(Actual album cover in review. Edited Cover provided by our friends at JesusFreakHideout )
The southern emo/screamo/rock/alternative/however you decide to classify them boys have returned after three years from their last full length release. You’ve read the controversy, you’ve seen it, and so what is there to say about this album? Well, a lot.
“Is This The Real Life” sets the general tone of Eve; and that is mellow and thoughtful. The lyrics of the song at first seem to be rather ambiguous in form of stream-thought. However when focusing on it more, considering the background of Emery and more importantly, singer and lyricist Toby Morrell, the track is scathing message to people who are okay with having their questions regarding faith ignored. If you’re a fan of the softer side of Emery, you will love the vocal melodies given in this track, as well as the entire album.
“Fear Yourself” and “Jesus Wept” are both around two minutes long, however they are so seamlessly transitioned together, they sound like one normal length song. The trend of short tracks crosses the entire LP, as there are only six tracks longer than 3 minutes. The former track seems to be speak of the shame and fear that often surrounds a harsh Christian upbringing. The latter kicks up the tempo and is the first time screams really have a significant place on Eve. Harsh honesty comes to the front in the song with a very close-up look at how Morrell sees (or saw) himself. “All alone and mumbling the only verse that I knew was Jesus wept and I did too/I gave up the drugs but not the sex, weekends, holidays, the cigarettes. As long as I knew I could get my fix, I could have it all I could handle it. Married a beautiful girl, brought a child into this world. In the mirror I saw boy wanting to be a man. You wanted a man. I’m a wave in the sea. I’m a stone that can’t be moved. I’m a wretch drunk and forgotten. I’m a path left to choose. You’re the God of the unknown. I’m the son that was never free. You’re the life I didn’t live. You’re the trial waiting for me. (Are you what the people say that you are? Filled with wrath worshipped always from a far. Glory to the lamb forever you are.”
I share this large of a section of the lyrics to prove a point that is evident across this entire album: the themes and lyrics spoken, sung, and screamed are filled with worry, doubt, love, and bitterness all centered around the church, and faith. There is no filter, but there is so much to dive into here, it’s as Emery wrote their own Come Now Sleep (lyrically speaking).
One of the first singles to be released, “Safe” travels into sadness and love. The song is dedicated to guitarist Matt Carter and bassist/singer Devin Shelton’s mothers, both whom had recently passed away. Morrell and Shelton sing of how the two mothers had raised them with the utmost love and care, and how it never ended. The track meets a heartbreaking climax as Morell screams with no regard “You gave yourself when there was nothing. Even when the sky was falling, how you covered me instead, you gave yourself when there was nothing left.” It’s the most emotional Emery track ever recorded, and it brings tears each time it’s heard.
Shelton opens “Streets of Gold” with a near unedited voice accompanying an equally vulnerable sounding acoustic guitar. “Is heaven just a fantasy? Or is it the place I’ve always longed to be? This life can feel so reckless just pulling me apart. Oh I swear I would give anything to go back to the start. I just want to lose myself and dance upon the streets of gold. See every face I’ve known smile and say you made it home. I just want to hold your hand in mine just like we used to do. I still believe in you. I still believe in you.” Halfway through the track, it goes through a transition that you would assume is a separate song, but is in fact still the same one. The transition is as clean and well done as possible. The tone of the song goes from questions and wondering, to a longing to be in our eternal home. The tone also turns much more confident and sure.
Stylistically, there’s no real comparison that comes to mind in both Emery’s discography, or any other band for “Name Your God.” Carter’s clean guitar tone really comes to the forefront on this track. The varying levels of distortion throughout their career has always been a point of pride. It’s never too muddy, it’s never clean, it’s perfectly set to meet the sound of the song. There are few bands that have such diversity in sound, and it’s one of the best parts of this album.
“Shame” is as bitter as the album gets. It’s very directly written with a clear message. The song is written to an individual or many who met his questions of faith with rebuke. “Did you ever have a doubt or second thought you might be wrong? Souls aren’t meant to hide away inside our very depths and drift along with no purpose at all. We came with heavy hearts to claim all that’s ours, but empty hands are all that we found. You’re blaming all my waywardness on cigarettes and booze, but I can’t walk a straight line without a drink or two. Your expectations always wear me out. If I was a younger man, I’d slap those words right back into your mouth. If this is found then I’d rather be lost.”
The track to likely cause the most discussion is the 2nd to last song. Long titled as it is, “2007 Clarksville High Volleyball State Champs Gay is OK” gives perspective in a polarizing topic. The song is written from the eyes of a gay person. A good section speaks of the fear and aftermath of coming out to their parents. “You know, In my eyes I never blamed them. They were just trying to figure out life same as me. I know it must’ve been hard to…hard to hear those words come out of my mouth. I knew what it meant the same as them. I was broken, deformed even, might as well have a sign chained around my neck. It was gonna be hard the rest of my life. That was plain to see. But who’s to say what true love is or what love looks like. I don’t even think I could tell you that.” While providing no opinion on the topic at hand, when diving word by word into this solemn song, it’s hard to get through and hits like a train.
Eve is a mature album. There is no denying that, and I wouldn’t recommend it for the young simply of the topics and nature of the lyrics. I don’t say that disparagingly, an album as deep and heavy as this one should be met with an equally mature mind. Regardless of any individual’s thoughts and takeaways from this album, there is nothing like it.
Emery is a long favorite and one of the most notable bands in Tooth & Nail’s proud history. And although the band has not been on the label in some time, they have returned with a juggernaut of an album. Musically, it is beautifully written. Each member showcases their best material to date. Morrell and Shelton sound as good and in-sync with each other as they did on the unforgettable …In Shallow Seas We Sail. Dave Powell shows his ability to drum like a madman in tracks like “Everything That She Offered Me” as well as drumming with subtle grace in “Clarksville.” Lyrically, it’s an open and honest view into one’s mind. Even the artwork will and has caused much discussion, which is what the band seems to set out with this album. Not controversy, not making people upset, but the idea of starting discussions with different viewpoints has been an interest of the writers of their songs. In the discussion of this album, I only ask that you see the person, not the issue. We are all people with varying walks of faith, levels of doubt, fear and shame; talking about them with care and love is the best thing we can hope for.
Emery is back.