Major shifts in a band’s lineup can make or break them. There are plenty of examples of groups flailing for a release or two after a lineup change before they ultimately collapse. Luckily for music fans, this is not always the diagnosis. Bands can not just survive – they can thrive. With the release of 131, Emarosa may become one of the success stories. Bradley Walden took the role as the lead vocalist in 2014; four years after the band’s sophomore album was released. Later that year they dropped their third studio album, Versus, to widespread praise.
Walden has expressed that he felt Versus needed to be something that fans were expecting; which partially influenced its eventual sound. The fans had certain expectations from the band they knew and loved, so he felt pressure to write something that wasn’t entirely himself. When comparing Versus to 131, there are certainly clear differences in style and execution. Versus is still an excellent album though, and served as a transition between the old Emarosa and new. It set them up for success for whatever came next, which happens to be 131.
Versus set the bar for catchy hooks. The album had its fair share of addictive tracks, including “A Hundred Crowns,” “I’ll Just Wait,” and “Mad.” 131 opens with “Hurt” – a song showcasing Walden’s soulful side. He reminds fans of his powerful vocal range by jumping from a slow, ballad-like opening verse to the punchy main chorus. Some of the best hooks on the album come around at about the halfway point. “Miracle,” “Cloud 9” and “Helpless” are some of my personal favorite tracks on the album. Their lyrics will dance around in your head hours after the album has stopped spinning.
131 sounds personal for Walden – and it is. The songs are inspired by events that have actually happened to him, which makes his vulnerability in songs like “Porcelain” all the more inspiring. In this track, Walden shows his voice can be both delicate and powerful at the same time. The next song, “Never,” which can be interpreted as a declaration of love/marriage proposal, features Walden’s wife as the guest vocalist. “Re” is the closing track. The song is a medley of the other tracks on 131, but it’s more than that. It acts as a summary of the album, highlighting some of the best verses and giving them a unique twist.
Emarosa have completely moved from a post hardcore band to an alternative rock one. They toed the line on Versus, but it’s clear what sort of direction the group wants to head in now. This is the strongest they have ever been as a group, and it seems they can only go up from here. Not too long ago, Walden tweeted that he finally felt like this was his band. He’s right. They are no longer who they were in 2010. They aren’t even the same band as they were in 2014. Bands don’t always survive the throes of death, but when they do, they write albums like 131.