Review Summary: Time runs out, and Emery has to make a choice; continue with their failed attempt at broader horizons, or salvage what excellence they have left. This is gonna get emotional, boys.
Emery is a post-hardcore outfit hailing from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Their previous LP, I’m Only a Man left much to be desired from a band that had already established themselves as able to deliver raw intensity, as well as mature song writing and subject matter. It was an album that felt like a desperate lurch into popular territory. They abandoned their aforementioned raw intensity, emotional sincerity, and driving riffs of their previous album. They instead adopted simpler musicianship, awkwardly shoehorned electronic elements, and watered down lyrical content to match; no bark and no bite. All of this was made especially disappointing when coming off of the coattails of their near perfect sophomore effort, The Question. Emery had a lot to prove with In Shallow Seas we Sail... .
Right off the bat, on the first track, Emery acknowledges doubt with a swift punch in the face. Desperately furious screams lead you into sharp discords from the guitars, accompanied by sub-terrestrial bass, and quick drum fills that still manage to keep the beat while making your head spin. After descending a floor below for a brief moment in breakdown, the curtains pull back to the showcase of the album. This can only be described as perfect harmony. Our vocalists treat us with the most polished harmonies in post-hardcore history; chaotic sessions with paralleled vocals, as well as lyrical themes that frame the tone and add contrast in regards to the harsh vocals (which are often used sparingly alone, keeping the affect of contrast well). This is ISSWS 101, a crash course for what we can expect from the rest of the album; we have bone crushing riffs and breakdowns, heartfelt melodies and harmonies, as well as masterful duelling guitars and drums that manage to always keep the tone and pace intact without letting things get boring.
Throughout the album the musicianship and quality remains consistent, but we’re treated with a trip down every avenue of emotion with twists and turns throughout. This exploration is complimented by song lengths that don’t leave room for any meandering in the deep alcoves of melody that Emery take us to. This leads to absolutely no filler. Consistency is something that is handled with care, and the perfect pacing makes damn sure of that; nothing outstays its welcome. Hooks come and go like the wind making way for even more layers of brilliance and changes in tone. Just when you think that the sad tone of Butcher’s Mouth has dragged you down into the depths it cranks the dial back to eleven and bites back. It gets you invested, you feel for this man who has been wronged, but when the tone changes from sad to furious, you’re right there with him, pumping your fist. It takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with the writer, never climbing too high without getting back into the action.
This album wastes no time stringing you along through tales of despair, spite, love, and regret accompanied by soaring vocals and melodies, reflecting each in its own respect. Right after Edge of the world leaves you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth and an adrenaline high, ISSWS brings you back down in typical rollercoaster fashion with a two part behemoth of emotion titled Dear Death. Part one begins with silky warm vocals, repetitive guitars that stay fairly monotone, and a three note piano riff to keep some semblance of life amidst the melancholy. After fittingly proclaiming “this night will be mine” in an amazing Spanish vocal performance, part two kicks the door in and onto your head (you really thought they would bitch out?). Desperation and no reservation; synth, snare, bass and all lifts you into the stratosphere with the urgency of death at your door. Right when you think the frantic tone of the song might yield a happy ending, the last chord of the major dominated song comes out minor and makes you feel about the same size. Small, sad, and helpless.
ISSWS is The Question if it were bi-polar and written by far better musicians with serious emotional turmoil (impeccable production values need no significant mention, they’re simply astounding). The melodies reach higher and swing lower, the vocals soar through the clouds in unison and lurk in the dark alone, and in three minutes it can make you laugh, cry and shake your fist in spite and anger. ISSWS is one of the best post-hardcore albums ever written, as well as one of the most infectious and consistent pieces of music ever conceived. Any doubt garnered by I’m Only a Man is quickly dismissed, and any belief that The Question would never be matched is left broken beneath the new standard that Emery has set with their new appreciation for song writing. If you’re human, if you enjoy emotionally driven lyrics and melodies that make you invested in both the stories and the musicianship, and most of all, if you enjoy post-hardcore in the slightest you owe it to yourself to check this out.