If there is a definition of a workhorse band, Every Time I Die would have a full page devoted in the dictionary. Since 2001, the Buffalo, New York, band has released an album within a two-year time frame. (with the exception of 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic and 2012’s Ex Lives). If 2012’s Ex Lives saw the band questioning their existence, 2014’s From Parts Unknown may have been a high point for the band in terms of optimism and reformation. Unfortunately, life has a way of knocking you off the mountain.
In December 2015, lead singer Keith Buckley had to leave the band’s tour due to his wife Lindsay developing complications in her pregnancy. Sometimes, stress and doubt becomes an unexpected muse. The result is ETID’s most honest and unrelenting album to date. As the band was pushed to their brink emotionally, they also pushed themselves in their craft.
If Low Teens is a picture into the psyche of Keith Buckley within the hospital room, the instrumental part of the band, comprised of guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andrew Williams, bassist Stephen Micciche, and new addition, drummer Daniel Davison, do their part in creating a soundtrack that is both brutal and musically acute. The unrelenting narrative gave the entire band room to experiment and create a soundtrack to the world caving in, albeit in a microcosm.
The first track, “Fear and Trembling”, starts off with a playful guitar riff that leads into a slow burn where you see that Davison’s aggressive drumming style will fit in with the album’s narrative. “Glitches” continues the frantic urgency, recalling the terrorist attack in Paris. A furious hardcore track, the guitars seem to play like the dizzying thoughts that ran through Buckley as he investigated his own anger. “So long to young love I’ve anchored my heart/Farewell to small joys/I’ve burned down the bar.”
“C++ (Love Will Get You Killed)” is the first song where we get singing from Buckley. Known for his often witty and thought provoking lyrical structure, he offers an insight into the inner conflict of his wife and newborn child almost dying, but their love almost being the cause of this situation.
“When everybody gets a universe they do what they want/I’m gonna need another universe I tore mine apart”
“Two Summers” recalls a similar cadence from The Big Dirty standout track “We’rewolf” in the fact that it’s two different songs in one (plus we hear that cowbell, too). “Awful Lot” showcases ETID flirting with down-tuned, metal-type riffs that flow into little thrash parts.
“It Remembers” is an intriguing listen. Featuring Brandon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, it is a southern rock-tinged duet that works well within the context of the album. “Religion of Speed”, which is the longest song of the band’s storied career clocking in at over five minutes, has this driving chorus where the rhythmic bass lines stand out. In this song in particular, there’s a certain optimism within a heavy subject. Buckley contemplates his only legacy, “When all I am is a stone that says the name I had and the years that I had been” and the music does a good job in depicting the ebb and flow of it all.
Two songs, “Petal” and the closer “Map Changes”, are heavy because the subjects deal with a man losing almost all semblance of hope and coming to terms with it. In an interview with Alternative Press, Buckley states that “Petal” was the first song written during the trying time with wife and daughter. You can feel every fiber of desperation and confusion in every syllable and note.
Although there was a happy ending, “Map Changes” plays as a sad cliffhanger in the middle movie of a trilogy. Everyone that has gone through something has been left with some kind of wound or lasting piece of emotional distress. As Buckley’s singing voice collides with the long guitar riff towards the end of the song and drifts into the background, you almost let out a collective sigh that everyone made it through.
Low Teens is Every Time I Die in crisis mode. The best music has a way of making you question all the existential thoughts you have. With this album in particular, grief, doubt, and morality manifest themselves to a point where it makes you question your own experiences. When the ugly parts of life refuse to move from your line of sight, you find a way to fight back. 18 years later, Every Time I Die is still fighting the good fight.
Metalcore | Epitaph Records