There are two ways to interpret transition: either let it defeat you, or embrace the change and continue to evolve. Post-hardcore quartet Emarosa leans more towards the latter with their fourth studio effort, 131. Since the band’s inception in 2006, the group has gone through a roller coaster ride of lineup changes, with lead guitarist ER White and keyboardist Jordan Stewart being the rocks that have stuck with the group since the beginning.
Vocalist Bradley Walden got recruited to join Emarosa in 2013, helping the band to record the fantastic 2014 release, Versus. Despite the album being very well-received by their still-loyal fanbase and possessing qualities within Emarosa’s original mantra, Walden tried to sound more like his fans wanted him to sound, rather than letting his true voice shine through and add to the band’s dynamic. With Versus serving more as a transitional album, the group truly anchors down and demonstrates each other’s strengths with a more solidified lineup on 131 (with the exception of rhythm guitarist Matt Marcellus, who’s making his debut with this release).
Emarosa notoriously have punchy introductions that hook the listener throughout their discography. The opening track, “Hurt,” has Walden demonstrating his soulful style with a melodic, toned-down nature before crescendoing into a hard rock-tinged groove Emarosa is known for. The track possesses tremendous balance, which can also be felt in the emotionally infused “Sure” that touches on themes of moving on from misfortune.
The group’s evolution and ability to effectively fuse various genres together can be felt in the catchy, previously released single, “Cloud 9,” where the group’s dynamic shines through to create a sound that will satisfy long-time Emarosa fans and also entice new ones. The accompanying music video is indicative of Walden’s high energy and live aesthetics to demonstrate the spillover effect of how comfortable he’s becoming in his solidified role.
In addition to fantastic group dynamics, external forces such as guest vocals and studio help contribute to 131’s success. Producer Casey Bates (Portugal. The Man, Pierce The Veil) encouraged the group to push the creative envelope and stay relaxed to create an album that feels natural, which can be felt in all 11 tracks. The delicately balanced “Young Lonely” features guest vocals from Acceptance frontman Jason Vena, while “Never” finds the group wearing their heart on their sleeve with guest vocals from Walden’s wife, Meeko.
While it may come off as a bore when read out of context, the closing track “Re:” finds the group fusing lyrics and melodies from the previous tracks to create a meshed concoction that feels natural and fitting. The aura of the track stands more as a reiteration of what’s been mentioned previously, standing firm on what’s been said in order to reflect and move forward.
Without delving into lyrical content and song structure, listeners don’t have to look any further than the gorgeous album artwork to see that Emarosa intends to keep their original integrity alive and continue to grow as musicians. The iconic fox adds both cohesion and identity to the discography of the group, but also serves a symbolic purpose. Across cultural boundaries, foxes have a consensual theme of being adaptable creatures, which sums up Emarosa’s progression perfectly. The group not only continues to survive, but thrive, despite setbacks from lineup changes and overcoming the challenges of resurrecting from a four-year hiatus. 131 does an excellent job of solidifying a new breath of life into the group, and reminding fans they’re still a force to be reckoned with.