Sound — 3
Proud of his shock value as plenty of metal frontmen are, Frankie Palmeri's overly-aggro persona has easily been the most defining characteristic of Emmure, for better and for worse. In recent years, however, it almost seemed like it'd be his downfall. After their 2014 album, "Eternal Enemies," struck controversy for one of its tracks being named "Bring a Gun to School," which led to former guitarist Ben Lionetti calling Palmeri "a disgusting human being," Palmeri would suffer an even bigger fallout with his band members a year later. After a summer of spotty touring due to Palmeri's vocal cord injuries, the rest of Emmure's lineup left the band in November with the intention of starting a new metal band, citing creative differences and personal tensions. Though left hanging to dry, Palmeri's resilience quickly whipped up another lineup for Emmure to continue by 2016, and after signing with SharpTone Records, Emmure bring forth their seventh album, "Look at Yourself."
Even though Emmure's rocking a fresh new lineup, "Look at Yourself" is still fully committed to the metalcore/nu metal sound the band have been flexing for nearly a decade. Being considerably shorter than their previous album, nearly every track runs at bite-sized length - an approach which helps keep the no-bullshit recipe of pummeling breakdowns and layered growls in "You Asked For It," "Natural Born Killer," "Russian Hotel Aftermath," and "Call Me Ninib" from doing their job and not overstaying their welcome, but does a disservice to the few moments of sonic variance attempted in the album. Whereas their usual tricks to mix up from their breakdown base are deployed once more, like the nu metal rhythms of "Shinjuku Masterlord" and "Major Key Alert," and the dose of reverbed guitar melodies in "Torch," other moments pay homage to metal peers and pioneers: the post-metal guitar textures in "Derelict" sound like those used in Architects' latest material, the opening riff in "Flag of the Beast" takes a page from Korn's recipe book, and one can catch a couple "Around the Fur"-era Deftones influences in the guitar effects in "Smokey" and the simmering low vocals in "Ice Man Confessions." But as decorative as those different sounds may be, they're only splashes compared to the expected tidal wave of palm-muted riffs and death chords that flood the album.
Lyrics — 5
Lyrically, Palmeri keeps his aggressive brand aflame as expected, from bellowing death threats left and right ("Choke on your tongue / Now dig your own grave" in "Smokey"; "I'll put you in the same grave as your friends" in "Natural Born Killer"), playing up his own villainous image ("The people who left me, and the ones I've banished / Fuck it, I'm done, I've got one thing to say / Hate me if it makes you feel better" in "Flag of the Beast"), and of course, making it clear that he doesn't give a shit in the crystal clear hook of "Shinjuku Master." But along with relatively more self-reflective lyrics taking a little break from the raw violence in "Ice Man Confessions" and "Derelict," Palmeri's anger turned towards himself in "Russian Hotel Aftermath" is presumably his initial feelings regarding when his former band members decided to leave Emmure (their last gig together was in Russia). But while that self-hatred is the clear color of that moment, he's quick to go back on the offensive in "Torch" ("Tell me now / Do you see? / You cannot do this without me"), and relishes in his loose screws in "Gucci Prison" ("Just another damaged person / Yeah bitch I might be / There'll never be another motherfucker like me").
Overall Impression — 4
Palmeri's feat of pulling his band from the brink of oblivion is both a show of determination, as well as being another bitter reason for him to keep Emmure going. But while a new Emmure has been put together, the effort in "Look at Yourself" is ultimately the same overblown metalcore they've done in all their other albums with minimal changeups, leaving the band to continue sounding stale.