Release Date: April 21st 2017
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Say it All
- I Choose You
- Unstoppable (feat. Jordan Feliz)
- Go the Distance
- Brand New Fire
- Christ Be Magnified
- The Great Unknown
- The Best is Yet to Come
- You Can
- Until I Need You
Recently signed to BEC Recordings, home to artists like Kutless, David Dunn, Kings Kaleidoscope, Andrew Marcus, Disciple, Among the Thirsty and All Things New to name a few; Memphis By Fire frontman Matty Mullins has decided to venture into Christian music with his BEC Recordings debut project Unstoppable. After a few years within the mainstream arena, Matty felt the Lord calling him into ministering within the Christian music sphere of influence, while continuing to be an ever presence in Memphis by Fire and in the mainstream. As said my Matty himself, ‘…God continuously opens doors with this project in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I know God has me in Memphis May Fire for multiple reasons. I thought this solo project was just for fun, but He’s continuously revealing Himself to me by saying, ‘I want you to be fully invested in both of these projects.’ I believe God can use me in mainstream music and in Christian music at the same time, to introduce people to Jesus and to encourage those who already believe…’ What has resulted is this- a 10 song project where Matty navigates the avenues of pop music, something that is a big departure stylistically from his genre with Memphis by Fire.
Nonetheless, his new solo album is still encouraging and impacting, as Matty brings a new fanbase that comes when any artist releases music in a CCM genre style. And while this new album from Matty may get a bashing, quite literally, from his diehard fans of his first studio album (and fans of Memphis by Fire), I myself found the album quite emotive, poignant, heartfelt and powerful, and a must-listen if you are fans of not only Matty’s original material, but also fans of artists like David Dunn, Owl City, Hawk Nelson or Jordan Feliz. In truth though, whomever does pick up this album, whatever their preferred musical genre is, will be blessed by the hearing of Unstoppable and by what these 10 songs have to say. Spanning a variety of song lengths (the shortest song, “Unstoppable” (feat. Jordan Feliz) clocks in at 2:44, while the longest track, written with Pete Kipley- “Until I Need You”, stands at 4:18); Matty has given us an album full of hope and encouragement, life and poignancy, as Unstoppable quickly races to be within my top favourite 10 albums of 2017 thus far.
Releasing at the beginning of the year, “Unstoppable” is the title track from Matty’s new album, and standing at the shortest length out of any song on the album at 2:44, the song features Jordan Feliz, popular new CCM artist who received the award for the Dove Award New Artist of the Year (2016). While at times both Jordan and Matty sound similar vocally- hence there are moments in the song where the voices are indistinguishable (that’s if you are hearing the song in the background, rather than listening to it intentionally), the song nevertheless is one that is much enjoyable as it is needed in today’s society. A song that is an encouragement and an anthem for anyone who feels like there’s in hopeless situations, or anyone who is looking for something of substance in a world full of fakes and pretenders, we are reminded that it is God’s love that is unstoppable, that with His presence in our lives, ‘…you can’t push it out, you can’t shut it down, when we look around denying the impossible, through the night in the darkest times, I believe His light still shines, His love is unstoppable…’ Featuring electronic keyboard riffs and a power-pop atmosphere that are sure to draw in listeners of both the rock and pop genres (or even those who are fans of ‘extreme’ genres like metal or worship), Matty offers up a song that is at the heart of the album thematically- that as we look around the world and see the challenges that face it, we can all be assured that it is all taken care of through the power of God’s love through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for all mankind. God’s love still shines in the darkest of places, and this song is a testament to such a declaration. Well done Matty for such an enjoyable and heartfelt song, one of my favourites on the album!
Throughout the rest of the album, we are presented with the remaining tracks that continue from where “Unstoppable” left off thematically, as Matty offers songs that I’m sure will resonate with some listeners more than others. “Say it All” starts off the album with electronic keyboards and a similar musical backdrop compared to what Matty offered up stylistically on his self titled debut 2014 album, as Matty delivers powerful lyrics from the outset- ‘…seems like everyone’s got their opinions on display, we try to say the right thing, but our pride gets in the way…’, and it is from there that we as listeners start to take notice. “Say it All” reminds us all that a life of faith and living like we have been changed is more of a witness for the seeker than speaking out words of encouragement, as any time we say anything, people of a different point of view will always be on the defensive. “Say it All” encourages us to eliminate such divisions, and act like we have been impacted by the love of Christ instead of just talking about it.
“I Choose You”, more radio friendly than track #1, features a theme of choosing God intentionally even in the moments of discouragement and uncertainty. It is when we let our pasts define us that we can’t live fully and enjoy what God has for our today and the future- this is where “I Choose You” comes in- that when we choose God, we choose Him and give Him everything we have, even the things we so long to hold close to ourselves. As Matty divulges on a wider scale, ‘…so often, we as believers look to the past and think about how much we’ve done wrong. [This song] is about choosing to believe that I am who God says I am and not who the world says I am. I’m choosing God in those moments of despair. I’m choosing Him even when all of my humanity wants to look at my mistakes and my brokenness. The song is about how everyday, I will choose Him instead…’ And with such a song tracklisting as strong as “Say it All”, “I Choose You” and “Unstoppable”, as the first 3 tracks on the album, Matty’s first three tracks are quite possibly the three most lyrically emotive and profound songs I’ve heard in 2017 thus far, since “Chain Breaker”, “Old Church Choir” and “Survivor” from Zach Williams in late 2016!
