This is not the year of the party crasher.
If you were expecting Every Time I Die to supply you with this year’s latest batch of party jams, think again. Sure, Every Time I Die has never been one to write a bunch of “happy” songs, but don’t expect the likes of “We’rewolf” or “The New Black” to appear on their sixth studio album Ex Lives. Front man Keith Buckley was out of his comfort zone while penning the lyrics to Ex Lives. Stuck overseas touring with his side project The Damned Things, Buckley, disappointed and angry, wrote from the perspective of past lives (thus the inspiration behind the album’s title), wondering if he was an awful human being in a past life and it was karma that was kicking him in the ass.
But while the album’s theme is very dark and bleak at the times, the music backing it is anything but. Ax masters Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley take their riffing to new levels while new drummer Ryan “Legs” Leger brings a fresh intensity to the drums that’s been missing from the band’s previous albums. Producer Joe Barresi (who’s worked with the likes of Tool and Queens of the Stone Age) also turns the band’s raw, unapologetic sound into something much bigger. Ex Lives sounds massive from the get-go – the snarling auditory attack of opening track “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” will bring back the finest memories of [i]Hot Damn![/i], while the slow burning “Revival Mode” is paced by dirty riffs courtesy of Jordan and Williams (towards the end you’ll be picking up your jaw from the floor after hearing the sick noodling throughout) and anchored by some of Keith’s most personal lyrics.
“Holy Book of Dilemma” and “A Wild, Shameless Plain,” clocking in at less than four minutes combined, up the metal intake (Leger absolutely kills it on the former) while maintaining that classic ETID bravado. The younger Buckley, along with Williams, unleash some finger-lickin’ good power chords on the aggressively catchy “Typical Miracle,” while the colossal “The Low Road Has No Exits” will begin an avalanche of neck-breaking head-banging.
The massive “Drag King” transitions from unrelenting hardcore into a high-octane, soaring breakdown, as Buckley shows great vocal versatility. One moment he is unfurling his most visceral howls, the next he’s crooning into the next register. Buckley’s clean vocals have made appearances in past ETID recordings, but they’ve never sounded this bold and this confident (peep “I Suck (Blood)” for evidence).
While Keith pushed his limits vocally and lyrically, the rest of the band stepped their game up as well. Just because they’ve been doing this for over a decade doesn’t mean the band is going to rest on their laurels. Take the sinister “Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow” for example. It begins with a sizzling banjo solo that continues into a good ol’ fashioned bar fight with Satan himself, with the band buying a round of shots with him afterwards. The track molds together the band’s classic chaotic sound with some new wrinkles. There are more curveballs throughout Ex Lives, including some subtle flute work into the ambient stoner-metal vibe of album closer “Indian Giver.” 13 years in the game and Every Time I Die continues to re-contextualize what it means to be a metal band.
Often imitated but never duplicated, Every Time I Die continues to be the boldest, most unique band in the whole goddamn scene. Bigger, badder, and louder than ever, Ex Lives will go down as the definitive Every Time I Die record. The Buffalonian quintet didn’t just set the bar for all remaining metalcore releases, rather they tore it apart, drowned it in whiskey and gasoline, and burnt that motherfucker to the ground.