Emmure is one of those bands people love to hate. While a quick scouring of the internet seems to suggest that straight-up nobody likes this band, the pertinent truth is that somebody must, because Frankie Palmeri and company continue to release music. Somewhere out there, Emmure means something, and their persistence in the face of a continual stream of vitriol is worth investigating. So, with that in mind, we tackle the new album, “Eternal Enemies.”
Let’s get right to it – there are two fundamental disconnects with “Eternal Enemies,” and they mark the album pretty badly from the jump. The first, and most critical, is that it’s hard to frame this record properly as a record because it simply doesn’t have a lot of music on it. That sounds patently impossible, especially given that the record is populated by fifteen cuts, but maybe only one of them features the basic cohesive elements that make music work. There’s not much for melody, and the album seems more like very angry beat poetry set to spontaneous and loosely aligned bursts of noisy aggression. The band behind Palmeri is asked only to thud along with percussive insistence and the absence of riff or rhythm is both conspicuous and off-putting. Sure, you could listen to “Nemesis” or “N.I.A” and find that the band is playing in time, but that’s not the same as composing a melody. There aren’t chords or notes or even progressions in the traditional sense, just a thunderous cacophony that may or may not intersect with the overall presentation. Through the right lens, that kind of abstraction can be academically intriguing, but that doesn’t appear to be Emmure’s aim and there’s not enough innovation going on to make that angle work.
The second disconnect is a more subtle one, but is equally important to the construction of “Eternal Enemies.” Palmeri has said in multiple interviews, including one for this site, that his goal on this record is to exorcise the demons that have plagued his band and his songwriting and attempt to tackle head-on the difficulties and frustrations that he perceives in the world. His motivation, in his own words, is hate. Which is fine, hate and aggression have long been dominant themes in metal and in hardcore, two genres to which Emmure aspires. “Eternal Enemies” has no lack of those emotions, as every cut sees Palmeri mean-mugging like a champ and hurling invective profanity around with reckless abandon, couched without metaphor in a no-nonsense delivery. Aside from his rage though, Palmeri offers little else – he screams at the listener more than with him or her and it comes across like the audience of “Eternal Enemies” is supposed to be the people who have publicly denigrated Emmure, and those people by and large won’t be buying the record, anyway. For all Palmeri believes in his aggression, he offers no solution and no alternative. His lyrics do not empower the listener to rise up against their own personal frustrations and instead asks the audience to simply play amateur psychiatrist and listen to Palmeri voice his personal catharsis.
There is a moment during “Rat King” (unlikely to be a reference to the excellent James Clavell P.O.W novel “King Rat”,) when it looks like Emmure might have something. There’s the barest hint of convergence between music, lyric and rhythm. Even that though, dissolves into the usual madness. It doesn’t help that the song is coupled with “Hitomi’s Shinobi,” Palmeri’s bizarre love letter to a Japanese porn star. In its own way, the latter song is a more grave error, because it derails the seriousness and credibility of Palmeri’s stated goals.
“Eternal Enemies” is a confusing effort, one that is rooted in a fair enough ideal but simply doesn’t execute. If Palmeri’s aim is to tell off those who are dismissive of, or downright mean to Emmure, then he may well have accomplished that aim. It just doesn’t feel like anyone will be interested enough to listen.