Emmure: Slave to the Game

It’s been a little over a year since New York City deathcore band, Emmure released Speaker of the Dead and now the highly anticipated follow-up release, Slave to the Game, is upon us (actually, the album doesn’t hit shelves until Tuesday, but I’ll be giving you a sneak preview).

Slave to the Game makes this the fifth studio album from Emmure. Based off a first impression, I really enjoyed listening to it. By far, it’s the heaviest thing this band has done, which is truly a remarkable statement. In 2008, The Respect Issue was their heaviest; in 2009, Felony was their heaviest record; in 2011, Speaker of the Dead was their heaviest and now this! It’s hard to imagine an album being heavier than what you’re already hearing, but Emmure have been able to do it again on this record. These guys are already pretty big fans of the breakdown, in case you haven’t guessed, and this album is laced with them of course.With enough power to stop your heart, Emmure bring their nu-metal edge to deathcore music and impale your speakers with undeniable force.

 This album is interesting in the sense that Emmure have never really done a thematic album, where all the songs are somehow connected to each other from start to finish. This album is a direct testament to lead singer Frankie Palmeri’s love for comics books and video games and song titles like “Blackheart Reigns”, “MDMA”, and “A.I.” are clear-cut examples supporting such statement. There are a lot of Street Fighter references as well as references to Marvel Comics characters. As far as the continuity that os presented on this album due to these thematic shifts, I think it works just fine. It’s not a concept album telling a story and it’s not just a collection of songs. However, I feel that the band may have sacrificed some of their really strong songwriting suits in order to make this record. There aren’t really any songs that jump out immediately and stick to your brain like some of the songs in Felony or Speaker of the Dead. The songs on this record aren’t bad, on the contrary, most of them are really strong. Songs like “Protoman”, “I Am Onslaught” and “Cross Over Attack” are some of the best songs that the band’s written, but I don’t think these songs are quite on the same level as “Solar Flare Homicide”, “Sunday Bacon”, Demons with Ryu”. 

Let me qualify what I’ve been saying. I really like this record a lot. The problem is that I’ve liked everything the band have ever done a lot, just on different levels. If I were to stack the albums in preference order from favorite to least favorite, Slave to the Game would be third under Speaker of the Dead and Felony. It’s a little better than Respect Issue in my book, but not by much. In fact, the margin in which I order all these albums is really close. I also really appreciate that the band hasn’t gone dubstep on us. With an album title like Slave to the Game, I was slightly worried that the band would try to insert a lot of electronic and dubstep elements into their music, seeing as it seems that almost every other band is trying to rework their sound to accommodate such styles. The song “A.I.” has some traces of some electronic bits and some breakdowns supported by little hints of dubstep, but I’d argue that it’s not enough to take away from the overall sound of the band. All in all, there are no real surprises on this album, so if you’re expecting a ridiculously heavy Emmure record, you certainly got it. 

I’d also like to point out that Joey Sturgis produced this album. Sturgis is responsible for producing the band’s last record Speaker of the Dead and arguably their best. As far as production of this album, I’m not surprised that Sturgis produced this. It sounds just like the last record which sounds very different from the production on all the previous records. What Sturgis does best with the sound of a band like Emmure is he makes them sound bone-crushingly heavy, but also extremely raw like a hardcore band, yet refined like a metal band. It’s somewhat tricky to explain to someone who has never heard this band or this album so I highly recommend looking into it.

For a band that seems to be cool to hate among some “fans”, I think it’s extremely commendable that the band are able to plow through such negativity and do everything and anything they want to do no matter what any one else has to say. I’ve been a fan of this band since 2008 when I first heard The Respect Issue and was instantly hooked on everything about this band. I found their New York influenced nu-metal style mixed with their insanely heavy deathcore sound to be quite refreshing. I’ve even seen this band live and fell in love with them even more. They played a blistering set of all their greatest hits spanning across their entire discography and really tore the roof off the venue. This is a real band of guys that mean what they say and are true to their beliefs and display them with a lot of conviction and honesty (even if their style of music isn’t your cup of tea). 

To sum up, I think this is a really strong performance from this band. It’s not their best work, but riding off the back of the highly successful album that came previously, I’m just glad that this album isn’t a step in the completely wrong direction. It’s all in the same vein of what Emmure are all about, so there are no real surprises. In fact, the only surprise I found while listening to this was how much I really enjoyed this album. I didn’t think I would really like this album seeing as how I really loved Speaker of the Dead, but this new record is still really good and I highly recommend this to any Emmure fan and any fan of really heavy music.  

Luke Helker

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