Whether you love or hate Matty Mullins, it’s hard to deny the stature he holds in the metalcore scene. The frontman is just as divisive as the band he heads up, with Memphis May Fire responsible for some of the catchiest anthems in the genre, albeit occupying the soppier end of the metalcore spectrum. If you don’t like what MMF do, fourth album ‘Unconditional’ isn’t going to cause any epiphany, but it may get your toe reluctantly tapping.
Inspired by a year of anxiety and depression, ‘Unconditional’ charts Matty Mullins‘ journey to overcome a time riddled with trials and tribulations. Though there are related themes, ‘Unconditional’ doesn’t feel overtly religious. The Christian contingent of the heavy music scene has come under a great deal of scrutiny since the recent revelation from Tim Lambesis, frontman from As I Lay Dying, that his band used religion to capitalise on a thriving market. Downplaying those elements in their music may help MMF to avoid some flack.
It does lead to ‘Unconditional’ feeling decidedly light, though. The material is clearly personal to the frontman, but there’s a lack of true insight and depth into the issues he’s faced. Pop hooks sugar-coat the message to make it easier to swallow, but at the core of it these tracks lack emotional weight. It’s an album, in Mullins‘ own words, “written to inspire hope”. On a superficial level; through catchy chorus mantras packaged in uplifting melodies, ‘Unconditional’ achieves this, but don’t expect any great revelations for all the soul-searching.
Structurally, the album starts powerfully, but steadily loses momentum. ‘No Ordinary Love’ and ‘Beneath The Skin’ relentlessly propel the listener through the first half of the album, with the pummelling swash of ‘Possibilities’ signalling the end of an engaging if offensively inoffensive ride. Next is ‘Speechless’; its production is shamelessly corporate, its lyrics are full-on Bieber, but there’s something about the bare-faced lovey dovey cheese of it that will mean you’ll probably hang on until the end of the track.
A mediocre album can sometimes recover if it has a memorable opener and explosive close. ‘Unconditional’ suffers from a forgettable third act that leads the album off without fanfare. ‘Need To Be’ and ‘Pharisees’ reminds us that even genre stalwarts can resort to the generic, leaving ‘Divinity’ to salvage a few final moments of enjoyment before trailing out into silence. ‘Unconditional’ is not a bad album, but by ending on a run of mediocrity, it’s too easy to forget the thrills it provided in the first half. An uneven listen.
Written by Grant Bailey