Christian metal's claim to fame Memphis May Fire are back with their new record This Light I Hold. The band's known for their strong messages that come with their songs, but they seem to forget subtlety when it comes to delivering them.
2014's Unconditional might have been the pinnacle of the band's lyricism. Powerful messages were backed by poetic words and intense instrumentals. This Light I Hold feels like a step back from all of that. The instrumentals are solid throughout the record, but vocals and lyrics struggle with maintaining appropriate delivery.
The album begins on a high, for what it's worth. It opens big with 'Out Of It,' a big riff accompanying giant screamed vocals. It proceeds through with urgency and intensity before kicking in the classic Memphis May Fire cleanly sung chorus and building bridge. The song has a distinctly evil sound, showing the bigger meaning of the album and the passion of the song itself. You feel like you're being swallowed by darkness, the light in you being drawn out by something evil.
Another standout track on the record is 'The Enemy.' It starts the trend of songs with building electronics and guitars. Matty Mullins nails the vocals and melodies on the track, with the guitars also powerfully carrying the track. The key of the song is its symphonic parts, though. When they kick in, the song takes on a whole new level of urgency and drama. The brooding darkness of the track's epic orchestras help give it that theatrical voicing. The bridge is quiet, cleanly reverberating guitars echoing as Mullins' voice slowly grows and the pounding beat comes in to recreate the drama.
That's where a lot of the praises on the album come to an end. There are plenty of standard of songs, but also many very lacking tracks. Lead single 'Carry On' is one of the first that really lacks what the album needs: meaning. If you're a band founded on your lyrics and messages, you have to make the lyrics good. We reviewed the song upon its release, and the impact it had them hasn't really changed. The melodies and instrumental are solid, but when you listen the words, they really don't offer anything of worth. The bridge blatantly claims, "I will never be like you / I'm not a puppet on a string / I'm not one of your machines / I'm not doing this for you / I'm not doing this for me / It's bigger than what you choose to see," as if he's run out of things to say in a petty argument. The line "Don't be to preachy if you want to be loved" is pretty laughable too, considering the nature of the band's lyrics.
The clean third verse croons, "Sell your soul for platinum / Sell the truth for gold / You can be the next big thing / If you turn your back on what you know" in the most standard uplifting lyrics there have ever been. There's simply just no point to them besides what you can hear directly, and that's a problem with much of the record. There are a bunch of very boring tracks like 'Better Things' and 'The Antidote' that really don't have anything worth remembering about them, standard lyrics not helping their case.
The few guests spots on the record are a hit or miss. Jacoby Shaddix features on title track 'This Light I Hold,' but it really feels like he isn't necessary. The only vaguely Papa Roach element in the track is the slightly distorted harmony in the choruses that come straight from the band's latest record F.E.A.R. He's there just for being there, really. The instrumental has a lot of punch to it, making it one of the bigger tracks on the album, but I just can't understand why Shaddix had to be there. Larry Solimon features on 'Not Over Yet' to the actual benefit of the song. He unfortunately only features for a short portion of the bridge, but his voice is almost childish, the innocence contrasting the nature of the track.
This Light I Hold is a step in the opposite direction for Memphis May Fire. There's not much going on it besides what the band was already doing, and worse than what they're capable of, at that. There's so much potential on this album, but the lyrics didn't quite make it there, and that's always what defined the band. Disappointing isn't the right word, but it really just doesn't come off as what you would've expected.
Favorite Tracks: Out Of It, The Enemy, This Light I Hold
Least Favorite Tracks: Carry On, Better Things, Unashamed
Rating: 67 / 100