Review Summary: Emery seems to have written a mixed bag of an album. There are many spectacular songs to find on I’m Only A Man, but there are some pretty bad songs also to be heard.
Almost every band tries to change, albeit small changes, but still they try. Band like As Cities Burn, Brand New and Thrice have all enjoyed critical acclaim, while at the same time changing up their sound every so slightly album to album. On the other hand, some end up causing more damage then they would have hoped while honing their sound. For example, just about every single fan of Underoath abandoned them when they released They’re Only Chasing Safety. With those examples hovering over artist heads every band treads a fine line whilst creating new music. They don’t want to put out the same record again and again, but at the same time they want to keep their original fan base. With I’m Only A Man
, the boys in Emery seem to embrace this art of changing, but in the process overdo it just a tad.
North Carolina’s Emery never really was known for putting out unique music. 2004’s The Weaks End
, while being great, was an album that people have heard before. With their 2006 release, The Question, we found Emery embracing their popier side while still managing to throw in the rougher parts from The Weaks End
. When I’m Only A Man’s
press release came out the boys in Emery made it rather clear that they were trying to change their sounds, but retained that fans of their earlier works would still enjoy I’m Only A Man
. But with 2007's I'm Only A Man
Emery surprised even their most devoted fans. Gone were the harsh, screaming vocals, the driving duel guitar lines and most importantly, the dynamics that made many people fall in love with Emery’s earlier releases.
The album that was ruffling feathers everywhere starts out on a track that obviously made to play live. Rock N Rule starts off with a drum intro followed by the dissonant chords Emery uses ever so well. The track itself is all over the place. The chorus features a usually unheard of synth line (well unheard of before IOAM) and the main riff would fit in well in just about any classic rock album. The song ends on rough, but not screaming vocals, over the intro. IOAM continues with the overly poppy and lo-light of the entire CD, The Party Song, the first single of the CD and, not shockingly, the catchiest song here. But that’s not really a good thing. This track suffers from being overly so. There is so much synth and the guitar tone really takes a hit from their other albums. The guitar tone generally can be blamed on two different things, production and of course song writing, both of which in this instance fall on Emery. This album, while not technically being self-produced, saw Emery take more of a role in producing their own work. And they nearly fall flat on their faces whilst doing so. The guitar, usually at the forefront of Emery’s music, gets jumbled up into the mix with everything else. As for the songwriting aspect of it, Emery was just a bit lazy. Sure they lost one guitarist to fill in on bass for their departed bassist, but that’s still no excuse for simplistic, single guitar lines that don’t add anything to the music. Matt Carter drops the ball on that matter, so to speak.
But Emery still manages to captivate me with the thing that probably thrust them into stardom. The beautiful duel vocals between Toby Morrell and Devin Shelton. Every song sees delicate, but at the same time powerful, vocal lines. The best example of the vocal prowess that Emery possesses is shown at the end of Can’t Stop The Killer. With Devin singing oh’s in the background Toby emotionally sings In a certain place I’ve kept my outs, one for us both two for my doubts. I’m shaking I’m hollow because I know how to get this done, so I will be the only one to follow through with this
. Moments like that really showcase the raw emotion that emery has been able to produce throughout their career. The screamed vocals, while scarce, add a great dynamic to songs that they otherwise lack. Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus is saved from an insanely annoying chorus filled with, guess what?, more synths, by a breakdown with screaming vocals that would have fit in on any other Emery Record. Hell with out the chorus, Don’t Bore Us Get To The Chorus would have been a highlight on any Emery release.
Lyrics on the other hand fall flat on their face. Emery used to provide us with lyrics that made us think, lyrics that inspired us. They traded gems of lines such as If you can't hear the song then turn it off, if you cast the first stone then throw them all. I start to sleep but it's not over, the second hand is moving slower now. I'd take it all back, to start over again
with such mundane, boring lines as You got kicked out Of your mother's house You stole money from her purse She finally found you out
. This would have to personally be the thing that irks me the most here. That’s just a sign of laziness.
Musically Emery still manages to captivate the listeners attention after a slew of songs ranging from meh to pretty awful, (What Makes a Man A Man, The Movie Song, You Think Your Nickel Slick….) with the dramatic ten minute closer From Crib To Coffin. The Song starts off slow and acoustic but after a minute or so explodes for, arguably, one of the better moments of I’m Only A Man
. The song slows back down and eventually fades away with a repeating synth line, that actually works this time.
So maybe Emery was a little overly ambitious with changing their sound. Maybe they aimed at a few too many ideas leaving a few underdeveloped. Emery seems to have written a mixed bag of an album. There are many spectacular songs to find on I’m Only A Man
, but there are some pretty bad songs also to be heard. So if an album needs to have no bad songs then Emery’s I’m Only A Man
is not for you, but if you don’t care if there are a fun bumps along the way, I highly recommend you take a real listen to this.
After The Devil Beats His Wife
Can’t Stop The Killer
Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus
From Crib To Coffin