Album Review: Every Time I Die - Ex-Lives (2012 LP)

In his 2005 comedy track “Metal By Numbers,” Brian Posehn says in the chorus that any aspiring wannabe metalheads can “rip off Maiden, or Metallica/or Every Time I Die.” Sure, it could well have been for rhyming purposes (the previous lyric being “Even a baby could do it/Just give it a try”), but you can't help but feel like Posehn had – and still has – a point.

When it comes to the heavier side of the musical spectrum, few have been doing it as consistently and impressively in the 21st century as ETID. Taking the flair of hair metal and the tough-as-nails grit of New York hardcore, the band throw it in a southern deep-fryer and churn out something aggressive, boisterous and uniquely theirs; accept no imitations.

The game has changed somewhat in-between 2009's New Junk Aesthetic and this, the band's sixth studio album. Not only has drummer Mike Novak left the fold, but vocalist Keith Buckley also spent time away from the band to focus on The Damned Things, a supergroup starring half of Fall Out Boy and Scott Ian of Anthrax. Given their lenience towards the more driving, Wayne's World-esque style of rock music, one could have certainly expected this to influence what Ex-Lives would sound like. That is, until you hear “Underwater Bimbos From Outer-Space.” With its screeched intro (“I want to be dead with my friends!”) and the snarling, mile-a-minute riff that bolts out of the gates seconds later, it becomes increasingly clear that we're dealing with one of the most hell-raising, razor-sharp tracks that the band have ever laid down.

It's a sign of things to come: Ex-Lives is the raw, unapologetic sound of a band blazing the comeback trail as if they had never left. This isn't any radical reinvention of what they have already established within their sound, but it's worth mentioning that they have rarely done it better than this. The guitar work from Keith's brother Jordan and Andrew Williams keeps things interesting and exciting, shifting from straightforward and relentless metal riffing to some thigh-slapping country noodling, as found in the stomping “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow.” They are driven along excellently by drummer Ryan Leger, making his debut album appearance with ETID. Since joining the band in 2009, Leger has found his groove within the band and knows exactly when to make his presence felt (“Holy Book of Dilemma”) and when to let the songs lead their own path (“Revival Mode”). A solid addition to the band, rounding out what is already a powerhouse collection of musicians.

For all the short bursts of energy that serve as the highlight reel for most of Ex-Lives, it's interesting to note that the longest song on the record, “Drag King,” is also arguably the pick of the bunch. It moves from a high-octane rocker into a slicing, bellicose breakdown featuring Buckley's nastiest and most visceral screamed vocals – and when it's done shifting between these two movements, it heads directly into a 6/8 chorus that features Buckley's most bold clean vocals. It's a unique experiment for the band, pushing themselves in both musical directions, and the risk ends up paying off tenfold.

No matter how many up-and-coming bands attempt to mimic them, Ex-Lives proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is only one Every Time I Die. Without forcing new styles or bowing to recent trends, they still sound as fresh and innovative as they did a decade ago. For everyone involved, Ex-Lives is a triumph.

Review score: 8.5 out of 10