Emmure – Speaker of the Dead
Record Label: Victory Records
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Emmure are a five-piece hardcore band that formed in 2003 and quickly attracted a devoted fanbase due to their pummeling style of music and brutal live shows. Their 2007 debut, Goodbye to the Gallows, was met with enthusiasm in the hardcore scene for its violent and in-your-face breakdowns and screaming, but subsequent releases failed to evolve and were generally panned by critics for their unoriginal musicianship. Speaker of the Dead, Emmure’s fourth full-length, clocks in at an unnecessarily lengthy fifteen tracks and builds upon the futility of their recent releases by combining the same unimaginative instrumentation with some unwelcome refinements.
Lead track “Children of Cybertron” affirms that Emmure is content with sticking to a familiar formula, limping out of the gate with generic chugga-chugga breakdowns and vocalist Frankie Palmeri’s monotonous growl. After ninety-four tedious seconds, the album opener yields to “Area 64-66,” a track nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor despite the band’s best efforts to spice things up with superfluous electronic screeches throughout the song. Perhaps sensing the tired and worn-out nature of Emmure’s musicians, Palmeri reaches for the stars lyrically by exclaiming “Please come back and save me/I don't deserve to be left for dead and forgotten/Tell me are you listening/I am one of you” in a reference to his recurring extraterrestrial and spiritual awakenings as well as a childhood encounter with an unidentified flying object.
The extremely amusing (and hopefully tongue-in-cheek) lyrical themes continue in lead single “Solar Flare Homicide,” a song that combines bludgeoning guitar riffs with an exploration of, in Palmeri’s words, “the outcome of solar winds hitting the earth and destroying the entire world's electronics.” Not to be outdone, “Eulogy of Giants” warns the powers that be are looking to suppress activism and takes its inspiration from “the Scriptures and tales of the Nephilim…a race supposedly destroyed so that the powers of this world could maintain control and not be threatened by their ‘cross-breed’ offspring.” Though these pretentious and out-of-place themes are relatively hidden without repeated listens and some background research, they reveal a confused band that is grasping at straws to make up for their lack of musical ingenuity. If Emmure is content with an overly simplistic and brawny musical approach, they should sport the vicious vocal delivery and lyrics to match.
However, as Speaker of the Dead meanders along it becomes increasingly clear that Emmure has little concept of what makes them effective. “Demons With Ryu” is a story written about a fictional character named Ryu and loses any of its raw appeal through the presence of a hideous electronic squeal reminiscent of stock music from 80s horror films. “Lights Bring Salvation” features more unnecessary post-production and tells the tale of the planet Nibiru and its eventual collision with earth, with Palmeri repeating “Wake the fuck up/Who the fuck you gonna call?/When morning star begins to fall.” Fortunately, “Drug Dealer Friend” is proof that even a blind squirrel can find a nut every once in a while, serving as Speaker of the Dead’s standout track by simplifying the lyrical content and dispensing ruthless breakdowns.
Through their first three full lengths, Emmure gained their reputation as a one-trick pony that was adept at calling hardcore scene kids to the mosh pit but little else. Speaker of the Dead does nothing to dispel this notion and complicates matters with overproduction, bizarre lyrical themes and an needlessly long track list. Although Emmure lacks the originality and imagination to ever be considered good, they are at their most effective on Speaker of the Dead when they ditch the mythical lyrics and electronics in favor of raw and unadulterated brutality. With that said, if one is ever in the mood to bash rocks together or shoot inanimate objects, they should consult Emmure’s earlier work and steer clear of Speaker of the Dead.