Back Off Emmure a Little, Haters
This Sunday night at Warehouse Live, Emmure and the Acacia Strain will headline the Eternal Enemies Tour. It's a tour name with multiple meanings. First off, it's the name of Emmure's latest album. It is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the two groups have had a long-running feud in song and in real life for some time.
But lastly, it refers to Emmure's position against the world, and more specifically the vast majority of the metal community. Though they're immensely popular among a group of dedicated fans they refer to as their "Decepticons," they're also, according to many, the poster children for everything wrong with metal today.
Still, if you're a metalhead, it might be time to put your money where your mouth is and give this band their due.
One of the biggest criticisms of Emmure is the simplicity of their music. I'll admit this doesn't bother me in the slightest because I'm a pop-music fan who really couldn't care less how complex a song's chord structure is. Even then, the oft-slung arrow that all Emmure plays is "binary code" (sticking to the 0 and 1 and on their guitars), is patently untrue.
Yes, a lot of their songs do focus around these types of chugging riffs, which is the hallmark of their genre. They're a deathcore band. Still, the diversity of their catalog is actually pretty astounding for a band in their genre.
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Go ahead, put a song from their first full-length, Goodbye to the Gallows, up against something from Eternal Enemies. The two records practically sound like they were made by different bands. That's not to say that the music has grown more or less complex, just that Emmure has definitely progressed. That drastic change in their style is proof that the band doesn't just play the same thing all the time.
Not to mention, especially on those earlier records like Goodbye to the Gallows, these chugging "binary code" riffs took a major back seat to their metalcore influences. Songs like "Don't be One" from Felony or "You Got a Henna Tattoo That Said Forever" from Gallows sound more like Killswitch Engage than Emmure's death-metal contemporaries.
Haters of the band also love to focus their attention on ludicrous statements made by controversial front man Frankie Palmeri. This one has some validity to it. Yes, Palmeri has said many things in the media that are potentially offensive, or at the very least slightly insane. At the same time, as I've discussed before here, his personal feelings don't eliminate the strength of his artistic output.
Furthermore, we respect and admire artists whose personal beliefs are vastly more offensive than Palmeri's are on a regular basis. We could all cherry-pick quotes and statements by each other's favorite artists all day and make them look bad, and it still would have no particular relevance to their music.
What, though, is Emmure's strength as a band that overrides the hate? Why are the band's "Decepticons" so damned loyal in their adoration?
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Emmure appeals to the heartbroken, to nerds and to outcasts. Over the years their lyrical content has spanned some of the rawest emotions ever put to music to songs about Street Fighter. The combination appeals to a very specific type of person: someone given to follow certain bands with a religious ferocity.
In that way, their appeal should be obvious. Musically, they have also carved out a unique niche among their scene and their genre. Even in the beginning, the band incorporated vastly more influence from hip-hop and emo than others in their genre. When other deathcore bands were trying to write gory songs about murdering people who broke their hearts, Emmure focused on gut-wrenching honesty and spoken verses that were pretty much Palmeri rapping.
This continued, and as the band has progressed they have not only gotten heavier and heavier, but have adapted more and more hip-hop into their music. Did you miss DJ scratches in your metal? Me neither, but give it to Emmure for being willing to try it.
On many newer songs, Palmeri mixes straight-up rapping and hip-hop phraseology into his lyrics. I'm not saying that this kind of flirtation is going to appeal to everyone; however, it is a willingness to play outside of the box of death metal. Love it or hate it, it is distinct. Any band within a genre that is distinct from their contemporaries will engender both loyal adoration and hateful vilification.
Regardless, it is a respectable standpoint, and a large reason for Emmure's popularity. The final reason? Truly amazing, bouncing, crowd-crushing live shows. If you're willing to have fun despite yourself, you will enjoy yourself at an Emmure show, like their music or not. Their songs are simplistic, yes, but perfectly catered to making a room explode.
So love Emmure or hate them but give them their due. There's a reason they're one of the leading metal bands today, and when they play at Warehouse Live on Sunday, haters might do well to at least try to lose themselves in the chaos of it all. You might just come away with a higher opinion of them.
Emmure plays Warehouse Live with the Acacia Strain, Stray From the Path and Kublai Khan this Sunday, December 14. Doors open at 6 p.m.
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