Sound — 7
"Slave To The Game" is metal band Emmure's 5th album to be released on Victory Records. Its unrestrained aggressiveness channeled through an abundance of breakdowns and grooves is most similar to their 4th release, "Speaker Of The Dead". However, this album is more focused in its delivery of the songs and not one track seems out of place. Emmure is not breaking new ground on this release and if your not a fan of the band you will probably write it off as another dismal record from a mediocre band. Fans on the other-hand will find "Slave To The Game" to be an enjoyable listen and a step forward from "Speaker Of The Dead". Emmure is not known for their technicality and you will find guitarists Jesse Ketive & Mike Mulholland doing much of the same with a few interesting riffs found on "Protoman", "MDMA", "War Begins With You". The rhythm section is much stronger than "Speaker Of The Dead" with the addition of new drummer, Mark Castillo (Between The Buried & Me, Crossfade). His technical influence is heard on the faster more upbeat songs "Cross Over Attack", "Bison Diaries". Emmure also uses some more sampling on this album lending to some moments reminiscent of Korn most notably in the song "Umar Dumps Dormammu". They're no incredible innovations on "Slave To The Game" but Emmure can be found trying out some new things and refining old methods.
Lyrics — 6
Emmure's front-man, Frankie Palmeri is one of the most criticized vocalists and a good amount of the metal community find him deplorable. His lyrics often receive criticism for their bizarre and cliche nature "I wanna watch you suck his d-ck, I know you f--king love it, b-tch". "Slave To The Game" does show an improvement on lyrical content and shows Palmeri taking a step away from past efforts. The main theme of the lyrics is obviously the references to character's from comics or video-games (hence the album title). The lyrics are by no means sophisticated but they show Palmeri writing from the perspective of the particular character he chooses. In this way he tackles his usual topics of hate, revenge, conflict, etc. Listeners with knowledge of the comics/games he's referring to may see some clever references or underlying meanings but the general message of the song is quite clear regardless. Some of the lyrics do seem personal, take "MDMA" as an example, "It seems the lower that I go, the better I begin to feel, I don't want this life, If nothing that I feel is real..." Fans will enjoy this change of pace from past releases and there is no doubt that the lyrical content has improved from "Speaker Of The Dead". The vocals are layered as always and there doesn't really seem to be any large improvements. Frankie Palmeri's low end is impressive and fits the overall tone of the songs but his high screams definitely suffer on a few of the tracks. Any Emmure concertgoer will find this strange because his highs are usually on point but the production really doesn't do him justice on this album. Some will find this to be rather dissatisfactory and it does detract from the listening experience.
Overall Impression — 8
Emmure is a band that focuses purely on heaviness and if your a listener expecting to hear technical guitar playing in the "Animals As Leaders" fashion you will be disappointed. However, if you're a returning fan you will find "Slave To The Game" to be a step forward from their past release and many of the songs will resonate after a couple listens. The top tracks on this album are "She Gave Her Heart To Deadpool", "Bison Diaries", "Blackheart Reigns", "MDMA", & "War Begins With You". I do recommend this album to a fan. The aggression of this album keeps it interesting especially in areas were past releases lacked. If this album were stolen/lost I would buy it again because it is a definitive part of the Emmure discography.