ALBUM REVIEW – “Versus” by Emarosa

Like fellow post-hardcore types Dance Gavin Dance before them, Emarosa were consistently defined by notorious vocalist Jonny Craig, whose balance of natural singing talent and controversial behaviour has made him a genre celebrity who’s tended to overshadow any musicians that associate themselves with him. It’s thus easy to forget that Craig wasn’t even an original Emarosa member, particularly as he’s filled the vocalist spot on both the studio albums to date. The challenge for third record Versus, then, is to assert an independent identity for a group shorn of their most identifiable component, and placate a fanbase who must have wondered how the departure would affect the group’s sound and songwriting approach.

The first hurdle, filling the lead vocal slot, has been vaulted with authority thanks to the recruitment of former Squid the Whale member Bradley Walden. His versatile tones are in a similar mould to Craig’s, but different enough to distinguish himself, and crucially his voice perfectly suits the direction in which the rest of the band is taking their music. While it’s by no means a complete departure, Versus represents the evolution of Emarosa from aggro-rock group into a more palatable proposition. Punchy opening triumvirate ‘People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play’, ‘American Déjà Vu’ and ‘A Hundred Crowns’ possesses all the energy of their earlier material, but with a more direct approach to laying out the big hooks. Occasional R&B inflections like those on the pre-chorus of the album’s opener offer a window to the band as it was, but what they’ve become is equally exciting.

From there, Versus moves even more wholeheartedly into an alternative radio rock feeling, with exciting results. ‘Gold Dust’ boasts an elemental, instantly familiar guitar line and pumping drums that mark it as a musical highlight; in contrast, the obvious sincerity in vocal delivery and weighty lyrical content of ‘1996 On Bevard’ act as a showcase for Walden’s talents. He fits this new incarnation of the band like a glove, and often threatens to steal the songs for himself; the vocal aggression on ‘Say Hell to the Bad Guy’ ignites the otherwise lethargic instrumentation, before an eventual explosion of sound brings focus back on to the music. Pristine production benefits this smoothly crafted collection of songs, helping to highlight Emarosa’s growth.

Moments do crop up that drag the pace down a little too much, and these see the album’s momentum falter. A common fault is found on ‘I’ll Just Wait’, where a sumptuous groove is established but then sat on for too long and eventually driven into a rut. The hooks on slower songs can feel too often repeated – ‘Same Tight Rope’s falsetto sections are gorgeous, but so often re-used that they become tedious after four minutes. ‘Mad’ provides a much-needed injection of energy into the second half, with a pleasingly straightforward and razor-edged chorus, and the more restrained moments are at least never less than beautiful, but completely sacrificing the group’s post-hardcore traits have left Versus feeling a tad torpid.

Problems in maintaining pace aside, Emarosa have exceeded expectations on their first Craig-less full-length, establishing a clear new identity while exhibiting considerable maturation and a songwriting step-up in the process. Sounding more often like a coherent unit and less like a vehicle for their vocalist, they’ve chosen their evolutionary path wisely and come out the other end with a peach of an album and bundles of potential heading into the future. Quite whom the name Versus is targeted towards is unclear – whoever they are, they’ve got quite the battle ahead if they’re taking on these guys.

Rating: 8 / 10

Michael Bird



‘People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play’


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  1. Emarosa Premieres “I’ll Just Wait” Music Video | RichardThinks.Org - September 24, 2014

    […] music video can be streamed below, be sure to also check out our review of “Versus”, which is out now through Rise Records. Emarosa will be out touring in support of […]

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