Album Review: Emmure - 'Look At Yourself'

25 February 2017 | 8:00 pm | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

One for the fans. One for the haters.

More Emmure More Emmure

On March 3rd, two big-name products will be released unto us all: Nintendo’s new home-handheld hybrid console, the Switch, and Emmure’s hectic new album, ‘Look At Yourself’. While the jury is still out on the Switch and whether or not Nintendo will do the usual Nintendo thing and cock it up for themselves with their stupid business decisions, I can safely say that Emmure's seventh record is, in fact, the real deal. Because it's damned good, and I say that as someone who couldn't care less for a vast majority of their seven-album discography, namely 'Felony', 'Speaker Of The Dead', 'The Respect Issue' and their debut, 'Goodbye To The Gallows'.

That being said, I have not and never will believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. Thus, I openly admit that I absolutely loved Emmure’s 2012 ripper of a record, ‘Slave To The Game’, and as far as heavy music goes, that's since become a personal favourite of mine. Yet despite 2014's decent ‘Eternal Enemies’, it didn’t have the lasting, impactful effect of its predecessor. This is not the case for ‘Look At Yourself’, however, as its easily one of their best releases to date. Seriously, this album is an absolute fucking monster!

Everything about this 13-track album represents a tighter, more vehement and somehow more aggressive take on Emmure's already heavy, pissed-off sound. It's an album that flows incredibly well from track to track, and it's one that shows off the most consistent body of work that Palmeri and his (seemingly ever-changing) band of merry men have ever conjured up, bar 'Slave To The Game'. This record combines the heavier sound of Emmure's earlier records with the nu-metal spice of recent years, all both to great effect and with more sonic crispness and punch than ever before. If you have ever loved Emmure then this record is for you. Likewise, if you have never been a fan or have just simply never "gotten" their music, then this may actually be the album that converts you.

A big part of why that may be is that as everyone knows, vocalist Frankie Palmeri is now the only original band member left standing since the previous four members mutinied him in late 2015 in Russia. But covering the frontman's back now is former Glass Cloud/Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza members; widely-loved guitarist Josh Travis, and the solid rhythm section duo of bassist Phil Lockett and drummer Josh Miller. Yet even with these lineup changes, Emmure's music is still guided by the hand and vision of Palmeri. As such, this record isn’t quite "Glassmure" and it's definitely a far cry from being "Tony Danza Tap Dance Emmuraganza". For this album is pure Emmure through and through. Just that now, everything has been beefed up in the best way possible and their music has rarely sounded this goddamned big nor has it hit this bloody hard.

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[caption id="attachment_1090291" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Emmure-2016 The new and improved Emmure.[/caption]

This current lineup of the New York outfit has helped to amplify their music's greatest strength, which is the fact that Metal Injection's favourite band writes really good hype songs; songs that are best suited for being played and experienced in the live setting. If you've ever seen Emmure live, like I did on The Ghost Inside's 2013 Australian tour, then you'll know that these guys go fucking hard live, and that that environment is where their music truly shines.

But while this is without a doubt the band’s strongest iteration that features some of their most consistent output yet, the influence of these three new members isn’t quite as prevalent as some may have hoped for. As I said before, this is still Emmure at the end of the day, and only very subtle shades of Glass Cloud and Tony Danza are heard. Miller and Lockett show off very brief instrumental flares that wouldn't have gone amiss from their former bands but they do indeed tow the tight, groovy and ultimately simpler line of Emmure's rhythmic approach. As for the guitars and riffs, let's be real; you can usually count the number of notes used in Emmure's guitar work on one hand, and that's by also excluding your thumb and more often than not, two other fingers. Even so, this album features some of the most memorable leads and riffs from the band in years (see: 'Torch', 'Natural Born Killers', and 'Turtle In A Hare'.) And that is all due to Travis's inclusion, who while adhering to the band's formula, occasionally brings out his own signature sounds and style to great effect.

Now obviously, the most contentious part of Emmure's career has always been Palmeri as an individual and his lyrical content. With a title like 'Look At Yourself', you'd assume that Palmeri has actually turned his lyrical microscope inwards and that he's done some real maturing over the past couple years... and you would be correct in that assumption! See the self-deprecating lyrics on 'Russian Hotel Aftermath'; his reflection on his past in 'Ice Man Confessions'; and the antagonistic views of himself on 'Flag Of The Beast' fo proof of the vocalist's personal introspection and current perspective. Also, 'Flag Of The Beast' features perhaps the most prominent lyric of this entire album - "Hate me if it makes you feel better", summing up the vocalist's thoughts towards the band's detractors and critics. And of course, Palmeri still swears like an abusive sailor. Though, it wouldn't be Emmure without that, would it? No, didn't think so.

