When Emmure announced they’d be releasing an album called Hindsight, you’d have to have had the fortitude of a saint to not feel a cold shudder of doubt. That’s a name that, more so than anything Emmure have ever done, hints at some kind of introspection or an endeavour to right past wrongs, something that an artist like Frankie Palmeri has never typically kept within his wheelhouse. See, for all the postulations about Palmeri being the modern day equivalent of Fred Durst, a meathead man-child holding on to metal’s lowest rung and bringing a talented crop of musicians around him down to that same level, Durst at least had a sense of confidence and machismo that made Limp Bizkit work, even at their stupidest. With Palmeri, on the other hand, his constant state of being in a pissing contest with the rest of the world couldn’t feel more like a facade if it tried, especially when drilled into 2017’s Look At Yourself and how insecure that album could feel when looking back at it. It wouldn’t be wrong to tar it with the same brush as all of Emmure’s other albums – it’s all knuckle-dragging deathcore posturing, at the end of the day – but even a completely revitalised lineup of genuinely talented (yet underused) musicians wasn’t enough to draw attention away from Palmeri. So while Hindsight could be some kind of atonement that seeks to turn over a new leaf and embark on a bold new phase of Emmure, suggesting that move is a bit too nuanced for someone like Palmeri isn’t entirely unfair either.
And when that generally proves to be the case on Hindsight, it feels even more justified. But even then, it’s so expected that in itself, it’s not even enough to deem this album notably awful; it’s more or less the same low bar of quality that Emmure have often reached, now only with a particularly cack-handed implementation of ‘depth’ and ‘nuance’ that’s works about as poorly as one would expect from this band. And yeah, that’s still bad, and Hindsight doesn’t have nearly enough in terms of its own merits to paper over the gorges that are in-built with Emmure’s work at this stage, but it’s barely even worth noticing at times. It’s more lazy than anything, and while that can easily be levelled at the majority of Emmure’s work, rarely has the lack of effort landed with a thud as flat and toneless as on Hindsight.
It’s probably worth highlighting exactly where that laziness manifests at its most egregious first, and that’s primarily in the way that Emmure royally waste the opportunity for more than the absolute minimum that they’ve even set up for themselves. With a title like that, this is a golden opportunity to do something with more weight and make up for the profound lack of substance that’s defined them up to now, but instead, we get a few moments of thin “woe is me” prostrating before moving back onto the usually scheduled programming. Subtlety was never expected and doesn’t show up at all – both Pigs Ear and Gypsy Disco both essentially boil down to Palmeri going on about how much of a failure he thinks he is – but there’s more than could’ve done with them than that; hell, even on 203, in which Palmeri addresses the paranoia of being stalked by an unknown force, there’s no detail sketched out in the song beyond that very slight description. What’s more, when the script is flipped back to the usual hyper-masculine posturing, there’s even more of a clunk when neither side even begin to suitably connect. It’s not like Emmure are doing a whole lot here either (it’s really only I’ve Scene God that’s of any note, where Palmeri’s assertions of how great and literally godlike he is are done in relation to other bands in his scene which he does actually name), and it’s where the waste of this album really sets in. Emmure clearly aren’t interested in artistic expansion, so to sprinkle the most basic form of that in, presumably out of obligation, is indicative of a band who know the music they’re making has no stakes to it, and who don’t care.
Just look at the music itself for an even more solid crystallisation of that thought, though admittedly there is a few moments that are among their more tolerable. Again, any sort of dynamism is completely off the table – and make no mistake, Hindsight is probably the least dynamic album to be released this year – but plugging into a big, ignorant nu-metal groove on (F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing and Trash Folder does make for a few enjoyable moments on a purely primal level. For what it is, there’s at least mosh fodder here that’s workable, produced in a way to sound calamitously heavy at all times, and with Palmeri fixed in his usual role as unfettered rage dispenser, whether that’s through roars, Durst-esque rapping or King 810-style whispers. But while it’s almost unfair to criticise Emmure for being unable to do more than that, at the end of the day, this is a band onto their eighth album, and striving for more than one-dimensional chug-fests isn’t exactly too much to ask. Because, to be blunt, Emmure feel like the embodiment of deathcore that’s tarred with criticisms of being overly basic, given how technical skill seems to be kept to a minimum (which, again, for a band now featuring ex-members of Glass Cloud and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza isn’t good enough), and the slow, plodding progressions of tracks like Persona Non Grata make it seem all the more meatheaded and lacking. This is a band who’ve moved past wallowing in their comfort zone at this stage, instead moving on to a mindset where churning out whatever they can is automatically good enough, regardless of the stretch of tracks towards the end that don’t even clock two minutes apiece and feel universally useless. There’s not a single idea that’s gone into making this album, and Emmure’s willful ignorance to that only makes Hindsight feel even more like a waste of time.
And again, when all of that constitutes an improvement for this band, that’s a sad state of affairs that sees Emmure actively being held back to no action taken to prevent it. Because, while no one actually wants this album, the same can be applied to Emmure themselves; they clearly don’t care about the music they’re making, otherwise they’d put something out that doesn’t feel like a truncated, underdeveloped clone of so much of what they’ve already done. Hindsight mightn’t be the worst album released this year, but it’s easily one of the most pointless, lacking the drive or good sense to even endeavour to achieve anything, and sitting idly by as it’ll undoubtedly pick up steam on brand recognition alone. A few solidly heavy moments aren’t enough to save something like this, where calling it formulaic and phoned-in would probably be giving it too much credit.
For fans of: King 810, Chelsea Grin, Attila
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Hindsight’ by Emmure is released on 26th June on Sharptone Records.