Emmure showed a trending toward a more promising direction away from their preceding four efforts, in which they delivered vanilla-flavored deathcore instead of the good black-tar stuff so beloved by the genre's devotees.
After a 31 second intro of street sound and quarter-dropping ambiance coyly titled "Insert Coin," "Protoman" properly kicks off the album with a direct reference to a video game character. Beyond the obligatory heaping helping of we're-all-gonna-die-and religion-sucks, It's all about Marvel comics and Japanese videogames for frontman Frankie Palmieri. All but two of song titles are ripped directly from their frames.
Guitarist Jesse Ketive and Palmieri handle the lyrical content for the album, which reaches deeply into the riches of comic book narrative. "Protoman" is the best canapé on the album with its rubber-band riff, clean and harsh vocal call-and-responses, a top-notch piece of arrangement at break-down #352 in the middle of the song and a terse 3:17 length.
Team Emmure do a reasonable job incorporating fresh elements into the production with keyboard pads and hip-hop bleeps and sweeps. Songs such as "She Gave Her Heart to Deadpool," "I Am Onslaught" and "Bison Diaries," comic book character references all, lean heavily on the yeoman-like work of bassist Mark Davis and Emmure's newest member, drummer Mark Castillo, to keep the tracks from hiccuping.
The songs are bogged down by repetitive vocal phrases possibly intended to hammer intensity into the proceedings, but which seem to cast a harsh spotlight on Emmure's addiction to the song break-down. Throughout all the remarkably short songs, it’s unlikely that a part sustains beyond 12 seconds.
Joey Sturgis' first-rate production job somehow keeps Slave To The Game surprisingly cohesive. With the exception of the utterly pointless time-waster "Poltergeist," the album has a snappy flow to it. Without this flow, the album might have revealed its true inner-self; a disingenuous collection of musical background cues for a Capcom video game.
Still, there is solid work in Slave To The Game, excluding "Poltergeist" and several bizarre dialogue drops. "Cross Over Attack" and "MDMA" (the pharmaceutical abbreviation for that rave-favorite, ecstasy) are in the same league as "Protoman," though it might have been prudent to drop the faders a little faster on the end of "MDMA."
Slave To The Game is neither a step forward nor a step back for Emmure. The fan base should be well-pleased.
(released April 10, 2012 on Victory Records)