Following the release of their last record, We Do What We Want, Emery’s future was all but unknown. Founding member Devon Shelton announced his hiatus from the band shortly after the album’s announcement, Matt Carter and Toby Morrell took their time away in the form of their acoustic venture Matt & Toby, and in 2013 the group left Tooth and Nail Records after eleven years on their roster. As a result of such events over the course of the past four years, Emery has managed to lay a foundation as more than just a band, but rather the musical center of their growing community called BadChristian. Their experiences in music fueled new ventures that range from a blog, podcast, and their own record label. Now, a year after an Indiegogo campaign that reached more than double its goal to fund a new album, we’re finally graced with You Were Never Alone – which proves to be the output of an Emery that is at its most inspired and creative peak yet.
With it’s first track “Rock, Pebble, Stone” the band’s alternative rock sound bleeds in rather than its post-hardcore tendencies, avoiding a typical heavy opener similar to “Walls” or “Cutthroat Collapse” in order to ease the listener in with something that would feel right at home on I’m Only A Man. Shelton wastes no time switching between lead vocals and the excellent background melodies that he made himself known for as he takes charge on the final verse before the song’s chorus is finally introduced. That calming first impression doesn’t last as “Thrash” explodes right after in what is undeniably the heaviest song the band has ever created, while also being the most creative. Toby’s screams have never sounded better while being even more raw, and behind him the band tears down any expectation with spectacular fury. While it is a very heavy track, throughout it slows for more melodic and often haunting moments before fading into pure blues and jazz.
While the first two tracks are dense with creativity, that shouldn’t be discouraging to fans of the classic Emery sound. Both “Hard Times” and “The Beginning” channel the same energy as previous tracks while maintaining their own sense of identity, the former is bounced throughout like a cousin to most tracks from …In Shallow Seas We Sail while the latter is ripe with the classic three-way vocal melodies that the band made a name for. By the time “The Less You Say” begins, the band proves to not mismanage the momentum they’ve built as they make their way up into one of the catchiest choruses that the record has to offer, all while drummer Dave Powell leads the charge behind the kit. It all culminates in “Pink Slip”, which is feels like a track from a post-hardcore version of Rent; it’s very fast-paced and manages to cross through all of the dimensions of the band’s sound without getting lost.
The second half of the record follows suit with the first; “To The Deep” extends the band’s sound into more of a pop-radio friendly territory with superb layering of guitars and vocals. Matt Carter takes his turn to take charge both here and throughout “Go Wrong Young Man”, with his performance in the latter track resembling Will Swan from fellow long-tenured post-hardcore band Dance Gavin Dance. It’s a song that may not sit well with casual fans due to its density, but taking the time to dig through its various layers proves its worth and intricacy. With the final three tracks the band is simply on cruise control as “Taken for a Bath” hits a lower tone to spotlight the lyrical precision that Emery has as Morrell sings “You stole my eyes, so you I will take/You are the test of our grace/Threads become lines, we cross till they break/and they break from the seams to the bodies of men”. “Salvatore Wrytha” and “Alone” follow a similar pattern as the two-part closer from In Shallow Seas We Sail… as the first is an example of the band continuing their faster tempoed barrage with detailed guitar work that blends seamlessly into the album’s true closing track. Here the band is firing on all cylinders as the curtain closes, blending it’s opening calmness with an explosive climax and subsequent after-shock to round the record out.
Throughout its 41 minute running time, You Were Never Alone proves itself to be a record without any fat. Each layer, whether it’s the exceptional guitars, blasting drums or soaring melodic vocals, fits together like pieces to a puzzle. In the four years following a release that left most fans wanting more, this follow-up answers the call. It proves that not only is Emery one of the classic post-hardcore bands of this millennium, but that they can still make great, if not their best, music thirteen years into their career. What lies beyond is just as unknown as what the band’s future looked like four years ago, but even if the group decides to end it here then at least they did so with their very best effort.