Emery Shines on “The Question” Anniversary Tour

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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.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

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.

Emery

Emery

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_hauckKiel 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.

Reflecting On: Chiodos – All’s Well That Ends Well

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During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

Frenetic. Chaotic. Wild. Furious. Unapologetic.

There is a very specific set of terms that describe the sonic energy found on All’s Well That Ends Well, the debut album from Chiodos. Not only did the record set a foundation for the progressive post-hardcore band to grow from, it landed a powerful blow to the cheek of a stagnant screamo scene in the process.

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You can buy All’s Well That Ends Well on iTunes.

Cutting their teeth at a local music venue in Flint, Michigan, Chiodos wore their influences on their sleeve on their debut. The unbridled energy of bands like Glassjaw and Thursday slams hard against fleeting pop sensibilities and unnerving keyboards and synthesizers. All’s Well That Ends Well is somewhat of a time capsule, perfectly capturing the sound of its age.

Aside from its raw vigor and evocative theatrics, the album may best be known as the coming out party for Craig Owens – a relatively unknown vocalist who would be considered a full-fledged rock star by the end of the album’s cycle. Untrained and unrestrained, Owens struts across the album’s 13 tracks with abandon, unleashing piercing screams and whispery spoken word vocals, sometimes within the same line. His opening shrieks of, “This spring of love resembles the uncertain glory of an April day” on “All Nereids Beware” still stands as one of the scene’s most startling introductions.

Much like Owens’ neurotic vocal spillage, the band transitions on a moment’s notice from shredding post-hardcore riffs to hauntingly gentle piano passages. “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined” tackles all five stages of grief, both sonically and lyrically, in under four minutes.

The pace of the record is fast, but it’s worth remembering just how spacey and ambient it felt in 2005 when juxtaposed with some of the band’s peers. It’s easy to capture cheap energy. It’s something more to add odd, unfamiliar elements to the mix to capture real emotion without completely abandoning genre expectations. All’s Well That Ends Well is best described as a post-hardcore record, but it felt like something completely new while still maintaining an air of familiarity.

We’d heard a breakdown, but when padded with Bradley Bell’s manic keyboard lines, All’s Well’s heavy parts went down easy. We’d heard soaring vocals atop gritty guitar riffs, but Owens’ heart-on-his-sleeve pleading made it less a performance and more a desperate cry for help. His anger, despair and utter defeat rang out like a painful tolling bell, even when he resorted to cliché.

“Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek” served as a case study track for the band’s boundaries, but also became the blueprint for the next generation of in-betweeners. A delicate beginning find’s Owens suggesting, “Let’s just stop, drop everything / Forget each other’s names and just walk away” before the guitars kick in with fury. When he later cries, “This is probably the best, not to mention the worst, idea that I have ever had”, you can feel the internal conflict. Though infectious as hell, the band never lets the song slip into overly accessible territory.

Three years prior, The Used tested these same waters with their debut, but chose instead to let their appetite for catchy hooks tip the scales. That album was a gateway drug for many, but Chiodos appeared content to take only a quick hit, never fully indulging in crossover potential. The opening hardcore riffs of “We’re Gonna Have Us a Champagne Jam”, coupled with Owens’ piercing howl, act as a firm refusal to cater to emo pop fans that wandered in the room on accident.

Chiodos would tighten ship with subsequent releases, but did the band forsake the raw energy that made their debut such a smash? Bone Palace Ballet leaned toward full-on rock opera while Illuminaudio toed the line of progressive radio rock. Devil is an animal all its own, combining every element found in the Chiodos training manual.

There’s certainly not a bad apple in the bunch, but All’s Well That Ends Well seems to stand the test of time. Even with its rough edges and uneven delivery, it still packs a bite. While the band may never again harness the youthful fight and anger that made this debut such a classic, they’ve slowly been perfecting their craft and cementing themselves as post-hardcore giants. If the end is in sight, it’s certainly an ending worth shouting about.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Pierce the Veil Stream New Song “The Divine Zero”

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At long last, Pierce the Veil have released the first single from their upcoming album. “The Divine Zero” picks up where Collide With the Sky left off, featuring crunchy guitar tones and the signature impassioned vocals from Vic Fuentes. You can listen to the track below:

You can buy the song on iTunes. Pierce the Veil’s as-of-yet untitled new album is expected to drop sometime later this year via Fearless Records. Today, the band starts a full summer trek on the Vans Warped Tour. What are your thoughts on the new song? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – You Were Never Alone

Emery-2013

There’s no denying that Emery has had a fascinating career arc. Their first two albums, The Weak’s End and The Question, both served as high water marks in the screamo scene, with the latter placing the band among the genre’s elite. Later releases would find the band dabbling in alt rock and even metalcore amidst scattered touring and multiple lineup changes.

