Review Summary: Emery's best LP could be post-hardcore's finest ever! The album of 2009.
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep". Scott Adams.
It is fair to state that Emery's 2007 release 'I'm Only A Man' ruffled a few feathers. Looking to tap into any kind of popularity, it was a wild mix of everything from mainstream rock to immature electronica-infused pop. It hit a few targets simply because it aimed at so many. Yet, when it missed, it was way off the mark due to factors such as lazy songwriting, simplified musicianship and an over-abundance of gimmicks. Predictably, greater success did not follow and the quintet returned to their signature sound on promising 2008 EP 'While Broken Hearts Prevail'. Seven months later, Emery release their fourth LP '...In Shallow Seas We Sail'. One of the stories of 2009, it not only improves on all of the band's prior collaborations, it is - in this reviewer's opinion - the album of the year!
"A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing another mistake". Confucius.
Frantic opener 'Cutthroat Collapse' acts as a statement of intent. Beginning with barely decipherable screams, it soon transforms in trademark fashion with Toby Morrell & Devin Shelton's dueling clean vocals taking center stage. Equally as important, Shelton & Matt Carter provide energetic guitar work which is simultaneously intricate and melodic, meaning the track works on multiple levels. While only 'The Smile, The Face' and 'Piggy Bank Lies' approach the hardcore heaviness of the opener, the album is in no way poorer for it. Morrell has clearly come out of the 'I'm Only A Man' experiment a better vocalist. Look no further than his smooth and dreamy contributions to the catchy 'Churches and Serial Killers' & optimistic 'A Sin To Hold On To', which make one wonder why he has not been called up by many a pop act to contribute a verse or two.
"The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing". John Powell.
While many claim this to be a "return to form", '...In Shallow Seas We Sail' is in fact more than that. It may recall the signature sound and themes of 'The Weak's End' & 'The Question', however Emery are now a much more mature and polished outfit. Where the band did not quite have the experience to realize the full potential of the more ambitious tracks on those earlier releases, they craft each song here with a strong attention to detail. Components such as subtle synths, value-adding keys or a strings arrangement could quite possibly pass you by until each individual piece is explored further. This results in absolutely no filler, with even the non-highlight cuts containing passages that are certain to make them growers. Amongst the songs themselves, there is also hardly a filler moment, since no track outstays its welcome.
"Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?" Peter McWilliams.
With what is undoubtedly the best album of their career, Emery have arguably delivered one of the finest post-hardcore releases ever! The depth and consistency apparent here is extremely impressive, and there is a replay factor apparent which is a genuine surprise. Accessibility is high with each track containing multiple hooks, yet there is a raw & passionate feel which is deftly conveyed to the LP's benefit. On the back of '...In Shallow Seas We Sail', all those feathers which were ruffled by 'I'm Only A Man' were well and truly worth it. Whether it was the band self-inflicting a kick up their own backside or simply learning from mistakes, all is now forgiven. Simply put; '...In Shallow Seas We Sail' is the album of 2009.
"Mistakes are stepping stones to success".
Recommended Tracks: All of them.