Hot Damn! This is a sick album bro!!!!...um sorry, let me start over. Before I get to the review, I feel I need to give you a (hopefully) brief history of ETID and my affections. I didn’t always love Every Time I Die, but as with anything worthwhile, they took some time to become one of my favourite heavy bands. My first exposure to them was when a bearded Best Buy employee recommended Gutter Phenomenon to me. I liked it, but didn’t listen to it closely enough at first (don’t worry, I’ve since given it its due time), but I thought it was a solid album that was strangely funny at times. Back then I would have told you that it all sounded a bit too similar, but overall it was pretty good. I certainly liked it enough to pick up The Big Dirty when it came out, and to go see a show when they toured through Orange County. That show was the turning point. The Buckley Brothers, Andy, and Rat-boy got out on stage and promptly told everyone in the audience that they had received a call from back home saying that a close friend of theirs was literally dying at that exact moment (I think from cancer, but I’m not sure) and wasn’t expected to live through the night. They had a moment of silence, dedicated the show to their friend, and then proceeded to play one of the most blistering sets I have ever seen. I haven’t had the privilege to see them since, so I don’t know if that was average fare, but something tells me that playing for their dying friend was something special and that they played with more energy/urgency than normal. It’s hard to describe what made that show so singular, but there was an electric aura in the room that I haven’t felt very often at a show, even with some of my favourite bands. Suffice it to say, I had goose-bumps the entire night and had to decompress with a friend afterwards over a cigarette because I wasn’t mentally prepared to drive yet. Yes it was literally that good. Ever since then I’ve been incredibly hooked. Sure they’ve done other things that make me love them, like be incredibly funny on all of their DVD’s and write a killer column for AP back when AP was still decent, but that show was the day that my feeling of, “I really like hanging out with you and all but…I’d like to explore my options,” turned into “I do”.
Now, I might be way off here but I find that the opening track, ‘Underwater Bimbo’s from Outer Space’ channels Botch in the best possible ways (vocals from ‘Thank God for Worker Bees’ , and guitar riffs reminiscent of ‘Our Friends to the Great White North’). I’m beginning to wonder if this is intentional, since the opening track from New Junk Aesthetic also reminded me of Botch, and was called ‘Roman Holiday,’ a potential tip of the cap to the aforementioned band’s seminal album. Nothing else on the album really reminds me of Botch at all, so either I’m hearing things, or maybe I’m crazy enough to be right. I’m also thinking about sending the boys in the band a dry-cleaning bill, because the breakdown at the end of the opener is so heavy that I soiled myself. Also immediately noticeable is the new drummer, Ryan ‘Legs’ Leger. He blazes through this album, giving the record some much needed speed, and adding some diversity to all of the insane southern-tinged riffing. My old silly criticism of ETID songs sounding similar goes immediately out the window with this new facet having been seamlessly added to the diamond that is the band’s signature sound.
The band has also figured out how to perfectly pace a record. It starts off blazing for two tracks and then takes us down a notch in the BPM department with ‘A Wild Shameless Plain,’ which features a hell-of-a creepy guitar riff in the chorus. This type of tempo and style change is exactly what a good album needs; it gives Ex-Lives much more depth than their previous albums, and it creates a much more engaging experience for the listener. This trend continues through the rest of the album and makes for pure, heavy, perfection. Other extremely high points are ‘Revival Mode,’ which sees Keith Buckley’s vocals at the forefront and shining in their sour mash soaked glory, and ‘Indian Giver,’ which has a slowed down sludge-fest for a chorus that will give you chills.
I have to say that ETID have figured out how to take the best of what they have done in the past, blend it perfectly to retain their proven sound, while still musically progressing to keep us coming back. This is probably what every band sets out to do, but it is rarely achieved with such power. Congrats Every Time I Die, this is literally a near perfect album.
GRADE: Everything you ever wanted out of a hardcore band but were too afraid to ask.