Emmure polarizes metal fans with each new release, or really with every time they’re mentioned in the media. The band has built a legacy of straightforward, breakdown-driven deathcore with harsh vocals and the occasional rapped bars delivered by frontman Frankie Palmeri. With the formation of a nearly new band in 2016 after all members other than Palmeri quit (lol), one might think that 2017’s Look At Yourself might take a different musical approach than Emmure’s last output. However like Chimaira before them, replacing the entire band hasn’t changed the band’s core sound much, for better or worse.
Let’s begin with the positives here: Look At Yourself certainly is the best SOUNDING Emmure record to date. It seems to be a blend of the older records’ sound which was drenched in bass with the cleaner, djent-y production from Eternal Enemies. This makes sense, considering the pedigree of the band’s new additions (all are members of djent group Glass Cloud, and guitarist Joshua Travis previously played in The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza). In addition to the production sensibilities, there are some new musical tricks that this version of Emmure have up their sleeves. “Ice Man Confessions” threw me for a bit of a loop with its push and pull between Meshuggah-esque low notes and also Meshuggah-esque off scale high notes, played underneath Palmeri’s moody crooning which just scratches the surface of sincere psychosis. Track “Call Me Ninib” features haunting keys layered under the song’s main riff that give off a pretty cool vibe as well. There’s even a moment where Palmeri gives a sincere sounding scream similar to a madman on the verge of mental collapse, and
Unfortunately, not everything on this record is fresh and interesting. Many of the tracks on Look At Yourself are by-the-books Emmure, saturated in breakdowns and high-pitched guitar effects. To me, it seems that when a musician leaves a djent band, he has to do everything he can to inject ambient digital noise in tracks from the band they join. This was the case when Jason Richardson joined Chelsea Grin, and it’s the case on this record too. Like putting sprinkles on a dead possum, these effects don’t do much to enhance the quality of the tracks here. You have to take what is here at face value, and it’s pretty much standard Emmure fare.
Emmure has always been criticized for Palmeri’s lyrics, which tend to focus more on his war with music fans and the press rather than anything, for lack of a nicer sentiment, interesting. Especially given the pretty sounding riffs and almost. I almost think I’d enjoy these songs more if Palmeri wasn’t the one singing on them, and if they featured lyrics about anything other than Palmeri and his “struggles.”
The pacing of this record is all over the place as well. As on past Emmure records, there are multiple tracks which are two minutes or shorter that serve almost like intros and interludes throughout the tracklisting. When the majority of your songs sound interchangeable as it stands, it’s hard to see the point of offering songs that seem like interchangeable parts of songs rather than full songs. A recent trend has been releasing albums with less than ten tracks (see: new Suicide Silence and Fit For An Autopsy tracklistings), and I’ve bitched that it makes records seem incomplete with less than ten tracks. I’d almost rather Emmure released a full album of nine songs longer than 3 minutes than one riddled with musical “shorts” with little to no substance to them.
Emmure’s music has always been like McDonald’s to me: it does the job in the moment, but you’ll regret it later. This record was competently produced and has hints of growth, but when you analyze what’s really here, it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from Emmure: bitching and moaning over breakdown riffs.