...In Shallow Seas We Sail

Written by: TL on 24/06/2009 14:32:49

I have said it before and I will disclaim it again: I am a MASSIVE Emery fan, and to me, another release by this band is a more important day than Christmas eve. I'm sure this fact makes you expect that I am biased, and while that might be part of the truth, this also means that my reviewing duty has been halted for days, simply because I have listened and listened and listened again, to find something to dislike about the band's new album "...In Shallow Seas We Sail". You see there's nothing I'd love more than to be able to come here and tell you of its excellence, but given my bias, I know that I have to make damn sure I know what I'm talking about for my words to have any weight. Whether I've been successful or not is for you to decide I guess, because after all these listens I'm still left with the conclusion that Emery is deservedly my very favourite band, and there's not much else I can do than to use this record to explain you why that is..

But first things first, let's just briefly introduce this band and this album to newcomers. The simple explanation of Emery's sound is to say that they do roughly the same thing as Hawthorne Heights did on their first album, only with the refinement and nuance of a much much classier band. They are an atypical rock band, because while they do have two guitarists, focus is not at all on riffs in most of their songs, rather the music is much more interwoven than that of ordinary rock outfits, and if focus is to be placed anywhere, it seems to be on the vocals. With two proficient lead singers in Toby Morell and Devin Shelton and the rest of the band backing on screams - minus drummer Dave Powell, the only person on stage without a microphone - there is a LOT of vocal work in this band. And herein lies its brilliance, because while Emery have always aimed for a melodramatic expression that's basically emo'er-than-thou, they hardly ever feel cheesy, mainly due to how Devin's slightly understated and introverted delivery always balances Toby's over the top theatricality. Add to this constellation the fact that between the two singers and keyboardist Josh Head rests a treasure of melody-writing power that pop producers and musical writers alike would probably envy if they knew of it.

But what of this album then? Well this one is their fourth LP, and it is one that has been surrounded with a good deal of uncertainty in the fanbase. The previous "I'm Only A Man" album saw Emery turn down the drama and go for a more experimental alternative rock, and while I personally think that the album had good songs enough to justify itself, many missed the aggression and peaks of emotion that especially the debut "The Weak's End" stood for. Those people may rest comforted now, because while "...In Shallow Seas" is still a natural progression for the band, the impression it leaves also lies between those of the first and the second albums by the band. The no holds barred shot at the heartfelt, passionate drama is back and it is back in force!

Remember how I said I wasn't able to find anything to dislike about this album? That's simply because there are no bad songs on this album, there are only songs that each contain at least two captivating moments, and at least half of them contain moments that send shivers down your spine. It feels pointless to point out specific highlights, but the lazy could check out how opener "Cutthroat Collapse" quickly unveils a stunning vocal duel that brings back memories of "Walls" and its famous "These fights with your arms left beside/It's one thing and one more says goodnight" line, or maybe the mean, pummeling riff that drives "Butchers Mouth". They're going to miss out on the point unless they stay with the songs and let them unfold though, because Emery truly are a band where the music is greater than the sum of its parts. Just take one listen to "A Sin To Hold On To" and see if you don't catch my drift. That song is pretty much the best I've heard all year, and when the final chorus kicks in, backed by the keyboard melody it gets me every time and I am bursting to sing along with the band's unusually uplifting lyrics: I know you got it in you won't you let it out!/Just dig a little deeper and I know you'll find strength inside/If we can be the ones to hold on/ to stay strong/Maybe we can make a difference in somebody's life".

Critically speaking though, you could accuse Emery for being a bit one sided in expression, but my question is, does it really matter when there are virtually NO bands around that do things like they do? Are any other bands this catchy without compromise? How many other bands do you know that can in the same way, jam pack their songs with passionate, sweeping and memorable moments, while avoiding clichés and penning songs where every new moment feels like a logical step forward from the last one, yet you still couldn't predict it like you could in a normal rock song? I for one can't name many, and that's probably why I adore Emery to death, and while they're definitely an acquired taste, they should fit yours if you can find it in your mind to enjoy stellar singing and sublime composition. If so, then you will have no problem agreeing with me when I claim that this particular album is a frighteningly potent manifestation of their powers and one that certifies that this band is very much alive.


Download: A Sin To Hold On To, Cutthroat Collapse, Dear Death Part 2
For The Fans Of: (early) Hawthorne Heights, (early) Just Surrender, (early) Taking Back Sunday
Listen: myspace.com/emery

Release Date 02.06.2009
Tooth And Nail

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