Prolific East coast metalcore purveyors Emmure follow up on 2011's Speaker of the Dead with their fifth full-length, Slave to the Game. Joey Sturgis (the Devil Wears Prada, Attack Attack!) reprises his role as producer but slight changes arrive on the band front as Mark Castillo (Crossfade) joins the group as drummer. Despite the lineup change, the core of Emmure is consistent, delivering 12 mosh-ready tracks of bruising breakdowns and snarling vocals. The gaming theme hinted at in the album art and title inspires "Insert Coin," an intro track comprised of the sound of footsteps leading into an arcade and quarters being dropped into a machine, revisited later in the record on "Poltergeist," an electronic interlude that juxtaposes spoken word prayers against demonic screams and leads into "Cross Over Attack," which uses video game-themed lyrics to suggest salvation ("You will be saved/Don't let the system bring you down"). Lead-off single "Protoman" mixes up the guitar chug with some dissonant chords, while "I Am Onslaught" showcases a more sludgy, Deftones-esque approach. Slave to the Game also finds Emmure exploring their more experimental side, as "Umar Dumps Dormammu" slows down the tempo and employs electronics and samples to drive the melody. But fans of the band's more straightforward sounds will best connect with "Bison Diaries," driven by guitar squeals and anguished screams that hearken back to their earlier releases, and the grinding, revenge-themed "War Begins with You." Overall, with Slave to the Game, Emmure shows some hints of evolution since Speaker of the Dead but mostly sticks to what they know, which will please fans but probably not make any converts of new listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Chrysta Cherrie