For Fans Of
When you put on a new Emmure record, you know what you’re going to get. In many ways, Emmure deliver exactly that but with confidence and grit on ‘Hindsight,’ a pissed-off and violent LP that could best be described as “Emmure to the max.” Take one listen to the closing song, ‘Uncontrollable Descent,’ a no-holds-barred Emmure track where they kick out a “nu-djent” sound with tasteful hints of melody and it’s emblematic of the rest of the savage record before it. Better yet, the four-piece even surprise with some new linear ideas in what sounds certain songs explore. Given the kinds of reviews I’ve written this year, some may be surprised to learn that I really enjoy this. To which I say, 1.) it’s a banger, shut up and 2.) you mustn’t have read my review of their last record, which I rated a little higher.
There’s so much to like on Emmure’s eighth record. From Drew Fulk’s massive mix that doesn’t pull punches, glitchy touches of samples and electronics, Nicholas Pyatt’s thundering bass smashes and Josh Miller’s pounding drums, head-crushing breakdowns, Frankie Palmeri’s best vocal performance yet, and Josh Travis‘ huge 9-string riffs, ungodly low-tuned rumbles and hectic whammy pedal dissonance. Again, it’s all maximum Emmure.
When Frankie bluntly states “you go hard but not like this” over the galvanised grooves and over-bearing guitars of ‘(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing‘ – this album’s hype version of ‘You Asked For It‘ but turned up to ten – it’s hard to deny the loved and loathed frontman’s declaration. Other bands go hard and can sound tough, but Emmure pull it off better than most. It’s a similar thing with Code Orange. Code Orange talk a big talk in how they present themselves and when they play live, but most importantly, they can walk the walk. In doing so, they created one of the most forward-thinking and interesting metal records of 2020, ‘Underneath.’ Back to Emmure, Frankie and co. fit into a similar vein nowadays: they talk a big game and they can back it up. What with their thicker-than-Molasses riffs, almighty grooves and chest-caving breakdowns being heavier and harder-hitting than what many of their peers and imitators can muster. For a band that’s spent the better part of 15 years exclusively writing aggro, ignorant-sounding and heavy-ass metalcore, you’d damn well hope that they’d master it by now. And yep, they’ve practically perfected it now: these are some of their best tunes.
Most noticeably, other than the fiendish vocal deliveries and hectic tones, ‘Hindsight‘ also pushes the band’s nu-metal and hip-hop/rap influences further, with more layers and DJ-scratches than ever before, dotting this full-length over the course of multiple songs. On the surface level, and after many listens, I also can’t help but feel that ‘Hindsight‘ is more of a glorified mixtape than anything else, but that isn’t to detract from this bad boy. It just feels more like streamlined, heavy nu-metalcore fun than an over-reaching record trying to outdo its predecessor. Emmure are clearly just going with the flow, letting things happen naturally. Besides, this is Emmure we’re talking about; this is not the band or the place for heady, philosophical concepts. When you listen to Emmure, you’re doing so because it’s Frankie taking on all comers with a stand-off attitude and lamenting his own failures. It’s a snapshot of his life around the time of when each new record was written. ‘Hindsight‘ is no different, with the same sense of self-awareness and self-critique that was discovered on their previous LP.
This is seething, angry and mosh-heavy music, seeing just how low the band can tune (double drop A, it turns out) and bend their guitars. Yet the four-piece don’t ever waste your time on album number eight. Just viewing it on paper, this might look like one of the group’s shorter records, but it’s no shorter than ‘Felony‘ (2009) or ‘Goodbye To The Gallows‘ (2007). The key difference is that the songwriting fat has been trimmed over the years, really continuing the good will leftover from ‘Look At Yourself‘ (2017) with a new fire lit under their asses, featuring smoother pacing and a stronger dosage of samples and electronics to change things up. All of this severely helps the impact and flow of ‘Hindsight,’ one of the many reasons I find it to be so goddamn fun. Why I’ve come back to it so much.
