ALBUM REVIEW: Every Time I Die: Ex Lives
EVERY TIME I DIE – EX LIVES (March, 6, 2012)
Rock is dead.
Okay, maybe not entirely, but let’s be serious – mainstream, popular music does NOT lean towards hard rock anymore. We live in a world of bleeps & bloops (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but rock somehow became a niche. Alternative radio got the boot in several major cities last year, the Grammys were as pop-driven as ever – and MTV doesn’t even pretend to acknowledge anything outside of the top 20.
But then there’s Every Time I Die. For the uninitiated, the Buffalo-based band has been releasing an anti-establishment, anti-mainstream blend of hard rock, metal, southern-tinged math-blues for almost 15 years now. They’ve encapsulated a sort of “post” sound to everything they’ve touched, comfortably fitting into many genres while defying almost all of them. Formed in the late nineties, ETID has perfected riffy guitars behind intelligent, deeply sardonic lyrics. During the early-naughts, it was easy to lose them in the veritable sea of metalcore.
But not now. For a year rumored to be our last, this album sounds like the “looming apocalypse” everyone’s talking about. The “descriptor-core” trend is long dead. That’s why “Ex Lives” shines.
Dropping majority of the “party” aesthetic to their music (you know, what sounds like Jack Daniels, flannel shirts & trashed hotel rooms) and adding much more visceral anger to this record turned me off the first minute I listened. Then, I understood. It’s a strange time to be alive. The war, an economic cluster-fuck, extremely polarized political spectrums – there’s much to be miffed at. We’re not living in a party anymore – things are tense. We’re all tense. This record is tense. It all makes tense-sense.
No one is making music like this anymore – sure, there’s plenty of bands playing a similar genre, but nothing is quite as honest as this. The lyrics alone (sung by dry-throated lead singer / former English teacher Keith Buckley) are crafty beyond just pun-play. He’s stylized pessimism by being cynical without condescending. Although his unique style has graced all of their previous 5 efforts, it’s never seemed so immediate and appropriate. Alternating between angered barking and an instantly recognizable singing voice, there’s real substance to these words – and they’ll scare the hell out of you.
Behind the vocals, bandmates Jordan Buckley (guitar), Andy Williams (guitar) & newcomer Ryan Leger (replacing Mike Novak on drums) deliver mile-a-minute spectrum riffing, covering sounds that range from almost-death-metal (“Holy Book of Dilemma”) to the use of a banjo (“Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow”) and even wandering down Danzig lane (“Revival Mode”). These songs are reminiscent of their early days, but I disagree with the notion that it’s a ‘return’ to sound for them. These songs are much more self-aware than their early work.
Without knowing their previous releases, these songs can’t be as realized as they could be. In other words, I wouldn’t start a first-time listener here. ETID has always been a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you can’t point out their overarching sarcasm on this album alone without hearing them have a little fun first. In my opinion, they started to really know who they were as a band on 2005’s “Gutter Phenomenon”.
While “Ex Lives” definitely doesn’t have an easy single like “The New Black” or “We’rewolf”, you get the sense they’re still having fun – they’re just not making it so clear this time around. “Ex Lives” takes you on a tour of their entire career while introducing a new, more poignant message: “This is what America sounds like in a bad fucking mood”.
Every Time I Die is on tour now, including:
March 04 @ ACM UCO PERFORMANCE LAB, Oklahoma City, OK
March 05 @ NEWBYS, Memphis, TN
March 06 @ ALABAMA MUSIC BOX, Mobile, AL
March 07 @ THE VALARIUM, Knoxville, TN
March 08 @ V CLUB LIVE, Huntington, WV
March 09 @ THE CASTLE THEATER, Bloomington, IL
March 10 @ THE INTERSECTION, Grand Rapids, MI (Which I will be attending & reviewing here on Q101.com)