Recent years have found Emery exploring new territory. The band left their longtime home of Tooth and Nail Records to start a new label and accompanying podcast titled Bad Christian. Despite releasing no new music in four years, the guys have remained relevant voices in the scene, making the choice to crowdfund their latest release a no brainer.

You Were Never Alone pays homage to “old” Emery – full of fight, with dueling vocals and poppy hooks. It’s not a perfect album, nor is it the best release of the band’s career, but it works. It also makes sense as a nostalgic ride as the band celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Question.

Perhaps the best thing about You Were Never Alone is the return of former guitarist and vocalist Devin Shelton, whose voice adds the much-needed response to singer Toby Morrell’s. His presence is felt from track one – “Rock, Pebble, Stone” is a smooth rock number full of wonderful harmonies from Shelton and Morrell over a sweet bass line. It’s a far cry from the crushing metalcore of We Do What We Want, but don’t get too comfortable.

“Thrash” may very well be the most violent song of Emery’s career, offering a punch to the gut after the album’s unassuming opener. The band gives their best Every Time I Die impression as Morrell screams and shouts over shredding guitars before the song ends with an abrupt groovy, jazz-like finish. Emery has always had a way with curveballs, and “Thrash” may be their most knee-buckling yet.

Most of You Were Never Alone falls somewhere between the ying and yang of the first two tracks, sounding like a close relative of In Shallow Seas We Sail. “Hard Times” is a throwback Emery track with back-and-forth dual vocals and a soaring chorus. “Pink Slip” plays off of Shelton and Murrell’s trade off before adding a crushing breakdown. “Salvatore Wryhta” is an upbeat, fast-paced tune with killer screams sprinkled in for good measure.

Missteps come in the form of a complete lack of keyboard lines that made the band’s early work so stellar, and the absence of any tracks featuring Shelton on lead vocals. Although songs like “Go Wrong Young Man” and “Alone” may fall flat, they’re easily covered up by the accessibility of “The Less You Say” and “To the Deep”. If You Were Never Alone is a mixed bag, it comes up shining more often than not.

Emery have long tackled the tensions of human relationships while using that friction as a tool to search for truth. That conversation continues here, but the growth and complexity of the search continues to expand. The band has made a career out of tiptoeing along the lines of hard answers, preferring instead to defer to even harder questions. It’s a tactic that speaks volumes, regardless of what philosophical background you’re coming from.

As scene veterans, Emery have earned the right to experiment and forge their own path. The process continues on You Were Never Alone, but this feels as much like an album for the fans as any you’ll hear this year. The combination of new and old suits the band well in 2015 and solidifies their status as songwriting pros in the post-hardcore scene.

3.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Review: Sleeping with Sirens – Madness

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This should have been the album where it all came together. After making waves with their sophomore breakthrough Let’s Cheers to This in 2011, Florida rock act Sleeping with Sirens began taking their first steps away from scene-core with their follow-up, Feel – an album that debuted at no. 3 on the Billboard 200. With the infusion of newly found pop rock influences, you could quite literally feel the tides turning.

Why, then, does the band’s latest release, Madness, sound like a band still trying to find its identity? After news recently broke in an Alt Press interview with the band that they had scrapped an entire no-holds-barred rock album produced by Nick Raskulinecz in favor of a less raw, more polished direction with John Feldmann, you would expect this effort to materialize as a crossover extravaganza. Not so fast.

Let’s be clear – there are songs included on Madness that are poppier and catchier than anything the band has ever written. There are also screamo-fest growlers that find the band proclaiming their love for “that rock and roll sound” and resounding with clarity that they have no intention of selling out. If you find yourself confused, you’re not alone.

