Flyleaf – Memento Mori

And now for something completely different! I’ve been meaning to do a CD review on here for a while, so here it is. Disclaimer: Opinions and song interpretations are mine and if you disagree, please do so with respect.

Memento Mori - Flyleaf

Although the CD is almost a year old now (it was released in November 2009), I still haven’t gotten tired of listening to it. Flyleaf, classified as a rock/alt. metal band, has put forth an album just as satisfying and loud as the one before it (eponymous debut released in October 2005).

The members of Flyleaf (Lacey – vocals, James – percussion, Sameer – guitar, Jared – guitar, Pat – bass) do not want their band labeled as a “Christian rock” band, but the entire concept of Memento Mori (be mindful of death, in Latin) is about the battle Christians must face against sin and death. The inside liner notes tell the story of the fictional “Passerby Army” as they struggle to keep their faith in a world that does not honor God.

The religious/inspirational nature of the lyrics may not appeal to some fans, and the lack of focus on Lacey’s signature screams on the album may also be disappointing (she does scream, but considerably less than in the first album), but nevertheless, it’s a great listen and definitely not a “soft” album by any means.

It’s the power of Lacey’s voice that makes the album shine. She puts so much emotion into every song. Every time I hear “The Kind,” “Tiny Heart,” and “Missing,” I tear up. As a Christian, the album spoke to me very deeply about how fleeting life is and how we really should be preparing ourselves for a battle against worldly urges that aren’t very good for us.

Track-By-Track

1. “Beautiful Bride” – Second single. Not so much about brides in the literal sense, the song’s about people from diverse backgrounds (presumably Christians) banding together against the “enemy.” It’s a powerful opener, a battle cry that kicks off the album with fearless energy. The peaceful “Hallelujah” sequence at the middle of the track gives the otherwise loud (I’ve heard some call it “exhausting”) song a bit of a break.

2. “Again” – The first single from the album – and it might be because the lyrics are not so overtly religious. It’s all about helping someone who has fallen to see the light. With as much energy as “Beautiful Bride,” “Again” is a kind of love-letter to those who may fall during “battle.”

3. “Chasm” – Fourth single on the album, and a definite earworm, “Chasm” has a message directly from the Bible (Luke 16:19-31). If I were to interpret it in a more secular sense, it seems to be more about the thirst for a certain spiritual fulfillment – which we all need, as we are spiritual beings whether or not we believe in organized religion. It’s got a cool instrumental outro at the end, too.

4. “Missing” – Third single on the album. It probably relates to a quote by St. Augustine that says something to the effect of “our hearts are restless until they rest in you”, the “you” being God. Flyleaf’s message here is that we can’t be filled completely by earthly things. The song itself has definite sing-along potential; the melody’s easy on the ears and the lyrics repetitive enough to remember them easily.

5. “This Close” – Probably my favorite song on the album. The lyrics speak of disparity between what’s false and real in this life, and about getting close to the “stranger” aspects of yourself. Like “Again,” it’s all about coming back to the light and finding out who you are – “breathing again” and all that.

6. “The Kind” – I always tear up when I hear this song because it reminds me of a situation with two people who were once my best friends. The basic premise of the song is “you can’t serve two masters,” those two being God and money. The song’s got a great message for modern times, with all the corporate greed and the debt of the US government going on nowadays. The little story in the liner notes reminds me of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. The most powerful part of the song is the “I’m sorry” sequence at the end – we get a little of Lacey’s signature screams here.

7. “In the Dark” – The whispered intro to this song is unique among the songs in this album; it’s not as much of a powerful kickoff as the other songs have, but the whispers force you to pay attention as the song builds its way up into the type of power we expect from Flyleaf – complete with a death-scream! It’s got a strongly religious tone to it; the name of Jesus is mentioned explicitly.

8. “Set Apart This Dream” – Taking on a far more gentle tone than the other tracks on this album, this song has an inspirational (not necessarily religious) message to little girls everywhere. If I had a daughter, I’d let her hear it. It could be interpreted as a true-love-waits anthem, but I see it as a celebration of childhood. Lovely track – at the end there’s a lot of “background noise” with more of a good message within.

9. “Swept Away” – I’d go so far as to consider this the most violent track on the album. Screaming in the beginning, then strained vocals released to triumphant praise in the chorus, all in all, it covers a similar theme as “Again” and “This Close” – someone fallen from God or from the light who needs to give up the darkness and turn to the light. The “violence” in this song comes at around 2:40 – more strained vocals, then release in the form of the strongest scream on the album. I love the chime sounds at the end; a very calming finale to a powerful song.

10. “Tiny Heart” – After a strong track like “Swept Away,” “Tiny Heart” works well. It’s a reworked version of an earlier song and some may not like it as much as the original, but both hold their own. Some lyrics have been rearranged and a chiming sound like church bells features right before the chorus. It’s another of my favorites on the album – and it makes me cry… in a good way.

11. “Melting (Interlude)” – This track, almost a minute long, is a quiet (but somehow haunting) break in the middle of an otherwise noisy album.

12. “Treasure” – Written about Lacey’s fiance proposing to her, this song manages to send a positive message to everyone: we’re all treasured and loved by someone, somewhere. It’s another overtly Christian song – a Hallelujah in the chorus and the mention of Jesus as Yeshua. One of the quieter tracks on the album, it still holds to the triumphant, loud atmosphere of the album.

13. “Circle” – Probably the most emotionally-wrenching song on the album, with the possible exception of “Swept Away,” I see it as a definite Jesus jam, although it can be interpreted in lots of other ways. (One of my favorite things about Flyleaf – all the different ways their songs can be interpreted.) Like the others, the song is loud, but it ends on a quiet, meditative note.

14. “Arise” – Fifth single. They couldn’t have picked a better track to end the album. I think this song is the strongest (lyrically) of the entire album; the message is applicable to everyone. I consider it the end of the story that begun in “The Kind” – although we may be dirtied by the things of this world, we can rise out of it and “be all we dreamed.” Lacey’s solo vocals at the very end announce that the battle’s not over – we still need to fight for what we believe and what we want to be.

Overall, for an album so focused on death, the songs as a whole are inspirational and filled with hope. Did you like this album? Do you have different interpretations for any of the songs? Let me know! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Flyleaf – Memento Mori

  1. As a musician, I appreciate the review. Everyone has their own take on musical preference and I appreciate the way this music moves you. Every songs means something different to you which says a lot about the performers and their music. What I don’t like is when every song sounds pretty much the same. Regge is like that. You hear one song and then the rest sound like the repeat of the fist. LOL But there are those that like that type of music and i respect that as well.
    Thanks for posting.

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    • What I don’t understand is how CDs where every song sounds the same even get out of the studio. Doesn’t someone tell the band that they’re not making the songs different? But thank you for your comment! 🙂

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