In what ‘Hindsight‘ has to share, it’s a healthy mixture of growth, regret and self-loathing, as well as some expected big-balled ego and heavy music scene posturing. Which is something that anyone paying actual attention should expect by now, with both sides most certainly getting played up a little by the band. It’d be like listening to a new Run The Jewels album and not expecting Killer Mike and El-P to not get so braggadocious about how fucking dope they are. Which would be silly; that’s par for the course.
On one hand, there’s feeling like you’ll never make it in life on the mid-album cut, ‘Pan’s Dream,’ where Frankie states that “I don’t grow up, I just fuck up.’ Here, everything feels thematically as depressive and defeated as the disgustingly low tunings and drops that crush with speaker-cracking presence. On the other hand, I can’t tell if ‘Trash Folder‘ is about one band in particular, but it’s a general takedown of the “posers” – as Frankie cheekily labels them – who dick-ride Emmure’s sound. (And the irony given the band’s that Emmure pulls from isn’t lost on me either.) For instance, Frankie rapping “write your songs all day, riffs and lyrics change, but you end up sounding just like me” is hilarious for it’s fearless, bring-it-on demeanour but also for just how fucking true it is. Emmure weren’t an original band in 2007 when their debut record dropped, but they’ve since grown to be a defining act for this style of breakdown-laden, drop-tuned, angst-riddled metalcore with a nu-metal twist. Like ’em or not, that’s the reality. And that song goes down hard.
At other points, Emmure pay clear homage to the artists that came before them. Like when band take off their freak leash to chew on some corn during ‘Thunder Mouth,’ which ends with Frankie delivering an extremely Jonathan Davis-esque nu-metal scat performance over a thundering rhythm section where the synergy between Nicholas and Josh Miller is air-tight; both members always playing for the songs. Nu-metal scatting aside, Frankie also reaches down into a different, more theatrical and menacing vocal timbre here and it’s insanely demonic stuff. Even a tune like ‘Informal Butterflies‘ sounds like King 810 but on some hefty crack. It’s heavier and somehow more dramatic, isn’t a try-hard cringe-fest, and is over before you know it: an unsettling track about deep social anxiety. Oh, and that repeated clicking ostinato that starts ‘203,’ as eerie whispers of “203” float around ominous pitches and electro-drums? Yeah, that’s a pretty off-kilter moment! Yet it makes the crunchy bass lines, simple but tectonic drums hits and chugging heaviness that Emmure later slam into during the very same track all the stronger.
The short and ear-drum-blowing ‘Gypsy Disco‘ is filled with regret for every lyric that Emmure’s band leader has ever penned, with plenty of cynicism and bitterness towards the music industry and how even successful artists still struggle. Over Josh Travis‘ super dissonant and wickedly bit-crushed guitars, ‘Persona Non Grata‘ (Latin for someone who is unwelcome or an undeniable person) is an uncompromisingly, dramatic internal stab wound about the frontman pushing friends away, even falling back into his old ways. ‘Action 52‘ is about making your own way in life, and not being another “monkey see, monkey do” individual living on auto-pilot to be a lamb to life’s slaughter, having enough gutsy grooves and quaking guitars to stand against the tide. Even when Emmure slide under two-minutes, they still carve a hole through your head. As the hair-raising guitar sounds of ‘Bastard Ritual‘ marks the darkest, dead-in-a-ditch moment of the LP; where you’d be forgiven for thinking: “Shit, is this dude okay?”