First, the good news: Some of the aforementioned pop numbers are spectacular. Vocalist Kellin Quinn’s voice has always lent itself to this kind of music, and he uses it to his greatest advantage on Madness. The clear frontrunner is “Fly”, a danceable track that feels primed for summer radio. The song starts gently, leading to its huge chorus of, “I wanna fly / I’m ready to burn down all the walls that I’ve been building up inside / I wanna fly and put back all the pieces of this broken heart tonight”.

This sentiment of renewal and resolve is one that pervades many of the glossier tracks on the record, making it that much more awkward when the band transitions back to angry rockers, but I digress. “Save Me a Spark” is another shining radio pop anthem with a huge chorus. The band pulls this sound off so seamlessly, it’s easy to wonder why they haven’t been doing this all along.

Sleeping with Sirens quiet things down further with “The Strays”, an acoustic number with gang whistling. Yes, you read that correctly. The title track follows its lead while “Go Go Go” introduces a touch of power pop into the mix with another bouncy chorus.

So what’s the problem? Frustration arises from track to track during Madness when the band refuses to choose a side of the fence. “Kick Me” is a screamo smash that fits perfectly into the band’s Let’s Cheers to This sound, but is blatantly out of place here. “We Like it Loud”, in sentiment alone, flies in the face of the band’s new direction on Madness and serves as an awkward lead into the ballad-y “Heroine”.

Even on seriously solid tracks like “Better Off Dead”, which showcases a heavy pop punk vibe akin to A Day to Remember, it’s hard to know what the band is going for. There aren’t many “bad” tracks on Madness, but the conglomeration of sounds is too much to be considered anywhere close to cohesive. The talent in this band is clear – and the official addition of guitarist Nick Martin is a huge win – but the direction is murky at best.

Regardless of any of this, Madness will still blow up the charts. With a rabid fanbase and a handful of catchy new songs, Sleeping with Sirens are sure to strike it big once again. It won’t be long though, before fans will expect the band to choose an identity before things are watered down too far. Sleeping with Sirens have now released four full-length albums and we’re still not quite sure who they are. Time is of the essence.

3/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Justin Shekoski of Saosin to Fill in for The Used

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Yesterday, The Used announced that guitarist Quinn Allman will be taking a hiatus from the band during 2015. However, Saosin guitarist Justin Shekoski will be filling in for the band as their touring guitarist this year. You can read a statement from the band below:

We are saddened to announce that Quinn will be taking a temporary hiatus from the band for the next year. Quinn is a vital part of the group and we wish him the best in his upcoming endeavors and look forward to the day he rejoins us on the road. We are thrilled, however, to share that Justin Shekoski of Saosin will be filling in for Quinn as we hit the road this year! Justin has been a close friend to all of us for many years and will help make this tour a memorable one!

What will this mean for the future plans of Saosin? Share your thoughts in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Underoath Seek Help in Funding Documentary, “Tired Violence”

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Underoath fans, rejoice! The band have announced a documentary in the works, titled Tired Violence, which covers the band during their 2013 farewell tour. Shortly after filming, the company handling the film went under, leaving the band to finish it themselves. Pre-orders are now available to help fund the film’s finishing touches and include options to screen the film, followed by a Q&A with the band. Take a look at the video below:

You can view all of the pre-order options here.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated of 2015: #6 Saosin Reboot

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Last year saw the return of a few of our beloved bands, but perhaps none was more surprising than that of Saosin. The band announced an appearance at Skate & Surf Festival early last year with original vocalist Anthony Green. What followed were a few scattered performances and the hint of new music on the horizon.

Of course, Saosin fans are well accustomed to these sorts of promises. After going radio silent sometime in 2010, irregular rumblings would surface, teasing the idea of a new album or a new lead singer to replace the exiled Cove Reber. For many, a reunion with Green and another album was a laughable notion. But here we are.

The band played a few new songs they had written to round out their setlist at shows throughout the year, so it’s obvious that they’ve at least penned a few new tracks together. However, Green still resides full time in experimental post rock act Circa Survive, which just released a new album, and has made clear that Circa is his first priority.

Nevertheless, the band has already announced some new dates for early 2015 and Green has made clear his desire to explore the post-hardcore sound further with the guys in Saosin. Whether time will allow such sessions remains to be seen. For now, fans of Saosin can at least dream about the possibility.

