Look At Yourself
3rd March 2017 – Sharptone Records
01. You Asked For It
02. Shinjuku Masterlord
04. Natural Born Killer
05. Flag of the Beast
06. Ice Man Confessions
07. Russian Hotel Aftermath
08. Call Me Ninib
09. Major Key Alert
10. Turtle in a Hare Machine
13. Gucci Prison
In Thomas Hobbes’ seminal work Leviathan, he describes life outside of civilized society as “nasty, brutish, and short.” That description also fits for every album Emmure has ever written.
They are a band known widely for objectionable low-brow lyrics, simplistic songwriting, overt misogyny, and a frequently-rotating lineup. On that same note, with a totally new set of musicians (basically just everybody from the disappointing yet highly talented Glass Cloud) what we are left with is effectively a reboot for frontman Frankie Palmeri’s project and arguably Emmure’s best chance of getting it right since their inception.
So then with their seventh album (and their longest break between releases), have Emmure written something that is profound, noteworthy, or intelligent?
No. No they have not – and yet Look At Yourself is an effective album. It is satisfying in the way that a double bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys is satisfying; the way watching a Michael Bay film is satisfying. Not every meal has to be steak au poivre, nor does every film have to be Citizen Kane. What you will get from Look At Yourself is a solid half hour of new nu metalcore. While it lacks the self-awareness required for a work to radiate ‘fun’, it manages to be an enjoyable romp through the mind of a man with a severe persecution complex.
The addition of Joshua Travis has not lead to kind of technical wizardry one would expect from the mind behind The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza and having the expectation that his inclusion alongside Phil Lockett and Josh Miller may disappoint people who were anticipating a significant change in Emmure’s sound. Look At Yourself is not a mathcore album by any stretch of the imagination; it simply is their core aesthetic done better – meaning groovier, more memorable riffs that are punctuated by Palmeri’s staccato barking. This is evident early on in tracks like “Smokey“, whose slow dissonant riff packs great power and is a remarkable proof of concept for what the new Emmure can do.
Palmeri himself is all over the place on this album in terms of quality. Of course, as he is still the star of the show his presence is the most negative thing about Look At Yourself and yet simultaneously the most compelling element. His lyrics again are juvenile and oddly self-effacing and self-aggrandizing in equal measures. Palmeri’s voice is generally unremarkable, but it has the power in both deeper growls and the more deathcore-style shrieks to complement the music well in its context. His rapping on the other hand vacillates between sounding like a good imitation of Fred Durst at his best (which is sincerely meant as a compliment) on songs like “Shinjuku Masterlord” and “Major Key Alert“, and a poor man’s Chino Moreno when Emmure attempt to tackle a more ethereal Deftones-like style on “Russian Hotel Aftermath.”
By the way, Emmure do a pretty admirable job instrumentally of evoking that spacey atmosphere, although it is usually only for a few short bars rather than the entirety of a track. The closest they ever get to this is towards the end of the album on “Turtle in a Hare Machine“, which shows a direction in which Emmure could probably find some real success with a bit more time to develop. If only Palmeri could find it within him to say something more substantive, then perhaps Emmure could deliver an album that could be recommended without reservation. As it stands, Look At Yourself is a solid effort that will demand that one turns off their brain. Just read the lyrics to “Gucci Prison” if you want to know why.