Memphis May Fire: “Between the Lies”

With “Between the Lies” being Texas-based Memphis May Fire’s third studio effort, this post-hardcore act has carved out a legitimate place for the Southern style of music in a genre plagued by a sea of bands that rely so heavily on trite breakdowns and pseudo-poppy choruses to garner their fans in today’s music scene.

On their previous full-length album and self-titled EP, these Texas boys showed that they’re not scared of a little swagger in their step to set them apart from the rest.

However, with “Between the Lies,” I fear that MMF might be straying away from their trademark Southern style and into the path of verse-chorus-verse-chorus song structure that we’ve all come to know and either love or hate in modern music.

Because of this fact, I’m torn between relief in that the band has matured in some areas but disappointed that they’ve chosen to stray from their origins in others. Usually, I’ve heralded change as something I would encourage in musicians today, but this time I really wish they had only worked to improve the sound they had come to be known for.

Undoubtedly with the lineup changes they’ve experienced in the past few years, the most noticeable improvements lie within the new style of drumming that’s much more double-bass heavy and intense than the drummers on their previous works. It complements the guitars well and adds a new level of intensity that their previous albums lacked.

Vocalist Matt Mullins has developed as not only a singer but as a screamer as well, showing that his voice can snap from that of an angel to a demon in the matter of a moment. The most prime example of this can be found on the middle track “Vaulted Ceilings,” which is MMF’s token ballad song of the EP.

Another area that Mullins has shown maturity is in his lyrical prowess, writing this EP mainly about liars – as the title suggests – and the struggles that he has faced in trying to achieve his goals in music. While most of the time the lyrics here are well-written and poetic, the song “Gingervitus” (a play I’m sure on Mullins’ own fiery doo) stuck out as having lyrical messages that were particularly strong.

That being said, the guitar work is the area that left the most to be desired. It seems odd to me that a band that once had so much technical prowess with their guitars, laced with a Southern accent of their own, has been reduced to semi-basic metal riffs.

I say semi-basic here because there are still some moments where the guitarists’ melodies do shine brightly, such as on the second track of the EP entitled “Action/Adventure.” The song starts with a promising riff that hints at their older material but doesn’t really amount to much else in terms of the Southern style.

Another miss on this album is the sample tracks placed somewhat awkwardly into their music, such as the sampled drums on “Vaulted Ceilings” and the very first song on the EP, “Be Careful What You Wish For.” It might be a minor scrutiny, but the quality of the samples doesn’t sound very professional and could have been done without.

What I did enjoy immensely on this album is the sheer energy that this band is able to convey throughout their songs, even through the aforementioned ballad-esque “Vaulted Ceilings.”

Perhaps the most energetic piece on the entire album is the fourth track, “Dueces Las Cruces.” Despite following a very basic and predictable structure, it’s an amazingly catchy song. The chorus riff and the breakdowns work very well with each other, making “Dueces Las Cruces” the standout track on the album, followed closely by “Action/Adventure.”

In the end, “Between the Lies” is still a fun listen, but doesn’t amount to much more than that. Judging by the fans’ reception (reaching as high as No. 5 on the iTunes rock charts this past week), it’s being eaten up and the style change from MMF is being enjoyed as well.

While the songs on this EP are still good, I can’t help but wish that MMF had retained what made them original in the first place, which is shoving fast and intense Southern hardcore right into the faces of the audience. Anyone who has been to one of their live shows knows that this is exactly what happens, and that there’s something unique and endearing about it.

If you’re a fan of the genre or a long-time fan of Memphis May Fire wondering whether you should pick up this short EP, I say do it. It’s only $4 on iTunes for five songs, and there’s enough here for a fun and catchy listen from a band that’s not afraid to bring the heavy. It’s just a shame that the energy they’re bringing this time around doesn’t have the Southern charm that it used to.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5