The band doesn’t sound anything like Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Memphis May Fire may be the hottest thing to come out of the south since the producers of the unfortunately ubiquitous “Sweet Home Alabama.” Memphis May Fire actually couldn’t be farther in sound from the classic rockers of “Freebird” fame, but that doesn’t make them incapable of turning heads.
The Texas-based band has been compared to the likes of Underoath and Every Time I Die, favoring a sound commonly (and quite ambiguously) classified as “post-hardcore,” but adding a unique southern element. So far, the band has released just one EP, a self-titled effort in 2007, but the band is set to release their debut full-length, Sleepwalkers, on July 21 through Trustkill Records, home of Bullet For My Valentine, It Dies Today, and Walls of Jericho, among other artists.
With Sleepwalking, though, Memphis May Fire just might become the most well-known artist on Trustkill’s roster. The record begins with a bang, thanks to the extremely catchy riff of “North Atlantic Versus North Carolina.” The distortion is heavy, and a two-guitar attack allows for steady rhythm and tight melodies to intertwine. The slight swing feel of the riffing adds an element of southern flair, as do the bends and the attitude in the lyrics; vocalist Matt Mullins sings “Oh, I dare you to try and put me under…And I don’t mind waking up without you in my bed.” The guitars steal the show in this one though, with an impressive breakdown that features heavy rhythm and brief tapping. This is followed by a clean, jazzy interlude – the last thing you’d expect in this song, but something that works incredibly well.
The intensity returns with the next track, “A Giant In A Giant’s World,” as the intro builds momentum rapidly like an airplane gathering speed on the runway. Mullins laments the lack of a feeling of accomplishment, singing, “Like a giant in a giant’s world, I am proud of nothing.” However, if the band keeps producing tracks like this, there will definitely be much to be proud of. Mullins also shows that he can be a screamer, but luckily for listeners, the well-written lyrics are still comprehensible. The guitars scream along with him, dropping the sonic assault for a brief interlude around the 1:50 mark, but returning with a pounding breakdown that again carries some southern twang thanks to the bent notes.
“You’re Lucky It’s Not 1692,” the third track on Sleepwalking, opens with another very impressive riff, this time picked cleanly but swiftly as always. A variation on the riff appears around the one-minute mark, this time exuding even more of a southern sound. It’s a difficult phenomenon to describe, but when you hear it, you’ll know what it is, and come back begging for more. The track features some very bare, emotional lyrics, such as “She started the fire that ruined my life…time after time, you left me empty…it’s not just a game when you’re winning.” A brutal breakdown, complete with tasteful use of pinched harmonics closes out this phenomenal track.
And while Mullins sings “We are becoming tired and weary” in the opening lines of “Been There, Done That,” it’s not very convincing, given the intensity Memphis May Fire brings throughout the entire album. The lyrics in this track are deep and contemplative, with Mullins brooding about accepting what one is told at face value and trying to find something better: “We’re all searching for something so much greater than what we have, and these lies have nothing to offer…a bigger meaning, a better purpose, please believe me this is worth it. You don’t have to be the person that you were yesterday.” The driving guitars and percussion add a lot to this one, providing a solid soundtrack but allowing the lyrics to stand out.
The title track, “Sleepwalking,” is a little hectic, but still a good song. Changing tempos and crushing guitars ensure that this has a lot of replay value. Even with all of the volume and speed, Memphis May Fire does slow it down, allowing Mullins to be heard better as he sings about “Sleepwalking to contentment.”
The second-last “The Name with No Face” is another excellent track, bringing great riffing, punishing powerchords and smooth transitions from singing to screaming. A spectacular solo is featured here, and makes for one of the most memorable moments on the entire album.
Sleepwalking is a very cohesive album, but the songs don’t sound too similar or seem formulaic, so it’s unlikely listeners will tire of it right away. Everything, from the vocals to guitars to percussion, is very well done, and the songs are well-written and flow nicely. This is definitely worth the purchase, and Memphis May Fire seems to be a band to keep an eye on.