The Unbreakable Allure of Emmure

  • Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Hailing from Queens, NY, Emmure’s music is as filthy, bitter, cold and ragingly violent like their city. A mark of their music is the infusion of urban elements such as brief sparks of rap (which came to peak in their 3rd album Felony) or unexpected record scratching in a breakdown. Vocalist Frankie Palmeri embodies the band’s look and sound: on their latest album cover, Eternal Enemies, Palmeri is pictured with a bandana wrapped over his mouth like a straight-up gangbanger.

Heading into Club Soda, a St. Laurent venue that appeared to me like a more modern clone of Metropolis just down the street, I didn’t know what to expect. For one, I was very interested that Emmure was co-headlining a tour with The Acacia Strain, a metalcore band from Massachusetts that Emmure has famously had a rivalry with since the late 2000’s. The marketing for this tour cashed in on this, too—the tour was titled “Emmure Vs. The Acacia Strain,” with the posters featuring Palmeri and The Acacia Strain’s vocalist Vincent Bennett facing off Mortal Kombat-style.

But seeing the show featuring both former feuding bands was not meant to be: on the day of the show, The Acacia Strain’s tour van was hit by a drunk driver. No one was injured, but their ride was smashed and could not make the journey to Canada.

I arrived at Club Soda to catch the end of Fit For a King’s set, a Christian metal band from Texas. Over 500 people filled the fizzy-drink venue—I knew from my coat check number being 498. The crowd was a sea of modified bodies: stretched earlobes and tattoos aplenty (myself included), facial piercings and dyed hair galore.

As the lights dimmed for Emmure, a comically large 20’ by 20’ void opened in the centre of the mass of showgoers—whether the more brutish hardcore kids forced open the gap or whether the moshpit materialized by its own accord, the crowd simply respecting its power and making room for it, I wasn’t sure. Emmure’s introductory song while they lurked offstage was the horrible “Bring a Gun to School” instrumental. It was mostly drowned out by the crowd’s cheers, thank God.

*Emmure “Nemesis” *

The opening song as they stormed the stage was the new single “Nemesis” off their latest album, a bouncy breakdown-fest of a song about them “not giving a fuck what people think.” The massive moshpit raged like a battlefield, while I forced my way to the front to be directly before the stage, the crowd-surfing danger zone. Right away, kids were scrambling to hop on stage, scream lyrics with Palmeri, then toss themselves onto the unsuspecting heads of their fellow showgoers. If a moshpit is a battlefield, then the compressed crowd at the stage are the front lines. You gotta watch your ass.

No matter what people think of Emmure’s sound or overall image, you gotta give Palmeri credit for being a damn good frontman. Most metal vocalists tend to overdo it—there’s only so many times you can pace back and forth onstage and throw your head back in reckless abandon with the mic. Palmeri’s style was totally subtle: standing still onstage and letting his legitimately frightening eyes do the heavy lifting. In “Drug Dealer Friend,” there’s a brief electronic bridge, and Palmeri actually did a brief pop-and-lock with his hands, which drove some girls beside me wild.

The guy-to-girl ratio around me at the front was actually surprising and refreshing. Who would have thought the front lines at an Emmure show would metaphorically pass the Bechdel Test? I couldn’t help be feel proud of the hardcore scene when I saw girls throwing elbows and shoving hard to the murderous “Bars In Astoria.”

Emmure’s set raged on for a full hour, playing songs from every album of theirs, including fan-favourites “I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me Into Casper” and “Solar Flare Homicide.” Their finale was the somber anthem “MDMA,” but of course, after a few minutes of chanting “Em-mure! Em-mure!” they took the stage once more for the song that catapulted them into being a household hardcore name: “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” (referencing the Dave Chappelle skit of the same name).

*Emmure “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” *

I went home drenched in sweat with a sore neck and a seriously raspy voice, signs of a successful hardcore show experience.

Find more hardcore shows in Montreal by Extensive Enterprise here.

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