While bands are an identifier for a group of people who play music, these groups are still comprised of people. Much like a singular person, bands have the desire to carve out their identity and just like a person, it can be extremely difficult. It takes time to fully discover what a band can truly do; from establishing a fanbase to finding the true sound that represents the collective ideologies of the band. With that in mind, it’s even more difficult when it comes to already established artists, which is the exact issue vocalist Bradley Walden ran into when he joined Emarosa in 2013. Coming off of a hiatus after their former vocalist was kicked out, Walden felt the pressure of delivering upon expectations set by two praised albums in the scene. The result was 2014’s Versus, which managed to be a good comeback album that gave way to a successful Warped Tour stint. With the release of the album, it solidified Bradley as the band’s new frontman, but ultimately felt like a stepping stone for something even better. That something is their soon to be released fourth full-length 131..
Named after the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, 131 sees Emarosa shedding off most, if not all of their original post hardcore sound and delving into the realm of alternative rock. This new style is where these guys truly fit as musicians as fans and listeners alike will notice a new level of comfort in the sound and performance compared to previous releases. Joining the band on the record is new rhythm guitarist Matthew Marcellus, and while he’s been a touring member, it’s a different beast working in the studio. Fortunately, he showcases his talents well and manages to keep up with founding guitarist ER White, delivering hard-hitting riffs like in ‘’Blue’’ & ‘’Cloud 9’’. Keyboardist Jordan Stewart’s work is also more prevalent as shown in songs like “Hurt”, “Helpless” and “Young Lonely”. When it comes to vocals, Bradley steps up his game immensely with a stronger, more emotive delivery making it clear that this is his band now.
One of the more unique aspects of the record overall has been the bands openness in discussing what the album means to them and what it conveys thematically. This leads to 131 not only being their most somber and artistically curated album to date, but their most personal as well. Most of the album’s lyrical material deals with death and loss, many of it which comes from the loss of Bradley’s child. Due to this, the whole album feels cathartic for him, as shown in songs like ‘’Sure’’, which is a heartbreaking attempt to start anew and move on from tragedy. The album’s closer, ‘’Re’’ ties the album’s theme of death and loss as he proclaims how he doesn’t deserve all the pain he’s received, using lines from previous tracks to reinforce that theme. It’s not all grim however, as there is the piano-led ballad “Porcelain” which features Walden singing about his wife and his future with her.
From a full fledged sonic switch to alternative rock with gospel and blues vibes to a personal, introspective lyrical driven ideology, each individual track sounds different outside of the complete record. Putting it together into the whole package, 131 is a multitude of feelings and elements put on display by a group of people who have been through the utmost hell and sees Emarosa wearing their pain like a badge of honor. This is the moment where we see the band finally announce who they are to the world. While Versus felt more like a transitional album, 131 is them fully realized; armed with a more fitting sound and lineup. From the hard-hitting opener ‘’Hurt’’ to the reflective ‘’Re’’, the band has delivered their best collection of songs. As a record, this is definitively different than anything the band have created before and this is who Emarosa is now, and hopefully, who they are for years to come.