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... In Shallow Seas We Sail

  • Reviewed by Jeremy V. Jones Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2009 2 Jun
... In Shallow Seas We Sail
Sounds like … Anberlin-heavy or Underoath-light, similar to The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Scary Kids Scaring Kids At a glance … a sonically exceptional collection that thematically gurgles beneath the surface of the seas it's supposed to be sailing Track Listing Cutthroat Collapse Curbside Goodbye Inside Our Skin Twelve and Fading The Butcher's Mouth In Shallow Seas We Sail The Poor and the Prevalent The Smile, The Face A Sin to Hold On To Piggy Bank Lies Edge of the World Dear Death Part 1 Dear Death Part 2

Consider yourself warned: Emery likes to open its albums with a bang, and … In Shallow Seas We Sail is no exception. Check your volume or your ears will ring as "Cutthroat Collapse" ignites a double-barrel blast of screaming and crashing guitar, then serves the heaviest vocal roars of the collection, serving notice that Emery still screams with the best of 'em.

If there was any question, the 2008 EP While Broken Hearts Prevail reestablished a signature Emery sound following the more experimental I'm Only a Man. Shallow Seas and Broken Hearts share two tracks ("The Smile, The Face" and "Edge of the World"), along with similar cover illustrations and titles that join to form a rhyming couplet. Shallow Seas doesn't paint the three-dimensional corners represented by Only a Man's 10-minute prog track "From Crib to Coffin." But frontman Toby Morell calls Seas "our most complete album."

Under the guidance of producer Aaron Sprinkle, Shallow Seas sticks to more creative middle ground—but it fills that sonic space nicely, swinging the pendulum from the earnest aggression of "Curbside Goodbye," past the smooth hooks of "Edge of the World," to the lush, synth-cushioned introspection of "Dear Death Part 1." Variety also comes in Emery's dual vocalist format as Morell and Devin Shelton trade and layer melodic singing, hardcore screaming, and skillful harmonizing. Tempo switches—within same songs and from track to track—enhance the variety and keep this album from becoming formulaic. Sonically, Shallow Seas is dramatic, creative, and excellent work.

But it begins sinking in its own shallow sea of despair and death—especially relational death. "Edge of the World" seems to summarize it best: I know she's just a girl / but she's got me standing on the edge.

"Cutthroat Collapse" has the protagonist threatening suicide—somewhat cryptically but the band bio clarifies. A third of the songs use drowning metaphors, and there are plenty of lies, betrayal, and accusation. Did one, or all five, of these guys have a relationship tragically go down in flames? Something to rank with Romeo and Juliet?

Nothing against musically dealing with pain and problems—I prefer that over stained-glass lyrics—but how many break-up songs can you put on one album? And what effect will the barrage of death imagery and suicidal brooding have on an already impulsive, jilted teen?

Angst works when paired with even a glimmer of hope and can be intriguing when exploring the dualities of the human condition, such as in "In Shallow Seas We Sail" (Lust can give a man so many regrets / Just this once is what we tell ourselves).

A little more thematic variety—and even search for hope—would cut loose this brooding anchor and keep Emery sailing above the waters with the rest of their sound.

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