorus is so strong, it makes you feel like you're in the middle of your own movie. It's really easy to get into. Lyric wise, it's a bit obvious content, but written in very good way. It's a love song basically. "For a moment, I'm a poet without words. Speechless 'cuz you love me at my worst. I don't deserve this, I let it surface, and all I know is, today I woke up, falling in love again." Asides from the overused idea, they definitely did it perfectly.

7. "The Rose" - This is the strongest track on the album I think. And that says a lot being the lead of an album full of near perfect songs. It starts off faint, with a quick buildup of electronic sounds. Than within a couple seconds, it immediately explodes into this heavy, fast paced, aggressive riffing, drumming, and screams. Than it stops, and transitions into a very catchy chorus. The piece singing "Grew from the crack in the concrete" is great, how the snare rolls, feeling like it's exploding into more awesomeness. Than there's the obvious breakdown, more chorus, and all that. Lyricwise, it's very clever. I still haven't figured it out quite, since I'm usually too busy rocking to really listen into the lyrics. But I believe it's about them all, as a bad, growing into something great, and having to push "through the concrete" to get there. Great song.

8. "Not Enough" - I believe this song is sung entirely in clean vocals, but for some reason, it's another favourite of mine. It has an obvious feel, for how it progresses. But it's just too catchy to try and disrespect. I love how the guitar is played along with the drum beat. The lyrics seem to be about being "at the top of the world" with their success, but they want more. Although it comes with some struggles. That's just my own take on it. I love the breakdown in this song. How it's just drums and bass, and singing. With some hard EQing. It sounds great, and has an amazing feel to it.

9. "Need to Be" - There isn't anything heavy about this song, it's entirely acoustic. And honestly, sounds a lot like Linkin Park. It deals with some obvious emotions, of sensitivity, indifference, and guilt. It's not quite as powerful as "Speechless," but it's still another solid, soft, slow song from Memphis May Fire.

10. "Pharises" - To be honest, because I have no idea what the title of the song means (Is it even a word?), I never bothered with the lyrics. Although it seems like it's about someone who has a huge ego, and is condescending. Otherwise, it's a heavy beast, that makes you bleed from gums and fists from metal overdose. At first it was one of my favourites, but it got stale pretty quickly for me.

11. "Divinity" - Okay, I know I said "The Rose" was my favourite, but than this song came to mind. But I can't decide between the two, for the number 1 spot in my mind. Lets just say they're a tie (Y). The song is powerful, and it's quite religious. But not in a way that makes it seem like they're pushing faith in you, so don't worry about that. It has a very positive feel, something that makes you feel good about yourself. It's basically going to feel like Memphis May Fire is in your living room, singing to you personally, about how you should never give up, You're special! The outro to the song is so powerful as well, it fades in such a melodic, wonderful way, that leaves you feel great about life. A perfect outro for the album. // 7

Overall Impression: Personally, I think this album is a masterpiece. I've noticed a lot of negativity coming from this album. It's unfortunate, and I don't believe it deserves the hate. But people will like what they like, and hate on what they feel like hating. The album is a perfect image, of what you'd expect to hear from Memphis May Fire. It sounds a lot like "Challenger," but the songs are a bit more distinguishable from each other in my opinion. But than again, I'm sure a lot of us don't mind the idea of it being "Challenger 2.0", because that's a great album as well. It's definitely worth a pickup fro your local music store. It seems quite a few new albums these days don't seem to be doing justice for the artists. But Memphis May Fire was able to take what they had, crank it up a notch or two, and blow away any expectations I had. It's full of heavy headbanging moments, and has it's times where it makes you reminisce about a relationship you had. Through out all of the curves, and changes, it leaves you feeling satisfied, and happy. 

This was my first review ever, I just felt I had to say something about the album. So if you have any comments on my review skills, try to be more with "Helpful criticism," as opposed to spiteful, unneeded negativity. Thanks, I hope this helps. // 9

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