Hailing from Alabama in the US, come Embr, who are releasing their debut album 1823 this July through UK label New Heavy Sounds, and the four piece, have delivered a crushing, yet beautiful debut album for us to appreciate and admire. It’s a sludgy grungy affair, and it hits all the right spots with me…
The backbone of Embr themselves is husband and wife Eric and Crystal Bigelow, Eric is resident skin beater, and Crystal provides all of the astounding vocals, which are given with such beautiful range and harmony, it’s hard not to fall in love with the band.
Alongside Eric and Crystal are Mark Buchanan on guitar, and Alan Light on bass duties. With this mix of pounding drum, drop tuned guitars, and crazy distortion as a backdrop, it provides Crystal the perfect atmosphere to work her vocal magic. If you were to take a pinch of Windhand and add it to a slab of Dirt era Alice In Chains, then you would be within the region of describing Embr’s sound.
I feel that before we get in to the music, I should fill you in as regards the album title 1823 quickly, and its significance, in case you were wondering. In May of 2019, while busy writing the debut album, and after a number of years waiting for a kidney transplant, Eric was fortunate enough to be given the call to say a donor had been found, and went and had surgery. After the procedure, when asked if anything was known of the donor, all they could be given was that it had been from a donor aged between 18 and 23, and it is that which has inspired the album title. A tribute to the soul who had given Eric a new chance on life, and it is that dedication which graces the front cover.
Not since 1992 have I longed so much for that dark grungy feeling in my life, and Embr really deliver, the guitars are so evocative of Jerry Cantrell at his most vibrant, and while the vocal is no Layne Staley, it works so incredibly well with the dirgy guitar wail, giving the band a more accessible feel.
Capturing this is no mean feat, considering that Alice In Chains were at the forefront of the darker side of grunge, and it’s that internal festering which works so well here.
This album is definitely a reimagining of a sound that’s become equally iconic and mysterious for its emotive nature, and Embr truly embrace this…
It’s a sturdy debut, Where I’ve Been and Powder are particular stand outs for me, the former really encapsulating that iconic grunge presence, and the latter, which really captures the other side of Embr, with the twin vocal on Powder and its growls and low level screeches offset Crystal’s vocal fantastically, it’s superbly juxtaposed, and works so well with the feral growls.
It doesn’t work in the way Lacuna Coil plays off the dynamic of Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro, and how they work in unison with their vocal styles, instead, this is far more a case of polar opposites, grasping for attention, and it’s this power play that really makes the track intriguing. There are elements of doom in the mix too, especially on the track Your Burden, but this really is a revelation from what I was expecting when I first approached 1823.
This album is definitely a reimagining of a sound that’s become equally iconic and mysterious for its emotive nature, and Embr truly embrace this. It’s a true testament to what came before, with an incredible ability to make it sound fresh and new, and not dated in any way whatsoever.
For me personally, this album is just what I’ve been looking for, for so long, and I think that for anyone who truly embraces the whole grunge era, not just the wannabe’s and their ‘Nirvana is grunge’ misbeliefs, then you will really appreciate this in all its glory. It’s truly harking back to a time when grunge was the foremost relevant music and defined a whole generation of teens, such as myself.
The doom elements in no way take away from this, in fact, I would go as far as to say that they actually give it another layer of depth, it’s not too imposing, and it definitely has that Windhand vibe to it, which if you are a fan like I am, it means you get the best of two worlds.
These elements come together to form something truly inspiring, and to come in at ground level with a new band such as Embr is an added bonus, as I believe that they’re going to rise and rise, so it will be interesting to see where they go from here. This is definitely the start of something special…
Scribed by: Lee Beamish