The only thing wrong with this album is the fact that Memphis May Fire may never release an album this good again.
If you need an introduction to Memphis May Fire then you are clearly not a metalcore or post-hardcore fan. Ploarising perhaps, but there's no excising the fact, they are a driving force and a house-hold name within their respective genre. Moreover, they have inspired countless bands throughout their successful career. Now, after what has felt like fucking forever, they unveil shiny new album, 'Unconditional' to the world. Is it was worth the wait? Oh, it was worth far more than that.
Opening with lead single, 'No Ordinary Love' you instantly get the idea of the direction Memphis are taking this album in. It's down the musical tracks of their sophomore album 'The Hollow' with the newer, more mainstream metalcore sound of their third LP 'Challenger'. There's the classic, punchy and virgin-tight drumming courtesy of Jake Garland (seriously, hater or fanboy, you must admit he is immaculate behind the kit). Plus, the slick and sharp guitar riffs and licks that seemingly come pouring out of Kellen McGregor and Anthony Sepe's arses.
Yet, and although we don't want to sound like 'that fan', the highlight of this album is no doubt frontman and lyricist Matty Mullins. Not only is he a dynamic frontman, having given a strong image to the band, he is also an proficient vocalist. On this record, he's at his prime. His melodies are spine-tingling and his shouts and screams are just as raunchy and raw as always. It's suitable and polished, which fits accordingly within the full-length's overall structure.
Yet there is that 'something else' here. From beginning to end, there's a sense of maturity and theatrics to the sound. Whether in the soaring and emotion packed melodies or the ear-smashing, PA distorting breakdowns, there is something behind the music...and it's passion.
Passion in music, and this genre especially, is so rare. So rare that when you feel it, it cannot be matched by anything but passion itself. And that is exactly what's happening here. It makes up for any shortcomings and gives a genuine approach. You see, passion isn't heard, it's felt. If you can't feel the passion, the energy and the love behind the waves of sound on this record, we truly feel sorry for you.
Lyrically 'Unconditional' is also the band's best work. Mullins has brought his A-game with the rhyme-game. Touching on the usual topics of ostracism, self-harm, and self-doubt, and coming together to change the world there is a significant rise in the delivery of said lyrics, making them very powerful. But, the topic that is very appealing, regardless of religion, is the theme of God's love being unconditional. Rather than being a shaming and condemning take on Christianity, the songs here are a proclamation of the love the deity has for us. Whether you are religious or not there's no denying there is a beauty in the faith Mullins has in his God.
However, the part that makes this album what is, is the post-chorus on 'Sleepless Nights'. As the heaviest song on here, it only serves that the most gritty and hard-hitting lines are on here. As Mullins screams 'Inhale/ Exhale/ Why is it so hard to breathe?!' breathless and raspy, it encapsulates his struggle with alcoholism and his desperation to get better. The line is loaded with anguish, passion, struggle and determination.
It's not often you get an album such as 'Unconditional'. The album is raw and unrelenting, both Memphis May Fire's most melodic and heaviest work to date, it is also their best. The album has an incredible sonic-impact both on your ears and your heart. But, what makes this album what it is is the passion. It's that passion; that raw emotion; that animosity to craft an album that hits all the marks that makes a great album turn into an amazing album. This is metalcore at it's finest. This is, Memphis May Fire and this is their magnum opus.