I've had quite the love/hate relationship over the years with Emmure. Sometimes I struggle to decide whether I hate them more and more with every album they put out or I love them in that cheesy Limp Bizkit-esque kind of way. But I think when it comes down to it, I'm stuck in the middle. I remember back in 2006 when Goodbye To The Gallows came out, I was completely immersed in that album for weeks, especially the first 5 tracks... the latter I never cared for much. As the time went on you could count on having a new Emmure album pretty much every 12 to 14 months. And I think that's where they started to go wrong. Emmure had this idea that they could put out an album every year to constantly be giving people new music and never leave a stale taste in your mouth. My largest criticism of all their albums following Goodbye To The Gallows is that they sounded too rushed and that most tracks come off as filler. With their latest release Slave To The Game, their 5th release in 6 years, nothing has changed except for a few members. Emmure continues to have all the same problems, Frankie Palmeri's lousey lyrics and vocal style as well as the band only delivering a couple decent songs every album.
Without a doubt, Slave To The Game is Emmure's slowest and sludgiest sounding record to date. While some tracks like "Protoman" and "Cross Over Attack" have blistering fast riffs in them, other tracks like "Umar Dumps Dormannu" (the intro sounds a lot like The Acacia Strain's "Carbomb") and the final track "A.I." have almost a doom sounding element to them. The guitars come with all those high pitched effects found on Speak Of The Dead and of course plenty of the infamous tri-tone or brown noise chord chugging. "Protoman" and "MDMA" show the band imitating their older more melodic style in some parts but then quickly switches back to extremely 'muddy' sounding chugging. Emmure tries to go for the big heavy riffs always but fail to find that key 'groove' element. While the guitar works offers up absolutely nothing new, the drumming is some of the best work I've ever heard on an Emmure album. There is an easy explanation for this. Emmure have acquired the drumming skills of veteran Mike Callisto who has previously worked with Bury Your Dead, Between the Buried And Me and Crossfade. Callisto's drumming is bang on and energetic. For me the only stand-out bit on this album musically is the first 45 seconds of "Cross Over Act" which feature the best riffs I've heard Emmure play in years.
I can't spend too much time on the lyrics and that's because there's almost nothing to talk about. This album essentially has a concept and that is Street Fighter II and other arcade games from the 90s. Unless you're a superhero in an arcade game, then this makes the lyrics pretty unrelatable to most. With gems like "I'm going to die, you're going to die" and "Welcome to hell" repeated over and over it's safe to say that there's nothing inspiring or even intelligent to be found here. At least there isn't a song about watching a dude sucking another dude's dick for drugs. I honestly used to like the occasional singing bit they would throw in here and there but there is none of that to be found anywhere. The interlude track "Poltergeist" sounds like something from a For Today record and talks of Christianity and believing in God. It's kind of unclear if this is sarcastic or legitimate. Definitely an awkward insertion into the middle of the album. If anything, "MDMA" is Palmeri's vocal highlight and one of the overall better tracks on the album.
Emmure needs to take a step back and really re-think their approach to writing. As far as I know, second guitarist Mike Muholland who recently wrote and put out Recon's new EP doesn't contribute writing in any way and that EP is far better than the new Emmure record in every way. If a little more time were invested in the writing process perhaps the band wouldn't suffer from the excessive flow of filler we've seen on almost all of Emmure's releases. The album contains 12 tracks clocking in at just over 30 mins. That's pretty weak especially since two tracks are senseless instrumentals/interludes. If you're a fan of their previous stuff check it out, it'll be fun for 2 weeks, and by then they'll probably be in the studio working on the follow up to Slave To The Game. If you've never been a fan before, stay away, stay far away.
Tracklist:1. “Insert Coin” 0:30
2. “Protoman” 3:17*
3. “She Gave Her Heart to Deadpool” 2:46
4. “I Am Onslaught” 3:00
5. “Bison Diaries” 2:44
6. “Poltergeist” 0:57
7. “Cross Over Attack” 3:14*
8. “Umar Dumps Dormammu” 2:48
9. “Blackheart Reigns” 2:59
10. “MDMA” 3:26*
11. “War Begins With You” 2:53
12. “A.I.” 3:18
* Recommended Track