“Go the Distance” is a track where Matty tries to comprehend the enormity of God’s sacrifice through Jesus for humanity, as we are met with a humble moment of realisation and revelation, that the distance the Lord went to bring us back to Himself was massive, thus our response to such a sacrifice should be nothing less; while “Brand New Fire”, quite possibly the most lyrically cliché track on the album, speaks about a theme of how God’s love inside of us is like a fire that is awakened and set alight, changing everything that we are and everything that we undertake. Sadly, “Brand New Fire” suffers from quite a lot of repetition, and though not intentional, Matty delivers possibly some of the most lyrically unimaginative stanzas I’ve heard this year- not his fault though, I’m sure in the writing room he was as passionate about recording this song as he was about the others, yet, I wasn’t as enthralled or impacted about this song as I was about others. Nevertheless, “Brand New Fire” speaks of a relatable theme of igniting the fire inside of us as we burn for the Lord only.
You know how the saying goes, that with every album, the stronger songs are towards the front, and the ‘weaker’ ones are more towards the end? On Matty’s new album, it is the reverse (well to me it is). As I heard Unstoppable from start to finish, songs like “The Great Unknown”, “You Can” and “Christ Be Magnified” all resonated with me a lot, and all of them were from the second half of the album. “Christ Be Magnified” is essentially the only worship song on the album, and presents to us a theme of magnifying the Lord Jesus for all that He has done and all that He will do in our lives in the future. While I know that Matty’s attempt of worship won’t necessarily compare to worship songs of Jesus Culture, Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, Bethel Music and the like (since all those artists write worship music for a living); “Christ Be Magnified” has a certain appeal, even if the song is a fade-out. The track is earnest, has heart and passion, as Matty conveys the simple yet profound truth- that Christ ought to be magnified above any other.
“The Best is Yet to Come” features hand claps and a strong drum beat as this track echoes a similar theme to “The Best is Yet to Come” by Aussie singer/songwriter Paul Colman, as we’re reminded through this anthem that the best is indeed yet to come, as we know that whatever we face will indeed shape us to become better people than what we were before- hence the phrase ‘the best is yet to come’. As long as we’re learning and growing, we can be assured that whatever we face won’t phase us, because we’re holding onto the promise that our best days are ahead of us. “Until I Need You”, the album closer, is a hauntingly beautiful, confronting and heartfelt melody about asking the Lord to break away all the things that are not of Him so that only we are in a circumstance where we need the Lord and the Lord only…sort of like a theme that is similar to that in “Keep Making Me” (Sidewalk Prophets). Co-written with long-time MercyMe collaborator Pete Kipley, “Until I Need You” is a prayer that we all need to pray, and to mean it when we speak it out, especially when we hear the words of the first verse and how it says ‘…break me down so you can build me up, pour me out so you can fill this cup, this life I’ve made, God it’s not enough, break me down so you can build me up…’
Starting off with a piano presence, “You Can” invites us to believe into the possibility that God in fact can do everything that we can’t- that even when life brings us a mountain that is seemingly unmoveable in the eyes of ourselves, God can indeed move it for us, if He chooses. Or even if He doesn’t, we can still choose to believe that God can weave together the experience to better our own understanding, of ourselves, those around us, or even about God Himself through such an ordeal. Standing at 3:05, “You Can” is a song of wondering and wrestling, figuring out why we are placed in such situations in the first place, but in the end trusting that God can and will do everything to make us a better person out of it. “The Great Unknown” is by far the song that is a standout on the album, and is the first promotional single after “Unstoppable” in preparation for the album release (“The Great Unknown” was released to iTunes prior to the album release, but isn’t officially a ‘single’ from the album). Presenting to us music that could be easily at home with other music from the 1980s and 1990s, Matty evokes a message of stepping out into the unknown that is pivotal and poignant for the generation of today. So many of us (myself included) are a victim to comfortableness and the notion of ‘safe’, and this song tackles these notions and places a challenge to us, to break out and see a life beyond what we know. God gave us a spirit of exploration and discovery, yet so much of the lives that we lead can be mundane and uneventful- this song hopefully being a catalyst to many (myself definitely included) to try and change, as we invite the Lord into our lives to ‘…take me away from what I know, show me a life that relies on You alone, I wanna live loud and speak with a love that overflows, I wanna walk with a faith and a strength that’s not my own, into the great unknown…’ Well done Matty for such an encouraging track, and my favourite song on Unstoppable!
Matty Mullins’ new album is a purely CCM pop album…and there’s nothing wrong with that. So much of the backlash has come from fans who have enjoyed Matty’s first solo album (that was much more rock) or his music from Memphis by Fire (more metal) and therefore this album hasn’t connected that much…but that’s ok. Matty’s second solo album will resonate with some people (like myself) more than others. Still, these 10 songs are as much needed in society as they are unique, humbling, poignant and encouraging. From songs like the title track, to “You Can”, “Christ Be Magnified” and my favourite “The Great Unknown”, we are met with truths that must be conveying in society that seems to be lacking the truth. Matty has opened up his heart on the album, and this collection of songs are certain to be enjoyed if you are a fan of his previous work, or similar pop-sounding CCM artists like David Dunn, Jordan Feliz or Hawk Nelson. As with many artists who branch out of their initial genre, this album will receive some flack, yet these songs are certain to impact and compel a lot of people in the upcoming months ahead. Whatever negative comments this album will endure, the end result I’m sure will be changed lives and a realigned focus…what more can you want from an album? A standout in April 2017, this album is one of my favourites. Kudos to Matty for himself stepping outside of the comfort zone. Can’t wait to the next album in the future, I’ll certainly be all ears waiting for that one, whenever it comes!
3 songs to listen to: The Great Unknown, You Can, Christ Be Magnified
RIYL: David Dunn, Jordan Feliz, Bellarive, An Epic No Less, Hawk Nelson, Owl City