It’s a tragedy, listening helplessly as the glorious genres of yesterday waste away. We’ve heard catastrophes like this before; and chances are, it’ll probably happen with your genre of choice eventually if it hasn’t already. Nobody’s immune. The purists of post-hardcore’s glory days, yesteryear, can only moan and bi
tch in dismay as bands like Emery gain more and more undeserved prominence. ...In Shallow Seas We Sail
serves as the perfect personification of the new
post-hardcore aesthetics replacing the old. The popular Christian band is the face of the demise, the fall of something beautiful. ...In Shallow Seas We Sail
is an output that, intentionally or not, is watered down ad infinitum, equally disappointing in its direct output and the effect of the deplorable music on display.
“Evolution!” fans of Emery are sure to cry out in unison (an annoying mixture of screaming and melodic singing, most likely) in response to this reviewer’s disgust, “Just because it’s different doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad!” This is certainly true. But not only does Emery drive the last, gaudy nail into the coffin of post-hardcore with their putrid music (via Tooth and Nail records, nonetheless), they do so with no grace, no style. In the process of providing the record with hooks and melody galore, Emery somehow forgets to blend these elements together with post-hardcore’s tenets: passionate screams, dynamic rhythms, precise guitars, and dissonance to name a few. Emery could
have simply provided an album full of cringe-worthy moments like the title track, which would have fit nicely on a Red Jumpsuit Apparatus album. It’s embarrassing enough to listen to ...In Shallow Seas
for songs like this alone, but then I’m introduced to the tasteless blend of these qualities throughout the entire record, with such monotony. The quick transitions, the screaming, the last remnants of anything punk all become infinitely cheapened. Basically, it makes me want to throw Emery over the edge of a moving boat in a cutely illustrated scene with vague meaning.
The sheer concept of blending post-hardcore with characteristics that appeal to a wide audience isn’t completely absurd. Dismayingly, ...In Shallow Seas
is an ignominious effort at the tactic, from all sides. The mild, poppy choruses of “Piggy Back Lies” are just awkward and unbefitting when they’re placed alongside the sharp screaming. There’s no attempt by Emery to blend the two elements together into something more appropriate. Ever tried to make a protein shake or something of an equal equivalent, but the powder refuses to dissipate into the liquid? That’s what Emery tastes like, sour and repugnant.
...In Shallow Seas
isn’t a product entirely filled with obnoxious, tasteless garbage, though. “Curbside Goodbye” and “Butcher’s Mouth” provide a nice respite. These songs in particular grant a fluidity to the genre-mashing that exists elsewhere on ...In Shallow Seas
. More importantly, they accomplish what Emery diehards love about the band- make post-hardcore accessible... but at what cost?
To cover my bases, catchiness will never be an adequate reason for disliking music. The manner in which Emery butchers all facets of grace and sincerity once present in post-hardcore to achieve this more widespread appeal, though, is simply unforgivable. An intensely Christian band, Emery preaches messages of love and beauty throughout. "We wanna show people that love is the greatest thing, not in a worldly way, but just a compassionate way. That's our message,” drummer Seth Studley explains. A noble goal, but Emery fails miserably, instead delivering a dismal disappointer that doesn’t even respect the listener enough to provide some variance. I wouldn’t want to outright accuse Emery of “dumbing down” the post-hardcore aesthetic for more listeners simply because it fits precisely into their aim of reaching as wide an audience as possible with their Christian ideals, but it’s not a preposterous suggestion. Either way, ...In Shallow Seas We Sail
, as an album, is proof enough that some things just don’t mix comfortably; and Emery’s rendition of accessible post-hardcore is altogether cringeworthy.
By the closing of Emery’s 2009 release, I’m left solidified with my opinions on the music at hand, yet confused on one subject: What’s worse, the sound of watered down, dumbed down, artistic embarrassment, or the premise that a myriad of bands now imitate this sound to even worse effects? A long time ago, bands in the scene took hints from the likes of Steve Albini’s groups like Shellac or Big Black. Later, post-hardcore would learn to take a page out of the book Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, and Rites of Spring wrote, among others. Glassjaw and At the Drive-In ushered in a new generation of the genre with their take on a more alternative-based sound. Bands like Thursday and Thrice then provided some cushioning between then and now, but sadly Emery stand as one of the forbears. This is a problem.
Perhaps one of the most telling dangers of this shift in inclinations can be seen in Emery’s most passionate fans. Please excuse the somewhat bitter generalizations, but it seems to me that most Emery fans wouldn’t know what “R.o.C.” stands for, or that Armchairpolitician just looks like too many words squished together, or that Songs About Fucking
exists solely as sinful pornography. ...In Shallow Seas We Sail
is Emery selling the soul of post-hardcore and relishing in the success the transaction has bestowed undeservingly upon them. A bit cynical? Maybe, but ...In Shallow Seas We Sail
is convincing evidence of a steep drop-off in the livelihood of a once-exuberant genre of music.