As I’ve already mentioned in numerous reviews in the past, the Christian hardcore scene is astonishingly vast in numbers. What’s even more noteworthy though is how many of these bands are at the very least, noteworthy quality-wise. EMBRACER, the post/alternative group from West Virginia, US, is no exception to the ridiculous quality-to-quantity ratio Christian bands seem to be producing these days. 2015 was the year that their first singles surfaced, and through them EMBRACER managed to raise more than a few eyebrows with how good Jordan’s (lead vocalist) voice sounded and how much complimented their music.
In their debut full length album, “No Gospel”, the quartet kept the elements that made them stand out and took them one step further. Huge emphasis on vocals, instrumental parts that don’t just work as an escort to the vocals, but have a personality of their own. Guitars that consist mostly by distortionless chorded riffs and post rock leads, engulfed by reverb effects that give the mix a great atmosphere, similar to that of MOVING MOUNTAINS’ self-titled album. Jordan’s voice shines bright through his formidable vocal lines that strike a great balance between catchy and technical. Comparisons to JONNY CRAIG are inevitable and justified here, although with each release you can see Jordan is trying to differentiate himself from Jonny, despite the obvious similarities in their voice complexion.
Unfortunately, the thing that keeps me from absolutely loving this album is the lyrics. I think there’s a way to express your lyrical ideas, such as to not alienate non-religious listeners, but EMBRACER fail in that regard. It feels like your local pastor is reading you his poetry projects that he works on the side before he goes to bed. If you are religious, that’s probably great! If you’re not, you’re gonna find yourself trying to focus on the other elements of the album to keep yourself entertained.
While instrumentally the mix is stellar, the vocals sound overproduced. The crisp, raw and somewhat unrefined voice that made Jordan so special, is kept back by a production that makes the vocals sound autotuned and mechanized at times. I’d rather listen to a voice that might miss a note by a few Hz, than a perfectly pitched voice that sounds uncanny and unnatural.
“No Gospel” is an album that keeps growing on me the more I listen to it, right until the minute I’m typing this review. Unfortunately, the mediocre mix and poorly executed lyrics hold “No Gospel” back from being a true classic of its genre in recent years. If you’re a fan of JONNY CRAIG and late MOVING MOUNTAINS it’s definitely worth a listen or two. Who knows, if it grows on you the way it keeps growing on me, you might find yourself stumbling upon a late blooming hidden gem.