For many people, even some fans, Emmure are a one-trick pony. As much as I’m really enjoying their recent output, I can’t deny that when I look at their overall career. However, the quartet are starting to take such comments to the cleaners with ‘Hindsight.’ As the record’s extremer use of samples – from the news report skit in ‘Pigs Ear‘ or the GG Allen quotes about rock and death in ‘Gypsy Disco‘ – to even two implementations of an automated text-to-speech voice (the end of the first and last songs respectively) adds depth to this new Baker’s Dozen. As does all of the variety of electronic hip-hop interludes and samples that help ornament or conclude a number of songs. That’s even including the subtle distortion and modulation added to Frankie’s mid and higher-range screams. Emmure have done these things before, but they’re pushing it further on ‘Hindsight‘ and that doesn’t go unappreciated.
There’s booming 808’s at the end of ‘(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing‘; wobbling dub electronics to cap off ‘Pigs Ear‘; lo-fi hip-hop instrumentals closing out the last 40 seconds of ‘Pan’s Dream‘; a melodic piano etude rounding out ‘Uncontrollable Descent‘; a teasing synthwave lick at the end of ‘Bastard Ritual‘; and even a loop of the most sampled drum break in music history – ‘Amen, Brother‘ – acting as part of the finale to ‘Informal Butterflies.’ There’s a lot of extra ideas funnelled into ‘Hindsight,’ and it’s all the better for it. Let’s just hope they cleared these samples properly unlike what they did for ‘Flag Of The Beast‘ three years ago. We also can’t forget the down pitch-shifted rapping section in ‘I’ve Scene God,’ which shouts out the bands Emmure either respect, have toured with, are are often associated with: Knocked Loose, Fit For A King, Thy Art Is Murder, Stray From The Path, and so on, whilst talking themselves up. (A pretty common thing in rap and hip-hop, but because metalcore nerds and hardcore kids don’t branch out enough into other genres, it’s no wonder some thought this was a diss.)
All of these things are great little embellishments on their formula – including some subtle dissonant and noisy sounds creeping right under the instrumentals and vocals – that really add to the sonic flavour of ‘Hindsight.’ Of course, for Emmure, that’s a Catch-22 scenario. People like myself will significantly appreciate all of these sweet new additions, as it brings in more dynamics to a band that often excels at only just doing a couple things well. Whereas others may have preferred to get longer, “fuller” songs instead of what’s actually found on this record. Then again, if it was just 13 songs of “normal” Emmure – longer songs, nothing but chugs and breakdowns, no samples or electronics – that demographic perhaps would’ve disliked it for them not changing or taking enough risks. Funny that.
‘Hindsight’ is like a mix-tape of what music Emmure as people (listeners) and as artists (musicians) love. It’s like an ultimate playlist record of the band’s career. If there’s one criticism you can genuinely level at it, it’s that they don’t change much and have definitely found a comfortable sound to rest their feet upon. However, that’s not to say that Emmure don’t try, what with the deeper development of electronics, glitchy sounds and the use of various samples. Dark lyrical imagery over bowel-busting breakdowns and dissonant scrapes isn’t anything new, and ‘Hindsight’ definitely isn’t approaching AOTY material, but that doesn’t take away from how much “oomph” this record lands with. It’s a feral and grim, discordant nu-metalcore exorcism; one that’s beautifully simple and fun; one that I find deeply satisfying. It’s primal and polished aggression; the kind that makes me want to change my name to Kyle and put holes in my dry wall (because aren’t dead memes funny.)
Emmure’s transition from being one of the most-hated bands in the scene for many years to now being one of the more appreciated and enjoyed acts in this style of nu-metal-bathed metalcore has been a joy to watch. Because quite frankly, they just got a lot fucking better with their line-up change in 2017. Frankie grew up more, they tightened their music bulwark, and they keep on pushing an already bruising, stupidly heavy nu-core sound to it’s next extreme with each subsequent record. As from the ‘Look At Yourself’ cycle up to now in the ‘Hindsight’ era (and well into the future, I can safely assume) Emmure are simply the best they’ve ever been. In a few years time, with the gift of hindsight when the next Emmure record arrives, this banger will still rule.
(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing
I’ve Scene God
Persona Non Grata
‘Hindsight’ is out now: