Emarosa released their fourth album Versus in September 2014. The post-hardcore outfit have experienced various line-up changes over the years since forming in 2006. Starting out with Chris Roetter (later of Like Moths to Flames) on vocals, their debut EP This is Your Way Out embraced the heavier side of post-hardcore, employing screamed vocals. The band then replaced Roetter with Dance Gavin Dance frontman, Jonny Craig. During this transition a softer, more melodic direction was taken with two albums, 2008’s Relativity, and their self-titled album two years later. After announcing the departure of Craig, Bradley Walden was brought in as the new vocalist in the hope of bringing a fresh and different approach to Emarosa’s music.
‘People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play’ opens the album up, showing a strong vocal performance from Walden, and the intertwining guitars have a raw feel to them, which is a nice touch. Despite the chorus being uplifting and infectious, it is similar to a lot of their contemporaries while in the bridge, there is a funky bassline from Will Sowers keeping things interesting. ‘American Déjà Vu’ feels bland and the guitar work doesn’t go anywhere although up next, ‘A Hundred Crowns’ demonstrates a brilliant vocal performance, with Walden’s soulful voice hitting the long notes perfectly. I’ll Just Wait’ is well produced and contains a fuller sound, the distorted power chords bringing out a lot of emotion. You can also feel the sadness in Walden’s voice as he concedes that it was his fault in a dying relationship: “I could be the mountain, I could be the sea / I’ve been tearing us apart but I miss you, you know”.
‘Say Hello to the Bad Guy’ is another track with a full sound, although it flatly plods along, lacking a memorable hook despite having some interesting guitar licks. Although ‘Cliff Notes’ is slightly more upbeat with the guitars and the fluid drumming working well, it has a fairly forgettable generic chorus. The album picks up with ‘Mad’ a track featuring stadium-sized vocals utilised to their full potential, particularly on the chorus. The guitars also create a big wall of sound, which would go down nicely at a live show, and the chugging grit of the guitars give off a raw edge.
‘Gold Dust’ has some decent soulful harmonies, which are pleasant to listen to, and the big arena-like sound is reminiscent of Cold War Kids in places. ‘1996 on Brevard’ has a strong indie vibe to finish the album, with some beautiful basslines and a passionate-sounding chorus, showcasing a strong piece of songwriting.
Versus has some imperfections, for example there are points where the album sounds generic and perhaps the use of reverberated synths could widen its appeal. But where it shines, it is a strong record that will appeal to Emarosa fans and those who like their indie music to be more on the emotional side.
Words by Ermis Madikopoulos