The powerful frontman whose motivational metalcore commands the crowds at prestigious festivals like Riot Fest (US), Download (UK) and Soundwave (Australia) has crafted a debut solo album harnessing melody, harmony, top-tier pop grooves with a heartfelt, worshipful devotion to his Christian faith. The electrifyingly diverse 11-song record explores a different side of the multitalented singer, as it hearkens even further back than his most cherished heavy music influences like Blindside or Underoath, to the Christian Contemporary rock and pop his mother took him to see as a kid.
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A Graceful Bridge| Posted September 25, 2014
Although Matty Mullins is a name previously mostly unheard in the field of Christian music, he is by no means unestablished. Mullins fronts the hardcore group Memphis May Fire, a Texas-based powerhouse that exploded onto the scene in 2011 with their first Rise Records album, The Hollow. Their polished sound, explosive energy and startling level of lyrical soulfulness won them the ears of the rapidly growing post-hardcore audience, leading to Warped Tour and the early 2014 release of Unconditional.
But this isn't all of Matty Mullins' story.
The themes of humanity's deep brokenness and need for compassion and love found in so many of Memphis May Fire's songs stem from Mullins' deep personal faith. In an interview with AlternativePress earlier this year, Mullins confessed to loving the metal scene all his life, but also having ties to a very different kind of music: Christian pop. The result is Matty Mullins, the self-titled solo project that fully embraces and expresses the hardcore icon's faith and love for faith-based music.
As a writer in the Christian music world who also has been known to attend Warped Tour and harbors a deep love for alternative music in all forms, I was excited from the moment I first heard about this album, anticipating that it had the potential to be the best of both worlds. I was definitely not disappointed.
Anyone who might have been skeptical about how genuine this project could be can rest assured: there is no material here that feels contrived. The tender "My Dear" is a song directed from God straight to the listener's heart, declaring unconditional love and reassurance over slick semi-synthesized beds. The poignant lyrics plead "cry to Me when life's unfair / your voice is the sweetest sound in My ear."
"99% Soul" is equally earnest, declaring the desire to let go of self-centeredness and step more fully into a spiritual life of imitating Jesus. The challenging "More of You" is a cry to surrender our tendency to control to God's loving hands, confessing "I'm not sure I'll get it right, but I know you love me despite my tendency to lose."
Although many of the lyrics are direct, frank discussions of faith, there are other themes here as well that are better expressed in this context than they would be on a Memphis May Fire album. "Back to Square One" expresses the sharp pain of betrayal and confusion when a relationship you've been deeply invested in falls apart. Suitably given that Mullins is also an openly dedicated husband, "By My Side" is a sweet tribute to his wife. Album highlight "Normal Like You" rounds off the lyrical themes with a discussion of some of the much felt but rarely expressed pressures and heartaches of being in a position of leadership and visibility where countless people share their burdens with you.
Musically, this is pop with an edge, clearly related to the work of Mullins' band without feeling like just an aside in their discography. "Glory," which focuses on the return of Christ, builds a kind of ambient awe that perfectly aids the imagery created by the lyrics. Smooth electronic soundscapes are punctuated by shatter sounds on "My Dear" and "By My Side." All of it is held together by Matty Mullins' crystal clear voice, shimmering and snapping through every melody with breathtaking mastery. Although we do get a brief gritty growl amid the desperate bridge of "Come Alive" (perhaps the most alt rock leaning selection), the rest of the album sticks to employing the clean side of the artists' vocals.
Matty Mullins certainly did not choose this route because it would be easy. He faced the risk of alienating Christian music listeners because of his alternative ties, and alienating his hardcore fanbase because of his expressions of belief. However, if this is the reaction of either side, they are missing out on one of the most earnest, genuinely passionate Christ-focused albums of the year. The Memphis May Fire frontman has gracefully bridged the gap between two worlds.
This is an album that achieves a rare level of vulnerability amid expressions of faith, choosing honesty above cliches as it navigates the territory of belief. Musically, this is a bright collection of songs venturing onto slick electronic ground without straying too far from the solid skillset Mullins has honed in the rock and roll arena. Softer sounds are given just enough guitar and vocal edge to cut to the heart alongside the soaring lyrics. This is a phenomenal addition to any rock or Christian pop fan's catalog.
Song to Download Now:
"My Dear" (Get it on iTunes here.)