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Emmure - "Slave To The Game" (CD)

Emmure - "Slave To The Game" CD cover image

"Slave To The Game" track listing:

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)

Reviewed by on May 23, 2012

"Nobody was more surprised than me to realize that 'Slave to the Game' is actually an Emmure album that's listenable from beginning to end."

Emmure was always a guilty pleasure at best and truly deserved all the negative press thrown their way for any number of reasons. “Goodbye to the Gallows” was a disjointed mess of every metalcore cliche from the past decade, “The Respect Issue” was a half-hour breakdown, “Felony” was a failed attempt to revive nu metal, and “Speaker of the Dead” spawned more jokes about binary code than the band's “Jersey Shore” fashion sense. So nobody was more surprised than me to realize that “Slave to the Game” is actually an Emmure album that's listenable from beginning to end. Yeah, the pop culture references are still omnipresent and Emmure certainly won't give Dream Theater a run for their money anytime soon, but Frankie Palmeri and Jesse Ketive have certainly improved as songwriters enough that I really wouldn't hesitate to recommend “Slave to the Game.”

For those who still liked Emmure's past output, there should be no need to fear, as the riffs are still just as heavy as ever, but they are a bit more complex this time around. These aren't technical; they just aren't simplistic chugging anymore, and actually take the form of real riffs. It's great to see a band internalize constructive criticism and grow musically from the experience, rather than simply stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that there's nothing wrong.

Lyrically, “Slave to the Game” is a concept album based on Palmeri's love of comics and video games. While it's an odd choice for lyrical themes, it actually works here given that Emmure has always had an overwhelmingly male fan base who can connect with the songs. Emmure has always loved pop culture, but in the past it was always a disjointed hodgepodge of references that had little cohesion. Now that there's a much stronger link between songs, the cheese can be forgiven, as “Slave to the Game” is a great soundtrack for those times when you and your buddies split pizza and a 24-pack while playing BlazBlue.

Even then, the band steps out their comfort zone on “MDMA.” It's a great experiment that sounds nothing like Emmure, but actually works despite coming from a highly conservative band. It still makes me wonder if Emmure was holding back all these years, but a slower, more melodic song somehow fits on the album. I'd actually be surprised if it doesn’t become a single, even if it's not at all what fans were expecting.

But there is still one misstep on here and that's “Poltergeist.” A Christian prayer doesn't really work on a tribute to nerd culture. It also raises the question of whether or not Emmure is a Christian band. Moreover, it's hard to market a band who use as much profanity as Emmure do to the religious music scene. The track's placement right in the middle of the album really ruins the pacing as well. It's hard to say why exactly it's on here, and there are probably only five people in the world who do, but for now, it's just going to be a very strange direction to take the band in.

Even with some flaws, “Slave to the Game” is still a solid deathcore album. It's both a good starting point for those who've overlooked the band, while also somewhat of a rebirth for Emmure. It's not mind-blowing, album-of-the-year material, but for some fun background music, you could find far worse.

Highs: Improved musicianship and songwriting, incredibly heavy

Lows: Emmure still aren’t great musicians, lyrics may be too nerdy for some fans, “Poltergeist” doesn’t really fit on the album

Bottom line: Emmure has finally grown up with their new album "Slave To The Game."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)