If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been told off in a snide fashion with the “hindsight is 20/20” remark—and if you haven’t, I’ll bet you’ve at least used it yourself. Maybe you weren’t being told off at all—maybe it was a reminder that the things of the past are just that—past—and often much more clear when they appear in the rear-view. Sucks, doesn’t it? As much as it does, hindsight is often the mechanism by which we gain the most growth from our own actions and the consequences thereof. So here we are, it’s 2020 (or 20/20, if you prefer), and heavy music’s Public Enemy Number 1—Emmure—are gearing up to release their ninth studio record (and eighth full length) Hindsight. Built on a foundation strongly influenced by mid-to-late 2000s nu metal, equal parts visceral and perfectly polished, surreal-yet-sinister and—frankly—one of the outright weirdest collections of songs the year has seen so far, Hindsight sees Emmure taking the next steps in improving upon their critically acclaimed Look At Yourself to create something mesmerizing, murderously heavy, inventive yet uncompromising in retaining key elements to the Emmure sound. In short, it definitely isn’t a record to get left behind, lost in the rear view mirror’s unforgiving reflection.
With a title like Hindsight, it’s only fair that we take a quick second to reflect back on Emmure’s modest beginnings. Emmure began with unpolished, unrelenting aggression defining their 2004 releases (Untitled and Nine Eleven Zero Four respectively), through the emotionally-fueled Goodbye to the Gallows, a record I personally believe to be one of the genre’s greatest hits. Next were the raunchy and ruthless The Respect Issue and Felony which segued into the back-half of their catalogue. These releases saw the band moving away from the mashup of unhinged anger and scorned love-lost sensibilities and into a darker, more contemporary and street-savvy take on metalcore. Look At Yourself gave the heavy music community an all-new band, so to speak, with guitarist Joshua Travis (formerly of The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza and Glass Cloud), percussionist Josh Miller (Also formerly of Glass Cloud) and bassist Phil Lockett (from, you guessed it, Glass Cloud). Throughout it all, the band have been a machine—a cantankerous juggernaut running on vitriol, piss and vinegar. While this doesn’t change, necessarily, on Hindsight, the form of Emmure’s relative outburst does. Hindsight feels like the next step along the trajectory set by Look At Yourself, with Travis and Miller joined by bassist Nicholas Pyatt to create a collection of short, no-bullshit, filler-free songs that go for the throat from the first second.
Despite an overhaul with members from notoriously technical acts, Emmure keep things relatively straightforward still on Hindsight, with Miller’s percussion setting a firm foundation for Travis’ guitar which is—simply put—crushing. Songs like “(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing” and “Thunder Mouth” see Emmure pick up the pace—with Miller’s drumming carrying along at a quick candor, supported by Pyatt’s booming low end—where Emmure’s slower and more dense cuts like “Pan’s Dream” or “Informal Butterflies” are simply defined by the tone and weight of Travis’ tremendous fretwork. While its true—no song on Hindsight is technically demanding—the means by which many of them are composed reflects immense thought and attention to detail. Be it the subtle scratches and effects on “Persona Non Grata” or “I’ve Scene God,” the perfect choice of sample and balance against the otherwise decimating guitar on “Pan’s Dream” or the rambunctious nature of “Pig’s Ear” and “Action 52,” Travis, Miller and Pyatt choose not to define the band by technically monstrous displays of skill, but rather by how cohesively they can work together to create music that feels very simple but is filled out by countless small details.
When it comes to Emmure, the band is practically defined by frontman Frankie Palmeri—and for good reason, as each release sees a change earnestly reflected in Palmeri’s own personality and energy. In keeping, Hindsight is a more introspective, brooding display of aggression from Emmure’s resident preacher of immolating wrath. From the first syllables of “(F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing,” the listener is bombarded with Palmeri’s distinct voice. Palmeri’s vocal range and tones are largely unchanged on Hindsight, which makes sense—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Palmeri’s voice has become really Emmure’s voice. Palmeri touches on a myriad topics throughout Hindsight, and while each song is laced with its own meaning for listeners to extract, some are more overt than others—like “Trash Folder,” a strongly worded message to droves of Emmure lookalikes. Others—“Pan’s Dream” for example—are largely based in the fantastic, a stark contrast to “Action 52,” a stinging social commentary. A track worth mentioning, “203” is hypnotic in its approach, perfectly fitting the mesmerizing instrumentation and bizarre lyrical content–all to climax with a crushing cavalcade of skull-fracturing breakdowns. Hindsight is as a multifaceted as the troubles that face humanity in 2020, and listeners are sure to at least find several songs that hit home, even if those like “Trash Folder” don’t.
Emmure are one of a select few bands that get me just as excited for new music now, in 2020, as they did in 2008. While the band has changed dramatically, using different styles to exercise different avenues of catharsis, at their core, Emmure are still absolutely Emmure. Is that good or bad? Up to the listener, really. Hindsight is a short collection of shorter songs, which seems bad on paper, but beautifully balances out the unusual and occasionally dense nature of the album. Some songs are outright odd (“Action 52” and “203”), while some just take a little getting used to (“Trash Folder”), but overall, Hindsight is on-par with what one would expect following the group’s 2017 record. Emmure have always been a polarizing act, but Hindsight sees the band create a much more concentrated, potent, catchy and binge-able version of Look At Yourself that comes from a dark place to speak during dark times to a generation dwelling in the shadows of impending worldwide dissonance. What does that mean? It means Hindsight is fun, but more than that, it’s heavy, catchy, gloomy, brooding, bitter—Hindsight is absolutely 2020.
For Fans Of: The Acacia Strain, Fate Worse than Death, Limp Bizkit, KoRn
By: Connor Welsh