Emarosa
131


4.5
superb

Review

by beachdude USER (36 Reviews)
August 15th, 2016 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A bold exploration, and a statement of purpose.

One of the most difficult and nebulous pursuits in any creative field is finding your own artistic identity. Many artists will begin their careers by imitating their idols, those whose influence led them to pursue their chosen field in the first place. Or there are those who jump from one style to the next, in search of a niche in which they can stand out and excel. However, one of the true marks of a musical artist is their ability to not just incorporate the sounds of those who have come before them, but mold their sonic palate to best suit them… in essence, to have the self-awareness to find the artistic gifts that make them stand out, and hone in on those traits.

In many respects, the decade-long career of Emarosa has been a long search for artistic identity in the face of adversity. From their roots as the metalcore-leaning Corsets Are Cages, to the Chris Roetter-fronted EP This Is Your Way Out, to their two Jonny Craig-fronted full-lengths and the turmoil that followed, Emarosa was a band that evolved in spite of - and in same ways, because of - the many lineup changes and obstacles that have come their way over the years.

After spending three years slaving away with no vocalist after Craig’s departure, Bradley Walden’s arrival as the group’s new lead singer would have seemed to be a signal that the band’s long period of struggle was finally coming to an end. And yet, the band has since described the making of their 2014 comeback album Versus as the most stressful recording process of their entire career, as tensions arose between the desire to push forward creatively, and the pressure to make a record that would appeal to their fanbase after years of inactivity. The recording process eventually resulted in the departures of their longtime rhythm guitarist and founding drummer (founding bassist Will Sowers would follow in late 2015) - begging the question of whether the band could continue the forward strides begun in Versus with Walden at the helm, or flounder in the search of a new identity in the absence of much of their best-known lineup.

Fortunately, 131 immediately displays a band unafraid of striking out in bold new directions. The new album is simultaneously more aggressive and more versatile than the already solid Versus, recapturing the consistent energy found in the best of their earlier work and rarely letting up. Yet most importantly, it blends that dynamic passion with the improved songwriting chops and ear for pop melodies that have become a hallmark of Emarosa’s sound since Walden joined, leading to the most consistently infectious and engaging work of the band’s entire career.

From the first moments of opening track “Hurt”, it becomes clear that 131 is a different animal. The openers on Emarosa’s previous records were all potential singles, designed to draw the listener in with a track that encapsulated the vibe of the entire record. It is a testament to the band’s continuing growth that “Hurt” is much more an introduction to 131 than an encapsulation of it. Beginning with sparse, haunting harmonies, the track soon grows into a dramatic, soaring statement of purpose. The sweeping, almost symphonic guitars are perfectly complimented by Walden’s soaring falsetto, giving the listener a feel that they are about to embark on a sonic journey with the band.

For the first time, it feels like Emarosa has nailed down a definitive identity that carries throughout an entire album. Whether 131 is at its most thundering (the high-octane powerhouse that is “Miracle”), or at its most poppy and accessible (the alt-pop funk of “Helpless”), the sound is anchored throughout by thick, gritty guitar tones, a greater emphasis on rhythm and groove, and most importantly - the soulful powerhouse vocals of Bradley Walden. Much of the credit for this consistency should go to the superb production of Casey Bates, who has worked wonders behind the boards for bands as diverse as major post-hardcore bands such as The Fall of Troy and Chiodos, indie/alternative rock acts like Portugal. The Man, and those who fall in between, such as Gatsbys American Dream. Bates wisely places the spotlight firmly on Walden’s voice, letting him shine and take center stage regardless of the track. And Walden’s performance throughout 131, rich in soulful runs and monster hooks without ever being overbearing, gives the album its focus, even as the band covers wide swaths of new ground.

The aforementioned “Helpless” is perhaps the boldest move the band has made to date, sounding as if the pulsing synths and groovy rhythms of The 1975 got a hard rock makeover, and sporting not only one of the album’s most infectious hooks, but a bridge that surprisingly and brilliantly pays tribute to Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own”, of Ghostbusters II fame. And when the band steps furthest from its comfort zone, Bates’ production gives an extra push, with rich attention to detail, and recurring sonic nuances such as layered vocal harmonies that the band had rarely, if ever, touched on before. Bates’ experience straddling the worlds of post-hardcore “scene” bands and more alternative-leaning artists proves to be the perfect match for Emarosa, as he is able to capture the best elements of the band’s past while helping them get to where they want to go.

However, the versatility of the instrumentation itself should not be shortchanged, as returning members ER White (lead guitar) and Jordan Stewart (keyboards) are joined by superb new additions and studio collaborators who breathe life into the sonic pulse of each track, while also providing a consistent tone and feel. One standout throughout is studio drummer Connor Denis, a 19-year-old recording and touring member of bands such as Beartooth who brings tremendous passion and technicality to every track. And nowhere is that technicality more fully utilized than on closing track “Re”, which brings the album full-circle by piecing together snippets of verses and choruses from throughout the album to create something greater than the sum of its parts. As the multi-layered vocals and immense, breakneck drumming finally dissolve into a distorted echo, the perfectly paced 39-minute runtime truly feels like it has been a sonic journey - one that shows the listener where Emarosa has been, and where they are headed.



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3.6
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“I don’t mind where you’re going. The remedy’s the same.”...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Snide
August 15th 2016


7050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Spiritual pos

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2016


10289 Comments


Beautiful review man, convinced me that I need to check this

Feather
August 16th 2016


10252 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well written review and I see what you're saying, but aside from their self titled, nothing in their discography has been worth replaying to me

Flugmorph
August 16th 2016


34591 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

ye this album sucks

Toondude10
August 16th 2016


15188 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

still don't get the appeal for this, it's basically generic post-popcore yet people are loving this

Erubalcado
August 17th 2016


14 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Good review, and still a great album.

TheHung89
August 17th 2016


328 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Idk I'm gonna give this another shot I suppose

Feather
August 18th 2016


10252 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

^ dont bother, just revisit the self titled

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
August 18th 2016


47738 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Nah this is better don't stop ppl from trying again if they want to

TheHung89
August 18th 2016


328 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Too late I listened to the entire album today and nothing seemed better. Whole album is a buncha zzzzzzzzzz



Yeah self titled is best and even Relativity is better than this musically





Alondite
September 3rd 2016


432 Comments


For some reason I kinda thought this was going to be shit. It's not, it's actually awesome. Their best yet.

Snide
September 8th 2016


7050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is still a rad album.

00mee
October 6th 2016


258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This gets pretty forgettable after Cloud 9. Like it's consistent in its alt-pop aesthetic, but the songs start to blur in to one a little too much for me. I was a pretty hardcore Emarosa fan back in the day too . A lot of the pace and energy seems to be sucked out of this band.

JigglyPDiddy
November 4th 2016


3721 Comments


Haven't listened to this thing. Any good? Versus was good.

Feather
November 5th 2016


10252 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If you liked versus I'm sure you will like this. I found versus kind of boring, their self titled is where its at.

00mee
November 13th 2016


258 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Actually like this a bit more than my first impressions. Blue is a good track

Danred97
November 17th 2016


2544 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

One of the most dull albums I've heard all year. Shame, guy has a nice voice. He just needs to write better lyrics and get a more interesting backing band.

Toondude10
October 15th 2017


15188 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

as much as I don't like this album, that album art is fucking dope

BlackMalachite
December 14th 2017


3711 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Porcelain is the best song this band has ever recorded.

Fade2Black
January 4th 2018


4 Comments


^ Porcelain is a damn good song. Hits right in the feels if you had a great girl that got away.



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