Something that gets lost in the onslaught of 10th anniversary tours is just how hard it is to create something worth celebrating a decade later. Crafting an album that resonates with an audience and influences its genre in such a way as to warrant continued celebration 10 years after its release is something every band strives for. To do it twice? That’s something only the most gifted of bands can claim.
Emery’s 10th anniversary tour for their debut, The Weak’s End, was just a primer. That trek celebrated a band in its beginnings – The Weak’s End was an emo expedition through odd time signature changes, quirky melodies and moments of explosive fury. For as unbridled of a debut as that album was, their breakthrough sophomore effort, The Question, was a refined piece of post-hardcore excellence.
That both albums are so different yet both hold such a place of distinction in the scene ethos speaks volumes to Emery’s songwriting capabilities and their capacity to evolve.
Supporting on this 10th anniversary tour for The Question is The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a worthy contemporary that no doubt was inspired over the years by Emery’s output. Although it’s been a few years since Red Jumpsuit relinquished their stranglehold as rock radio celebrities, they haven’t lost their spark. In particular, vocalist Ronnie Winter sounds stronger than ever before.
It’s certainly a treat for everyone in attendance to hear smash singles like “Face Down” and “Your Guardian Angel”, but the band shines when playing their newer material as well. Winter forgoes his usual screaming parts, instead letting his brother Randy carry the guttural load. The payoff is that Winter is free to let his wide vocal range explore new territory as he takes worthwhile liberties with the melody. It’s not hard to imagine The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus embarking on their own 10th anniversary tour next year for their debut, Don’t You Fake It.
For a band as special as Emery to still be active nearly 15 years into their career (the band released You Were Never Alone earlier this year), it’s hard to complain about a commemorative tour of this nature. Even so, it’s difficult not to feel the harsh absence of Devin Shelton, the savory harmony to vocalist Toby Morrell’s sweet melody. The unique mixture of Shelton and Morrell’s vocals is something that placed Emery ahead of their peers through the years.
Even so, the rest of the band is in fine form. Drummer Dave Powell brings power to heavier moments on tracks like “Returning the Smile You Have Had from the Start”, while guitarist Matt Carter drives forward “Studying Politics” with poppy riffs and Josh Head’s synthesizers and spastic screams add energy to the set. Part of what makes The Question so unique is the band’s ability to combine so many elements to the mix while remaining exceedingly accessible.
If The Weak’s End was an excuse to thrash about alone in your bedroom, The Question provides release in the form of dancing and group sing-alongs. Everyone in attendance croons in unison to the lyrically poignant “Listening to Freddie Mercury” and jumps about to the fast-paced chorus of “Left with Alibis and Lying Eyes”. It’s a testament to legendary producer Aaron Sprinkle that The Question flows so effortlessly from front to back, even with all of its idiosyncrasies. It’s a testament to Emery that the album plays so well in a live setting all these years later.
In truth, Emery would have been hard pressed to recreate the manic magic of The Weak’s End. The band’s choice to write concise, melodic post-hardcore songs on their follow-up perhaps not only extended their career, but served as the building blocks for so many bands that would follow in their footsteps. If anyone wondered in 2005 if there was room in the screamo scene for a band as pensive and peculiar as South Carolina’s Emery, the answer is in The Question.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.