(This post was originally written 3/31/2011)
With Emery’s fifth studio album comes a new phase in the life of the band. Co-frontman Devin Shelton has departed indefinately, leaving Toby Morrell handling nearly all the vocals (except for screams). While “We Do What We Want” is a good album that still feels, in most respects, like Emery, it’s clear that the band is still figuring out how to cope with Shelton’s absence.
One of my favorite aspects of Emery’s past work is the give and take and layered vocal sound that came with having essentially two lead singers. Stylistically, much of this is preserved on this album. Lines still run one into another, like poetic conversation, and harmonies still permeate the tracks. However, while this was once true interplay between Shelton and Morrell, recording trickery now allows Morrell to accompany himself. It sounds fine, and first time listeners to Emery probably won’t notice a thing, but Shelton and Morrell’s voices complimented each other so well. The tonal differences which added so much depth to Emery’s sound are now replaced with Morrell’s voice just singing two different parts, layered on top of one another in post- production. Morrell is a good singer, and while he doesn’t struggle carrying the vocal load on his own, I just can’t shake the feeling that something that made the band so special is missing in this album.
With the lack of another true singer, the band has tried to compensate some by including more screaming. I’m not a fan of pure screaming (as opposed to some occasionally edgy singing), so this comes as a negative to me, but even beyond that it feels almost as though the band was just using the screams as filler. More than anything “We Do What We Want” just feels a little too raw. Shelton’s absence unquestionably affected the creative process as Emery put this album together, and they’re figuring out how to work without his influence as they go.
The Verdict: 3 out of 5
If you’re an Emery fan, this is still a pretty automatic buy. It’s good music, just don’t expect Emery’s best. “We Do What We Want” represents some growing pains as Emery moves into a post- Devin Shelton future. The flaws that come from missing the tonal depth of another singer probably won’t be keyed on by a somone new to Emery, but the band just doesn’t sound as good overall without Shelton. And if you’re coming to Emery having never heard anything of theirs before, go buy one of their other albums instead. They’re better.