Every Time I Die - Ex Lives

It’s a shame, but ‘Ex Lives’ just sounds like a band going through the motions.


It seems incongruous to refer to a metalcore band as ‘veterans’; maybe it’s a sign of age, but it just feels wrong in a genre so defined by energy and recklessness. Yet, it has somehow been twelve years since Every Time I Die’s debut EP, and nine years since they burst into the alternative consciousness with their sophomore album, ‘Hot Damn!’. It was an album wrought with restless, dangerous power, a mix of punk attitude, hardcore riffs and metal chops, filled with tongue-in-cheek humour and a combination of melody and power that heralded great potential. It is therefore a source of great disappointment that this is not an achievement that the group have been able to repeat. Their 2005 release, ‘Gutter Phenomenon’, was notable in that the best songs all contained guest appearances from other musicians, while ‘The Big Dirty’ and ‘New Junk Aesthetic’ both mixed occasional moments of success with large numbers of largely forgettable tracks. Most worryingly, all three releases displayed a growing tendency towards southern metal. Let us be very clear: redneck rock is not acceptable. Especially not when you use it to ruin a perfectly good melodic hardcore track.

Sadly, ‘Ex Lives’ does not reverse this downward trajectory for the Buffalo band. The album is unable to sustain any momentum; brutal, fast-paced hardcore tracks like ‘Holy Book of Dilemma’ revert to ponderous, sludgy breakdowns in an attempt at heaviness, while the only thing that ‘Revival Mode’ brings back to life is the ghost of old southern metal failures. Worse still, ‘Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow’ opens with a novelty riff that sounds disturbingly like the duelling banjos from Deliverance, after which Keith Buckley’s claims of “Until the road introduced me to sin/ I only shook hands with drink when he had his friends with him” just sound tired and old. There is a distinct lack of variety, with almost every song seemingly built on guitar pull-offs, raw-throated screams and a slowed-down breakdown. Repeated through the whole album, this quickly becomes formulaic and wearing.

‘Ex Lives’ does have some redeeming features; ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space’ is a jarring opener executed with precision, an excellent example of technical metalcore done right, while ‘Touch Yourself’ is also a strong point, a pounding, hardcore assault without gimmicks – just speed and power. Meanwhile, closer ‘Indian Giver’ displays the best combination of power and melody on the record, with Buckley’s clear singing laid over a double bass drum kick and thick guitar harmonies. However, such moments are few and far between.

Ultimately though, the problem with Every Time I Die, and with ‘Ex Lives’, is that they and it are neither one thing nor the other. Want to listen to metalcore? Go out and buy yourself some Dillinger Escape Plan albums, or get some Converge records. Want to listen to melodic hardcore? Well, there are countless other bands who are doing a better job of merging power and melody. It’s a shame, but ‘Ex Lives’ just sounds like a band going through the motions.

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