11 July, 2008

A Matter of Personal Preference

There isn't a lot of screamo, neu-hardcore, and metal that I absolutely love. This is probably a shortcoming on my part, I'm certainly willing to admit the possibility. For some reason, I have a difficult time enjoying unintelligible screaming over shredded guitars. I guess it just bumps up too closely with noise-rock, which is a genre that I usually can't listen to at all. I get headaches. The major exception to this rule (before today) was Killswitch Engage. It may be that the combined screaming and singing is more palatable to me than just straight-up screaming. They also usually have some definable structural qualities to their songs; melody applied to the theme of verses and choruses isn't too much of a stretch for Killswitch Engage. To be completely clear from the outset, I am certain there are other bands that are amazingly talented and enjoyable, and that fall into the genres (or some amalgamation of the genres) listed above. I can say with all honesty that I have not spent much of my time searching. This is an unforgivable gap in my musical education, and if my lovely readers have any recommendations for me (leave them in the comment window), then I would really be pleased to spend some careful listening time in the super-hard rock department. Until this point, I have been a little wary of wandering without any guidance, so I really would appreciate your help.

On that note, I want to mention a fairly new band called Emarosa. They dropped their first album/EP - This Is Your Way Out - in 2007, then had one major member shift: their vocalist left. For a hardcore band, your vocalist can be your biggest tie with the audience, and basically the translator for the sound of the entire band. Emarosa could have been finished before they even really got started, but fortunately Johnny Craig (formerly of the screamo/prog band Dance Gavin Dance) has undertaken this important duty for Emarosa.

The band's first full-length - Relativity - was released this week. I was most attracted to the album cover art at 8:15 this morning, which consists of a photograph of a spiky seed casing (one of those burrs that so influenced the invention of Velcro) and looks like it has been filtered to appear washed out in pinks and yellows. It's kind of a twisted photograph that reminds me most of the '90s bands who seemed so enthralled with filtered photos (Nirvana, Bush, Pearl Jam, and Alanis Morisette all experimented with oddly filtered album art).

When I finally get to the music, it's a pleasant surprise. "The Past Should Stay Dead" screams and swirls with Van Halenesque guitar runs, while Craig's vocals don't lose themselves by screaming into the melee, but instead whisper around the storm and then explode. "Just Another Marionette" finds perfect harmony between all disparate and chaotic elements of the song. Rhythm and melody duet seamlessly, while the vocalization frosts the entire song. "What's A Clock Without the Batteries?" has a start-stop rhythm that gives way to precision percussion, and this makes the whole song feel like a day that will never end sprinkled with moments that fly away (you know the kind of days I'm talking about.) "Heads or Tails? Real or Not" is climactic and dramatic, but again the whispering vocals are perfectly paired with disorder. It makes more sense to me to whisper behind all of the noise and have your voice separated from the sound, than to scream into it and lose everything that you have to say. Craig finds the balance where some screaming propels the song to new levels, but is never just an exercise in futility.

The psychedelic effects are easy to distinguish on "Even Bad Men Love Their Mothers", which strikes me as an album interlude. If we skip ahead a song to "Set It Off Like Napalm", you'll find a hook-laden, head-banging hit in the making. If I owned this album (which I'm sure I will shortly) this song would be on repeat for its sonic intensity alone. "Pretend. Release. The Close" is like a sun-shower of epic proportions. If there were such a thing as a sun tornado, this song would be the musical equivalent. It feels hopeful, and at the same time frustrated and full of anxious energy. "It's Cold In the Shade, Let's Move to the Sun..." is the "exitlude", but it's followed by two half songs that complete each other. "I Still Feel Her, Pt. 1" puts the emo in emetic, in many ways. It's a little slice of soul-crushing heartbreak, with that euphoria of remembering "her" like the sun setting on the horizon. The final song is "A City Called Coma, Pt. 2", and it stumbles through darkness like some kind of Gothic beast. I wish the songs had been reversed at the very least, because "Pt. 1" makes a little room for hope and the possibility of a happy ending (at some point in the future), while "Pt. 2" feels very final and dark. Oh well, there should always be a place to talk about the darkness, even while we're hoping for happy endings, and Emarosa have created a very comfortable place indeed. I wouldn't immerse myself in the music, but when you're in the mood for catharsis Relativity is a good bet.

No comments: