You Were Never Alone

Written by: TL on 02/06/2015 15:17:39

Fourteen years into their active career, emocore veterans Emery have outlived all but few bands in their genre, and the band members have grown into adulthood by now, while emo as a trend has faded from wider popularity. Yet rather than fold, the group has adapted to the situation and recently put out their sixth album "You Were Never Alone". The record was originally funded via IndieGoGo, where the band set $50,000 as their goal, yet ended up with $110,000 in donations from fans. Still the release has been delayed from 2014 until this May, where it was finally released following a series of weekly podcasts where band members discussed each track in great detail. Despite this unusual strategy, "You Were Never Alone" has been a commercial success, charting higher than most if not all previous Emery records.

More than anything this shows the cult following that has deservedly grown around the band over the years. Because beyond staying together longer than other emo bands, Emery have also stood out as one of the genre's very best recording acts with each new criminally underrated album they have released. Their blend of Queen-like, affected vocal arrangements and occasional injections of almost Norma Jean-style chaotic ferocity, has helped draw interest to a thinking man's rock band which has routinely proven that you can write songs that have layers of rhythmic and melodic intricacy, yet rarely sacrifice any emotional urgency or catchiness.

For "You Were Never Alone", guitarist Matt Carter has once more enlisted Aaron Sprinkle, who also worked on prior albums "The Question" and "In Shallow Seas We Sail", to help him with production, while Saosin guitarist Beau Burchell has handled mixing and mastering. This time around though, the goal has been to make a record that sounded intentionally stripped of too many artificial production tricks. The result being that "You Were Never Alone" arguably feels underpowered compared to "In Shallow Seas.." (arguably Emery's best record), yet on the flipside it feels more organic than ever, with both vocals and instruments for the most part sounding free of excessive amplification and polish. It's like the parts are simply performed expertly, yet with a hint of texture, right next to the listener.

The album has mainly been created by Carter, drummer Dave Powell and singer Toby Morell. Keyboardist/screamer Josh Head is nowhere to be heard, as Morell does the screaming himself, and while Devin Shelton has come in to sing dual cleans with Morell once again, he stays in a backing role now, as a consequence of no longer being a songwriter for the band. Furthermore, despite Morell's capable screaming effort, the band's heaviness only has a token presence on the album, particularly in the patchwork song "Thrash" at track two, where an otherwise great guitar melody is squeezed in between breakdown parts and an indulgent jazz outro that feel curious at best, completely incoherent at worst. It comes off like the band wanted to show off some sides of themselves that they couldn't really fit in a song that made sense.

Fortunately, the cast of songs surrounding "Thrash" on the album's first half, in particular, have plenty to offer. Songs like "Rock, Pebble, Stone", "Hard Times" and "The Beginning" are generally softer Emery songs, but they fully showcase the intricacy of Morell's back and forth vocal melodies and Carter's playful yet sentimental instrumental arrangements. Here the screams sit in the background while Morell and Shelton trade fine vocal melodies on top of lively chord patterns and vibrant bass tones.

When you get past "The Less You Say" and "Pink Slip" at tracks five and six however - both of which are also tracks which have fine moments to be noted - Things start to feel a little bit samey. The band's heaviness and Shelton's clean singing both being fixed in supporting roles, seems to have brought about a naturally less diverse songwriting, so when you listen to the whole record back to back, it doesn't have nearly the tour-de-force feeling of for instance "In Shallow Seas..." or the debut album "The Weak's End".

Perhaps it's also an effect of Emery growing up, and the songs hence being more constructed stories than personal diary excerpts, but "You Were Never Alone" simply doesn't seize you as desperately as some of its predecessors have. It has deceptively catchy highlights and a sound that is overall both pleasant and stimulating upon closer inspection. And for that it is a good record, and one that new fans can certainly hear and get an idea about why Emery are a pretty special band. But its accomplishments look better when measured by the circumstances of its creation, as opposed to when measured against the uncanny results from when the band was firing on all cylinders.

Download: Rock, Pebble, Stone; Hard Times; The Beginning
For The Fans Of: Silverstein, Akissforjersey, I The Mighty, Alesana
Listen: facebook.com/emery

Release date 19.05.2015
Bad Christian / Rude Records

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