Review Summary: I’m Only A Man part 2. Minus all the things that people hated about I’m Only A Man
It came as a shock to even the most avid of Emery fans when Devin Shelton
announced his untimely departure from one of mainstream post-hardcore’s most prominent bands. Fans were taken aback and often worried of the conceivable negative effect of such a keystone departure. What would become of the stunningly beautiful vocal harmonies? The constant back and forth between the two vocalists that cemented Emery as kings of their genre? Emery answered with their heaviest and most ambitious record to date, while Shelton retreated to his Illinois home, quietly waiting for his time to put forth his own record. Life & Death
continues on in vein of I’m Only A Man and it seems the departure from Emery was on account of a stylistic dispute. With Life & Death we see the alternative and pop-rock that reared its head in Emery’s third LP, while the progression sees Shelton start to veer off into the realm of R&B, if ever so slightly.
The album itself starts off with the track Cancer
, which serves as a rather reliable litmus test; if you enjoy this opening track full of loud and soft shifts, falsetto melodies and driving guitar and drums then you will inevitably love the remaining 9 tracks. There is even a brilliant guest vocal spot and the Emery fan boy in me can only seem to hear the voice as identical to Toby Morrell’s. But alas, this reviewer is too lazy to dig deep enough to find the name of said guest vocalist, or even if it’s just Shelton manipulating his voice, but for publicities sake we shall say it is Morrell. The album continues on in the exact same manner slowing down solely for acoustic track Worse
, opening up with lines about suicide and its effects on friendships (I wonder where we’ve heard an acoustic song about suicide before? ahem ahem
I Never Got To See The West Coast ahem ahem
)while also straying on to questioning of religion.
A preacher once told me god lives on the side of the road. But all that I see is a man who is homeless and broke. And one more year goes by and he’s still cold and tired.
The album picks back up again with two of the stronger tracks to be found on the record, Land Mine
, the former being a driving song featuring the wide range of Shelton and an outro that wouldn’t be out of place on a Maybeshewill record, the latter being a song Emery released as a bonus track on We Do What We Want. Crumbling is inarguably the pinnacle of Shelton’s budding solo career and it is obvious as to why Emery would want to release it as their own song. This song features everything that ever made any Emery track great while progressing said sound in Shelton’s own style. Although the only major change to the song is the re-recording of Toby’s minor vocal contributions, the song manages to remain fresh time after time.
The song Agree To Disagree
deserves a special mention as it is without a doubt the most ambitious track found, as Shelton successfully incorporates an R&B feel to his honest lyricism and songwriting. The only negative aspect is the exact same complaint many have with We Do What We Want… Life & Death ends on two slower paced acoustic songs. So Far Away
is an unabashed worship song, something that tends to alienate half of Shelton’s perceived fan base.
Devin Shelton, in one fell swoop, manages to distance himself from his former band (by honing their past works and adding his own twist) and prove to the world he still has the vocal abilities that caused many to fall in love with his former band. Throwing in R&B elements alongside accomplished alternative styling’s all while mixing in acoustic melodies we see Shelton make his own mark on the music scene. It is fairly obvious that this is the album Shelton believed his past project should have made, and he pours every ounce of his creativity to mange to create what will inevitably become one of the underappreciated gems of 2013.