Written by: TL on 18/09/2014 17:49:34

While the Kentucky band Emarosa already started to build momentum as far back as in the Myspace days of 2006, it was the acquisition of then former Dance Gavin Dance singer Jonny Craig that really helped the band to something of a breakthrough with 2008's "Relativity". As time would tell though, the scandal-prone Craig came with a cost, and in 2011 the drug problems and fraud allegations became too much for Emarosa to bear, forcing the group to sever ties with the infamous ginger vocalist and prompting the beginning of a lengthy break during which the band would toil with the problem of moving on without a frontman. Now three years later, things have finally settled somewhat though. Roughly the same time as Craig reappeared with his new project Slaves, Emarosa announced the addition of former Squid The Whale singer Bradley Walden and the planned creation of a new album - a record that finally arrived little over a week ago bearing the title "Versus", which somewhat accidentally seems to ask to be compared directly to Slaves's debut "Through Art We Are All Equal".

Before taking that bait however, it serves to introduce Emarosa 2014 as a band that, although commonly lumped into the post-hardcore genre, does not have a shade of hardcore musicianship in sight. The band's sound is thoroughly melodic and cinematic, and the soulful clean singing of Walden is clearly the main vessel to deliver the songs, while the instruments take a surprisingly ambiant role, ebbing with parts that see twinkling guitar melodies meander at the edge of your earfall, and flowing with loudly echoing chords and harmonies, courtesy of a dual guitar combo which has been disrupted post-recording of the album with the departure of long time guitarist Jonas Ladekjaer (along with drummer Lukas Koszewski). Curiously, a glance at the band's line-up will reveal that keyboardist Jordan Stewart is still on board alongside remaining guitar player ER White and bassist Will Sowers, although his fingerprints make very little note of themselves on "Versus".

Overall though, closer inspection of the record reveals a surprisingly total reliance on Walden's talents, as it feels like the best moments coincide with those where the singer really stretches his ability, finding a strong edge in his delivery when rising with the more powerful instrumental surges. The cheeky shift halfway through opener "People Like Me, We Just Don't Play" is a decent head-turner, and the urgent chorus of "American Deja Vu" is not bad either, and later on the record the final single "Mad" flashes some goodness as well. But that said the highlights feel rather far in between on "Versus", enough so to make me wonder if Emarosa's absence and return have not tricked some into forgetting that the band struggled with consistency even in the Craig days. Fans will likely get caught up in comparisons between Craig and Walden, but the latter is clearly an accomplished enough singer, so when "Versus" feels somewhat lacklustre as a whole, I have it down more as a shared failure to create particularly dramatic dynamics between the band and their new vocalist. Frankly, I'm at a loss suggesting something to remember outside of the three songs mentioned, in particular if I can't point to anything done by Walden.

My impression is then, that "Versus" is merely a moderately catchy record - much like the former two Emarosa records were - with a handful of solid vocal hooks to sing along to when they arrive, but clearly lacking in terms of songs that stand apart from each other, as well as songs that really seize the listener from start to finish. In some sense I suppose it is ironic, considering that similar issues hindered the Slaves album, but that is really an idle and pointless consideration. All you need to know is that while Emarosa may have one of the longer tenures in the genre, their new album is decent enough, yet you can find more impressive albums from younger bands in the genre.

Download: People Like Me, We Just Don't Play; American Deja Vu; Mad
For The Fans Of: Slaves, Hands Like Houses, I The Mighty
Listen: facebook.com/emarosa

Release date 09.09.2014
Rise Records

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