This is a tough one.
I’ve been listening to Emery’s fourth full-length, …In Shallow Seas We Sail, repeatedly over the last week or two. And not because, like Eels’ or Dredg’s new albums, I’m in love with it. More because I’m trying to figure out if I like it or not, and beyond that, I’m trying to figure out whether other people will like it or not. I’m at the same point with Thursday’s newer album, but it’s been 5 months and I still haven’t decided, which is why I haven’t reviewed it yet, whereas I decided to tackle Emery right away.
Emery has always had a divisive nature. After 2004′s screamo debut The Weak’s End, when they gained a following with the melodic hardcore of “The Ponytail Parade” and the pure emotion of “Walls,” they released 2005′s The Question to mixed reviews. The band combined their emo roots with a distinct post-hardcore sound and an almost modern-rock-radio friendliness that confused fans. In 2007 on I’m Only A Man, Emery did more than inch away from their original sound – they jumped an airplane and flew to the land of slick production, power rock, a noticeable lack of screaming, and a penchant for rhyming. Though it did gain the band some new friends and some critical success, many previous fans hated it, as did many scenesters.
So on their latest EP, While Broken Hearts Prevail, and now on their June 2009 release, Emery resurrect the scream, while adding in elements of old Taking Back Sunday’s dual vocals (mmm, the yummy post-hardcore “The Poor And The Prevalent”) and a certain apocalyptic rock element. Their lyrics are better than ever, and are shown off on tracks like “Curbside Goodbye” (“I chose every word that I knew would hurt, but that was a poor choice at best/ This weak disguise, your careless replies that you made at my expense”). Yeah, it’s no John Lennon or Brand New, and it’s not concrete poetry – it’s abstract and thoughtful. The majority of the album (see “Piggy Bank Lies” or “Cutthroat Collapse”‘s “outside you will find the ring that once belonged to me” for evidence) seems to be about the end of a relationship, which gives a new meaning to the album’s title. Perhaps it’s meant to imply how fragile a relationship is, and how at any time it can run aground.
Drifting from the lyrics to the music, Emery has attempted to take their vocals styles from I’m Only A Man and combine them with the screams and the music of The Weak’s End, albeit more mature and more complex. “Edge Of The World” shows this off, revolving between heartstring singing and raw yelling. “Butcher’s Mouth” contains a chorus somehow reminiscent of classic rock over a riff worthy of Underoath, and “Churches And Serial Killers” is a confessional over power chords. Emery has never been the most musically diverse group, and one of the faults of …In Shallow Seas We Sail is that it’s noticeably less complex than I’m Only A Man. But for a return to
their older style, they succeed admirably. Some people will call this their best album to date; others will call it a return to form; still others will call it a huge disappointment after I’m Only A Man. Personally, I’d rather just take it for what it is, enjoy it as I have each of their last records, and watch them grow as a band. …In Shallow Seas is certainly no masterpiece, or even one of the best albums of the year, but it is worthy of more than one listen if you enjoy their style of music.
For a dab of screaming in your prog-hardcore coffee, Christians who want good music for once (even though Emery really isn’t a Christian band, Christians think they are), one of the few listenable post-hardcore albums. Try a handful of new songs on Emery’s MySpace.