Memphis May Fire - Challenger (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Memphis May Fire

Challenger (2012)

Rise Records

There's a common urban legend circulated about Budweiser that basically claims it was specifically designed to be the most inoffensive beer possible. By avoiding a specific flavor attribute (malty, hoppy, bitter, beery, etc.) Bud would become the default choice for large gatherings and parties. Sure, no one will ever passionately love Budweiser, but you don't need to love something for it to sell. It seems like a strange business plan and yet it seems so well mimicked by Memphis May Fire in their third album Challenger that it may actually hold weight.

Challenger works by taking the very basic elements of successful metalcore and whittling them down to their most well worn, time tested (not to mention boring as Ben Stein) fundamentals. Finger taping guitar riffs are in rich supply as are breakdowns, because metalcore. Singer Matty "Smooth Gorilla" [as he may someday be known] Mullins transitions between growling screams and clean, high pitched vocals, because metalcore. There's some light use of synthesizers and effects but nothing too overt, because metalcore. If you're noticing a trend here, it's not a coincidence. The album strives to be all things that are basically accepted in metalcore. The stunning thing is that it pushes to achieve all of these ends without making any of them stand out. Love or hate a band like Enter Shikari, you cannot deny that they use electronic elements to make their music stand out but Memphis May Fire seem to utilize it (like almost every other element) simply because it seems like what you do on a metal-core album.

Challenger is utterly unremarkable. It's angry without being passionate. It possesses screams but is never really loud. There's synth but never enough to make it stand out (neither on track or on the album as a whole). It's unfortunate, because with a name like Challenger there are dozens of great space shuttle metaphors just waiting to be used. However, unlike the space shuttle Challenger (which disintegrated as it exited Earth's atmosphere), this Challenger does nothing so bold or noteworthy. It's much more comparable to a bus ride to the grocery store, only to forget what you wanted to buy once you got there. Both entirely unremarkable and unsatisfying.