Well, the party is officially dead.
Every Time I Die made sure of that, with the group’s sixth full-length record, entitled Ex Lives. From the get-go, it becomes clear that this record is a culmination of everything that you have come to expect in a great record from this band.
There is the heaviness we have come to expect from the Buffalo, NY quintet. This is quite possibly the heaviest ETID record since 2003’s Hot Damn! Everything, from the dark lyrics written while vocalist Keith Buckley was isolated from his band-mates and on tour with The Damned Things to the unrelenting music that features some of the band’s best riffs from guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams, is an onslaught of hardcore bliss. On album opener “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space,” Keith shouts “I want to be dead with my friends,” to begin the record. With the buzz-saw attack of riffs from the guitar team meshing perfectly with Buckley’s lyrics, this song gets the record off to a perfect start.
And anyone who doubted whether or not newcomer Ryan “Legs” Leger would be able to fill the shoes left by original drummer Mike “Ratboy” Novak need not look further than “Typical Miracle,” which features some of the best fills on any ETID record to date. And, along with the great drumming, the track features some more great riffs from Jordan and Williams (are you seeing the pattern yet?), as well as great lyrics from Keith like “There was whiskey in the devil’s blood/And there was blood in my cup.”
“I Suck (Blood)” is a highlight from the album, coming in at the halfway point. The ascending riffs that lead into the chorus, which features Keith singing some fantastic clean vocals, make the song and are one of the better little clips of the album. It is followed by my personal favorite on the album, “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow,” which begins with a fantastic banjo riff, which is eventually layered with a guitar playing the same riff. Everything from the music to the twang that Keith uses to deliver the vocals encapsulates the dirty, southern metal vibe that the band does so effortlessly and so well.
Nearing the end of the album, “Revival Mode” is a song that will surely polarize listeners. It now seems that any time that Keith decides to sing clean recently, the comparison to The Damned Things automatically is bound to get made. This is beyond foolish, as “Revival Mode” couldn’t sound further away from The Damned Things, with instrumentation that is classic Every Time I Die. That is, except for the solo provided by John Christ of Danzig, a band whose influence is left all over the track.
The album closes with the pairing of “Touch Yourself” and “Indian Giver.” The former recalls the urgency displayed on the album opener, as well as great performances from the rhythm section of Leger, who delivers some more great fills, and Josh Newton on bass, playing on his last album with the band. The latter closes the album on a great note, featuring a good mix of heavy moments with Keith screaming in the best way possible, with restrained moments featuring slower guitar playing and cleanly reverbed vocals from Keith.
This is the angriest ETID has sounded in a long time and it’s no coincidence that this is my favorite of their records. With music and lyrics this punishing, the band has solidified their domination over the increasingly stagnant genre of metalcore. It’s unclear whether they are trying to revive the genre or plunge the final knife into it, but whatever they are doing, it’s working.