Also on Palmeri, the video game inspirations on the songs have taken a long back seat here. Oh, and his lyrics, overall, are nowhere near as questionable or as cringy as they were on older songs. You know the ones I'm talking about; 'Drug Dealer Friend', 'I Thought You Met Telly And Turned Me Into Casper' and 'Girls Don't Like Boys, Girls Like 40's and Blunts'. *Shudders*.

The "worst" the lyrics get - and even then, they're not that bad - are on the bouncy, rap-centric 'Major Key Alert' with "I'm sick of hearing that you want me to be 2007/crying over some bitch/ho, please" - a call out of fans who want Emmure to go back to the sound and themes of their early days - and on 'Natural Born Killer' with 'I'm as a real it gets, bitch". And come on, that last one is pretty par for the course for this guy, anyway!

Yes, Palmeri's lyrics aren't subtle and come on, they never ever were. But the vocalist and the key mastermind behind Emmure has ingested all of the internet hate, from both mere trolls and people who passionately loathe him and his band, as well as the vitriol he's built up from the mutiny he received courtesy of his former band mates, and he's channelled every ounce of it into 'Look At Yourself'. Because the best music often comes from the darkest or the most hateful of places, which is exactly the case here, and this is why Emmure are now standing at their most deadliest.


I'm not done yet, fuckers. As for the album's songs, each and every track here is a bonafide banger! 'Natural Born Killer' is the album's most cutthroat song in terms of lyrics, groove, and its overall delivery. 'Torch', essentially a massive diss-track, is just straight up solid metalcore heaviness from start to finish and sounds like the old-school Emmure of the previous decade. 'Flag Of The Beast' is a great mix of the old and new Emmure, and Russian Hotel Aftermath', with its unflinching lyrical content and angular guitar riffs, has the potential to become a killer live set staple.

If I had to pick out a favourite song, it would have to be the short but sweet 'Call Me Ninib', whose short, volatile nature proves exactly why Emmure have survived this long in the heavy music world. To help bring some variation to the album (and the album's lack of variation is my only real criticism here) you have 'Turtle In A Hare', which features brief yet eerie cleans from Palmeri, and man, they work really well in the framework of the band's current sound.

Considering all that has happened to the band and their frontman over the past two years, I was slightly disappointed that there was nothing as emotionally cathartic as older songs like 'We Were Just Kids' or 'MDMA', which are both essential tracks for this band. However, while the catharsis doesn't deliver in sadness, it comes to light in other forms, namely in moments of pure aggression and throttling bouts of rage, which serves Emmure's music very, very well.

Wrapping up, I anticipate that the indifferent listeners and the many detractors out there will wish to remain in their respective camps once this album drops next week (it's out now!) Yet Emmure has just put forward the very best reason as to why those two groups should leave their safe spaces behind and dive into ‘Look At Yourself’. They might just like it.

As anyone with a brain knows, Emmure is not a high-art, deep band; that's just never been their vibe and it never will be. They aren't about to drop some art-metal record or avant-garde release, and that's fine because as I said before, this album is a fucking monster regardless!

The only real issue I can level at this new record is the lack of variation across the 13 song track listing. The one-minute 'fuck you' sucker-punch of 'Major Key Alert' and the short breakdown fest of 'Derelict' do cut down on the runtime as they're both over before you know it. 'Torch' and 'Ice Man Confessions' showcase the only melodic guitars on offer. All that, and the Mewtwo-like rareness of the album's electronic elements are the only real breaks in the onslaught of throat-shredding screams, punishing riffs, and groovy drums and breakdowns that you'll get. So yes, musical variation was far from being the main objective of 'Look At Yourself'. But what was the goal here was for a more mature Frankie Palmeri, with a powerhouse new lineup behind him, to write and release a deeply angry and vastly heavy record that keeps Emmure well and truly in the game.

In that regard, Emmure has succeeded in spades!

1. You Asked For It

2. Shinjuku Masterlord

3. Smokey

4. Natural Born Killers

5. Flag Of The Beast

6. Ice Man Confessions

7. Russian Hotel Aftermath

8. Call Me Ninib

9. Major Key Alert

10. Turtle In A Hare

11. Torch

12. Derelict

13. Gucci Prison

'Look At Yourself' is out March 3rd via Sharptone Recordings. It's good shit, don't sleep on it. You can read our interview with Frankie Palmeri himself here. Also, as much as I fuck with this new album, 'Slave To The Game' is still my favourite Emmure release. I mean, you just cannot beat 'She Gave Her Heart To Deadpool' and 'Protoman'.