Green’s original parting with the band was not a pretty one. The fact that the group has reconciled and seems excited to share the stage together seems almost like a small miracle. With a renewed sense of vigor and friendship, who knows what possibilities lie ahead. Whatever happens, it’s certainly better than more silence.

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Sleeping With Sirens Release New Song “Kick Me”

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Surprising news today: Sleeping With Sirens have released a music video for a new song titled “Kick Me” on Epitaph Records’ YouTube page. A new album appears to be on the horizon, with the band recently in the studio with John Feldmann. Check out the video for “Kick Me” below:

What are your thoughts on the new song? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting on: Showbread – No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical

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Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

The screamo explosion of the mid-aughts certainly came with a degree of predictability, but it wasn’t without its curveballs. As the sing/scream/breakdown formula became commonplace with rapid intensity, a few outliers staked their claim with their own brand of the suddenly fashionable sound. The most peculiar of these was, without a doubt, Showbread.

Hailing from the small town of Guyton, Georgia, Showbread stormed onto the scene radar in 2004 after signing with Tooth and Nail Records. What followed was one of the most genre-defying and wildly entertaining spectacles of the year: No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical.

Showbread’s sound, dubbed “raw rock” by the band themselves, was a frenzied mash-up of new-wave screamo, punk and pop rock with a dash of dance-y electronica thrown in for good measure. Visually, the band was a sight to behold, weighing in at seven members strong and featuring two vocalists and a full-fledged keytar player.

Everything about the band – the identical uniforms, the abrasive album title, the confounding artwork, the spastic sounds – seemed crafted to make some sort of statement. By the time you actually press play on the record, you feel prepared for anything. Fortunately, No Sir does not disappoint.

The album’s opening track, “A Llama Eats a Giraffe (And Vice Versa)” hits full throttle with a symphony of wild guitars and fuzzy synthesizers as vocalists Josh Dies and Ivory Mobley trade back and forth shrieks and screams. Amidst the chaos are some truly thought-provoking and unexpected lyrics. As the opening verse closes with, “Patronized you harmonize, a thorax rattles so / Like idealistic jargon every self-respecting hopeful should know”, you feel prepared for a deep tour into the meaning of existence.

Not so fast. The song’s ending gives way to the sounds of a chainsaw before leading into the dirty, distorted guitar riff that kicks off “Dead By Dawn” – the band’s own homage to Evil Dead 2. The track is a bloody tale of the Book of the Dead, capped off with the climactic lines, “The corpses wish to cover me with kisses, so just maybe / I’ll cover this cabin with their blood – hail to the king, baby”.

If this transition of sound and subject seems awkward, maybe that’s the point. No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical is a crash course on societal and cultural quandaries with the band’s own flare for the dramatic serving as the cherry on top of the rock and roll sundae.

Poppy single “Mouth Like a Magazine” examines the good/evil duality that resides inside us all. “The Missing Wife” is an acoustic number telling a tragic tale of guilt turned hopeful with the promise of forgiveness. “Matthias Replaces Judas” is a powerful rock ballad pushed over the top by the guest vocals of Five Iron Frenzy’s Reese Roper.

No Sir is truly chock full of diverse sonic explorations. In the mood to mosh? Turn up the wicked riffs found throughout “Welcome to Plainfield Tobe Hooper”. Looking for some proggy experimentation? Throw on the Nine Inch Nails-influenced “Sampsa Meets Kafka”. Want to dance? Take a listen to the bouncy “So Selfish It’s Funny”.

Whether they’re waxing philosophical, wrestling with religion, or expressing their love for horror films, Showbread has no shortage of palates to paint on. Their quirky style and unpredictable transitions are engaging on a level that extends beyond their musical talents, which are notable to be sure. No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical is not an album crafted for everyone – it’s an album displaying a band exactly as they are. It’s up to the listener to take it or leave it.

Throughout their career, the band would undergo a jaw-dropping amount of member changes, each resulting in a completely new sound. Showbread has never been a band to do the same thing twice. The result is a fan base spanning a broad spectrum of interest. To claim one album as the best would be to ignore the obvious elements of taste and personal preference.

For my money, No Sir captured lighting in a bottle – a dizzying debut of an album that was impossible to replicate, even if you unwisely wanted to try. Its lyrics are razor sharp and its sound is raging and unpredictable. It requires patience and repeated listens to grasp. Just be careful – as the band says, “raw rock kills.”

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.