Vicious. Picturesque. Blunt. For close to fourteen years, Every Time I Die have steered their own hardcore abandon into the way of anyone who would listen and the response to the group’s technical songwriting has been nothing short of a massacre. While The Big Dirty and New Junk Aesthetic’s extroverted personalities threw a modeled riff at you with vocals underlining until the two finally clashed, Ex Lives moves at its own pace, making the overhaul, in a word, ruthless. As slower rarities on the record (“Revival Mode”, “Indian Giver”) tip the scale with guitar solos and kaleidoscopic layers that scream Deftones, the chomping at the bit aesthetic that provokes Every Time I Die is untied. “The Low Road Has No Exits” shutters at the speed of guitars and Ryan Leger’s rampant punch, which also keys in the start of “I Suck (Blood)”, triggering a boisterous stretch of shredded strings, clean vocal swings and lines about “a bull in a china shop”. Fitting, yes, but just a mere look into the exhale of aggression that makes Ex Lives so bittersweet. After the tap of sticks, “Holy Book Dilemma” tears a room apart with the band swinging at everything for less than two minutes with vocalist Keith Buckley skinning his pipes, repeating a line over and over until he maliciously yells “Old black tusks” to signal the start to the multi-tempo chugging “A Wild, Shameless Pain”.
Even with a majority of the tracks moving at a blistering skate punk speed, Buckley’s fine taste for lyrical poetry still stands out like eye candy you’ve never met before. And for a solid thirty minutes, it’s the yellow ribbon tied around the band’s ambush of skin-ripping guitar work. A few of the songs – “Touch Yourself”, “Drag King” and “Typical Miracle” – also leave you fixated on several sentences and Buckley’s descriptive tendencies. On “Typical Miracle”, the intro “I need a new rock bottom / I’ve got to find a beloved back alley” is more scarring than anything of recent memory, setting fire to an electric stride of punk that feeds off of more imagery. “Drag King” has a subtle confession that kicks up the dust of whether it actually is a love song, a subject found in the following track with “I got a weak heart, so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t know because it hasn’t said a word. / All these winters, not a sound, it probably never had a chance to thaw out”. The stab at being abstract and creative is something that’s hard not to become infatuated with. Ex Lives doesn’t find relief in constructing songs that are necessary, but instead juxtaposes Every Time I Die’s more accessible qualities with a new obsession to throw their entire kitchen sink at you in under three minutes and wait until you get back it up to do it again. It’s hard to take in everything, especially with the record being so short, but chalk it up to what the cool kids call metalcore, and it’s hard to want to listen to anything else.
Download: “Typical Miracle”, “Touch Yourself”, “The Low Road Has No Exits”
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