RATING: (9 out of 10) RELEASE DATE: March 29th, 2011 LABEL: Tooth & Nail Records REVIEWED ON: April 28th, 2012 REVIEWED BY: Sara NapierREVIEW
I remember it was in the early 2000s. I was hanging out with some friends in the living room, watching a DVD of Christian music videos. I was pretty bored.
See, I had this theory of ignorance that Christian musicians had a code where they could only play a genre full of the same four chords and gentle lyrics. This was all I had ever been exposed to before, but then it happened, the moment that unlocked a whole new idea: Emery’s music video for “Walls” played (from their debut album, A Weak’s End).
Up to that point I had no idea that Christian music could be so passionate or intricate, and just like that, I was hooked. For about a decade, Emery has been making unique music that pushes limits and has inspired a generation of musicians. For many, they were the first glimpse at Christian music that isn’t played during a Sunday morning church service.
After two years and the indefinite hiatus of vocalist/bassist Devin Shelton, they created their fifth full-length album, We Do What We Want. According to the band members, it is thought to be the most hardcore album the band has created, though an unexpected sound is nothing new for this band. With each project they have done something more extreme.
Be it in their playing style, use of instruments, or incredible vocals, none of their albums are the same even though their sound is so distinct. Even though they have been called “melodic hardcore." their lyrics are what make them so intense. They have never been afraid to explore darker subjects in an open context, andbecause of those bold lyrics (combined with their hard sound), you will find some people that do not allow Emery's songs to be played in public settings.
The album begins with “The Cheval Glass," a melodic intro that leads into the screaming vocals of Josh Head and a captivating mixture of instruments. The song sets up for the twists and turns that one has come to expect from Emery: full of different beats and vocal styles, with purposeful uses of each instrument.
On their albums, the first few tracks will often be based around some kind of sin (usually lust) and an overshadowing regret. It is sort of a theme from project to project. “The Cheval Glass” and “Daddy’s Little Peach” are two that capture this in entirely new ways.
The use of synth and keyboard in this album is beautiful. I find the melodies on “Scissors” to be especially nice. It just seems like every instrument really brings it on this album. “You Wanted It” has beautiful guitar work and a nice showcase of the bass and drums. “I’m Not Here For Rage I’m Here For Revenge (More Than Your Hook Up)” combines all of the signature sounds of Emery, channeling what we fell in love with in The Question and even a bit of The Weak’s End.
The standout tracks of this album are “The Cheval Glass," "The Curse Of Perfect Days," “The Anchors,” and “Crumbling” (available on the deluxe edition along with a different version of “The Curse Of Perfect Days”), though the entire album tells a wonderful story. In most of the tracks the lyrics strike me as ones about how sin is like an anchor in our lives but how we can find hope and redemption. This is brought out in songs like “The Anchors” in lines like “Guilty, guilty, I am guilty/The bitter treasures so elementary.” The album also explores thoughts about faith, authority and purpose.
My favorite song on this album is probably “Fix Me." It was written by bassist Shelton and has one of the most worshipful themes I’ve heard from the band since their first two albums. It speaks honestly of the battle so many of us face in our faith, and I feel it answers for the dark themes in a lot of Emery’s songs with the lyrics “Fix me. Jesus, fix me/ I've been waiting so long to feel this heartbeat/ Will we ever really believe?/ We're just caught in the thought that we're said to be free.”
I know Emery can be a bit controversial for some crowds and that is understandable. The reservations about certain subjects can vary from person to person, but I really feel that this album explores dark subject matters in a different way. It seems that most of the songs are about owning up to bad decisions and finding redemption, forgiveness, hope, and an identity.
For me, Emery has always been striking because they’ve dared to write songs about subjects that no one even wants to talk about. They are willing to admit to being flawed people that have had to deal with their regrets. Their music was perfect for me as an angst-ridden teenager, and with this album they’re proving to be just as great to me today.
And they are great not because they are always what I hope and want them to be. They’re as great as they ever were for the same reason they’ve always been great: they do what they want. They play how they want to, sing how they want to, and share openly. If you haven’t already, I suggest you check out this album.