Every Time I Die – Ex Lives (2012)

Posted: March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

In the ten plus year history of the “metalcore” movement, few bands have remained as mysterious as Buffalo, New York’s Every Time I Die. The band, led by brothers Keith and Jordan Buckley, have had a barometric career to say the least. While birthed during metalcore’s heyday, the band never really adopted the true sound of the genre, instead opting for a more technical, chaotic approach that was tinged with some southern metal elements and a whole lot of perplexity.

This unique style quickly split the metal fan base right down the middle. You either loved or hated ETID, and there was really no room in the middle. Case in point: I saw the band on two separate occasions in 2005 and 2006, in support of their Gutter Phenomenon release. In 2005, it was at the inaugural Sounds of the Underground summer festival where the band was basically booed off the stage. In 2006, the band brought their brand of noise to The Warped Tour, where you would have thought they were Guns n’ fucking Roses by the size and energy of the crowd in attendance.

So what gives? Is it that metal purists can’t handle the odd riffage and mensa-level lyrical content? Are they too cool for their own good? Or… are they really the best kept secret in the scene? The answer to that depends – of course – on who you talk to, but my opinion is that they suffer from a little of all three.

It’s no surprise that the pot-smoking, head-banging poster child of heavy metal usually gets lost in the cryptic lyrics and sarcastic messages Keith usually spews forth – which is too bad. For my money, Keith Buckley is the best songwriter in metal – if not all of music – with his keen wit and sharp tongue. Unfortunately, he knows it.

Much has been written about Buckley’s egocentric attitude over the years, and the vocalist has remained pretty smug about the criticism the band has endured over the last few records. 2003’s Hot Damn! was perhaps the groups crowning achievement, but subsequent albums have paled in comparison, quality-wise. Sure, there have been glimpses of greatness since (“New Black”, anyone?), but the general consensus is that the band has been on the decline for the last eight years or so. The live shows have still been awesome, but the albums just haven’t lived up to expectations.

A fan or two have moved on, looking for someone else to fill the void. The rest – myself included – have been hopeful that the band could shake of the dust and return to their former glory, and maybe even get back on the tips of the collective tongues like they were many years ago.

March 5th marked the release of the band’s 6th full-length album titled Ex Lives, their first with new drummer Ryan Leger and last with the bands ninth bassist Josh Newton. It amazes me that a band with such strong bass lines has had such a revolving door at the position – but that’s maybe a different story best saved for a different day. After all, we have an album to talk about here…

Ex Lives blasts out of the gate with Buckley screaming “I want to be dead with my friends!” and the assault is in full force immediately. 30 seconds in to “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space,” my first thought was one of relief, as this sounds EXACTLY like ETID should sound – and the energy and aggression just pours from the speakers. That vibe continues into “Holy Book of Dilemma,” one of the heavier tracks included here. It has the smart lyrics you would expect, but maintains that mosh pit-inducing frenzy that keeps the sweat pouring.

“A Wild, Shameless Plan” clocks in under two minutes, but don’t let that make you think it is a filler or prolonged intro to the next track. It’s as gritty of a hardcore anthem that the band has ever recorded, and continues the bedlam the album seems to be hell-bent on creating.

ETID has always found ease switching gears, and they do just that with “Typical Miracle.” While the first three tracks have stayed true to the hardcore/post-hardcore sound, this one infuses a healthy dose of punk, with raging guitars and blasting beats. It works well as a throwback to the early days for Buckley and the gang, and shows this band can really do about anything.

A bit more chaotic than the rest, “I Suck (Blood)” is a drummer’s paradise. The skins are hit with sniper precision throughout, and really drive the track through the expected shifts and turns that make for a sometimes groovy, always unrelenting track.

Yes, that’s a banjo opening “Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow,” which again shows off ETID’s ability to expand. This tme around we get a little bit of everything – from punk to hardcore to groove metal to southern rock and everywhere in between. I’ll drink to that.

The cleverly-titled “The Low Road Has No Exists” balances a lot of clean singing with Buckley’s signature screams announcing that “From the cradle to the grave, it has been a walk of shame.” I doubt anyone is getting too overly-introspective here, but the lyric is one of many smart ones along the way here. The spacey outro kind of threw me for a loop, but was in fact a nice respite from the rest of the noise.

“Revival Mode” – which has been released to rock radio – takes the foot off the gas a bit and slows down the pace a bit. I’ve never really understood why people consider Every Time I Die a southern metal band, but they aren’t going to shake that moniker loose when they write songs like this. It’s soulful, thought-provoking and perfectly balanced in every way. The video (below) is weird as shit, but that’s pretty much par for the course.

The technical side of the music really comes through during “Drag King” – a four minute pounder that sounds like The Dillinger Escape Plan on methamphetamine. When ETID gets complicated, it usually leads to great songs – and this is one of them. You won’t be able to two-step to it, but for my buck, this track alone warrants its place in your rotation.

After one of the more intricate (and entertaining) tracks on the disc, the band gets back to being all hardcore again on “Touch Yourself.” This is meat-and-potatoes hardcore, and – if nothing else – that the band can just plain get after it when they want to. With just enough pauses and tempo shift, they keep it within their own style, but I doubt you’ll find a hardcore fan that doesn’t eat this alive.

“Epic” is one of the most overused words in music, but I can’t think of a better word to describe the album’s closer “Indian Giver.” From a structure perspective, it’s far more melodic than anything else presented here, even through the sludgy chorus. The vocals give and take from the riotous to the absolutely haunting, with the guitars wrapping themselves around it all. The end result is an alternative-sounding, mind-spinning opus to the unexpected. And it’s a masterpiece.

Which is probably a simple way of summarizing this entire album. If anyone doubted that Every Time I Die could still pull it off, the answer is a resounding “yes.” There isn’t a weak moment on this gem. Hell, even the three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition absolutely roar.

The bottom line is that Buckley and his band needed to make a statement – and they did. Knowing that ETID still care about making amazing music makes this writer smile from ear to ear, as there really isn’t anyone like them and there probably never will be. Pick up Ex Lives and you’ll understand why.

9.5/10

Tracklist:
01 – Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space
02 – Holy Book Of Dilemma
03 – A Wild, Shameless Plain
04 – Typical Miracle
05 – I Suck (Blood)
06 – Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow
07 – The Low Road Has No Exits
08 – Revival Mode
09 – Drag King
10 – Touch Yourself
11 – Indian Giver

Deluxe Edition Only:
12 – Grudge Music
13 – Business Casualty
14 – Starve An Artist, Cover Your Trash

Buy It At: Amazon

MySpace: Link | Wiki: Link

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