When Memphis May Fire's frontman Matty Mullins debuted in the Christian pop scene back in 2014 as a solo artist, his release was a pleasant surprise for those looking for more than the radio-friendly nature of most CCM. A cold soundscape, dreamy synths, and aggressive beats made Mullins' eponymous solo debut one of those few pop albums that is accessible to rock fans. There were also lots of minor key songs, which added an edgy and dramatic flair to his sound. Mullins piqued our interests earlier this year when he signed with BEC, and news of a forthcoming album excited fans, like this reviewer. Sadly, those dreaming of another cutting-edge pop effort from Mullins will probably be disappointed with his second solo offering, Unstoppable.
The record kicks off with the poppy "Say It All," and Mullins is off to a strong start with the highly-relatable lines, "Seems like everyone's got their opinions on display / We try to say the right thing, but our pride gets in the way." The track is catchy, but it doesn't hold up as well when compared to similar songs from artists like Jordan Feliz and David Dunn. Thankfully, the message still elevates the song as it urges believers to live out their faith instead of offering cheap talk. Speaking of Jordan Feliz, he makes a guest appearance in the title track, but the vocals from Mullins and Feliz are too similar to make this feel like a strong feature. Consequently, the track gets lost in the mix of poppy cuts on this release.
One song that does not share this fate is "The Great Unknown," which is the only track that sounds vaguely close to what we heard on Mullins' debut. The colder 80's synth makes an appearance during the chorus, the beat is irresistible, and the lyrics express a desire to go outside of the comfort zone so many believers inhabit, "Lord take me somewhere my heart has to grow / You lead, I'll follow into the unknown." This track especially stands out, as much of Unstoppable is littered with musical cliches; Mullins' vocal delivery is airy and much softer on this record compared to the high-octane vocals on his debut. Because of the lighter vocals (and perhaps this is a production error), tracks which should have a big impact fall flat. "Christ Be Magnified," a song which reflects on God's majesty and the sacrifice of our Savior, sounds repetitive and maintains a paint-by-numbers melody with little build-up towards the end of the track. "You Can" starts with a promising somber piano which is used throughout the track, and the message of God sustaining us through trials is relevant and comforting. Unfortunately, the upbeat sound of the chorus slightly waters down the message, and there are lyrical cliches throughout, like "I'm surrounded by my fear" as well as mentions of storms, mountains, and valleys (familiar CCM buzzwords which Christian comedian John Crist pointed out in his video "How It's Made: Christian Music").
Clocking in at under 34 minutes, Unstoppable is a fairly quick listen, and while it is chock-full of positive messages, it left me wanting more in terms of sound and production. It's kind of like when you order your favorite dish at a restaurant, but it doesn't taste as good as it usually does. Mullins delivers a palatable album here, but that's pretty much all it is--it's average and pleasant enough, but after hearing what Mullins is capable of on his debut, Unstoppable lacks both poetic bite and sonic punch by comparison. This probably isn't a record for those who were fans of Mullin's first solo album or those looking for a more against-the-grain CCM record, but those who do become Mullins fans through Unstoppable ought to be excited that Mullins has, and undoubtedly will, do better.
- Review date: 4/19/17, written by Nicole Marie Vacca of Jesusfreakhideout.com