Life & Death — Devin Shelton
In 2011, Emery announced the indefinite hiatus of Devin Shelton, a member who had been instrumental since the band’s beginnings in 2001. Shelton lent his talents of songwriting, his voice as co-lead vocalist alongside Toby Morell, and performed many instruments for the band throughout his tenure. As Emery continued on without Shelton, many fans voiced their dreams on social media of seeing Shelton returning to perform with the band they love.
- Surrounded By You
- Across The Ocean
- Agree To Disagree
- Land Mine
- Tear You Apart
- So Far Away
Fast forward two years and perhaps the next best thing Emery fans could have asked for—the debut of Devin Shelton’s solo project, Live & Death, on SCP Records.
Emery is one of my favorite bands. I have enjoyed every album they have put out. Some of the characteristics that made Emery were the use of vocal melodies and harmonies, rich musical dynamics, and songwriting. All of these characteristics and a little more are found in Life & Death.
The record starts off with the track “Cancer” and the depth of the lyrical content is poignant from the album’s beginning. The track exemplifies the need of a person in your life. In the song’s case, Shelton explains, “…a story about a middle-age man who loses his wife to cancer. I was thinking about how terrible it would be to lose the one you love and how hard it would be to move on, and what kind of toll it could take on your faith.”
The song is beautiful in its heartache. It reminded me of the human need to keep God’s perspective in times of great sadness and mourning.
“Surrounded” continues to describe the death of the character’s wife. It’s a dark, edgy rock song, that has imagery of harsh realities, loneliness and regret. “Across the Ocean” describes the man’s desire to see his wife, but the realization that he will never see her again. “Agree To Disagree” is the character’s conversation with God about how he was feeling. In a lot of ways it reminds me of the Biblical story of Job. The character shows a lot of disgust towards God and reveals the pain and anger he is holding within his heart.
“Worse” is the darkest song on the record. The character contemplates suicide, explains his lack of belief because he cannot see the things of God. This doubt plays into the next song, “Land Mine,” as the character of God is sung through metaphors, the character in the song comes to terms of his repentance, recognizing that his pride and person are much smaller than God. It’s one of my personal favorites on the record and has an awesome guitar riff throughout the entire song.
The next track, “Crumbling,” is about taking on the things of the world as a means of self-medication and not trusting in God to provide peace. “Tear You Apart” has the harmonies and melodies of early-Emery, the song discusses the questions of mistakes and regrets and tie into the story within the album very nicely. The song asks big questions like, “Do our mistakes define who we are?” and “Am I the victim or am I the crime?”
The record closes with two tracks that are worlds apart lyrically, but tie so perfectly together. The first is “Trust” in which the character is in a very tough situation, again contemplating suicide, and questions if he can be trusted in his depressed state. “So Far Away” brings the album full circle. In the closing track, the character finds how lost he is without God. The beautiful metaphors and melodies close the album in such a great light:
When I feel so far away
You gave us your love when you gave up your Son
You took the world and turned it right side up
So how could I betray the sacrifice you made?
Teach me to believe and not follow my own way
Without you in my heart, my world falls apart
So make me what you want
Life & Death is a beautiful tragic story. It’s an album with an overlying deep concept, made up with songs of individuality that are remarkable in themselves.
The record has the feel of previous Emery albums. It contains the songwriting characteristics, the melodies, the harmonies, but it is very unique in it’s own right. It focuses in on life’s tragedies while retaining a message of hope. In our world today we are bombarded with terrible news every day. This record reminds us that even in the darkest moments of life, God’s plan is at work, and He will reveal those moments when we surrender to His love and embrace. As the often quoted scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord.”
Devin Shelton’s Life & Death is a great record. Go support this man and the music he is creating.