For the way that they go about their business as a band, Every Time I Die deserve a solid 10. Whether it’s their ridiculous interviews, their daringly retarded band pictures, or their complete rejection of tough-guy posing, you can always count on Every Time I Die to be playing the hardcore game on their own terms, throwing everyone a constant curveball.
Along with their notorious antics, Every Time I Die’s music has been growing and evolving in ways that are sure to rub more than a few hardcore kids the wrong way. They’ve accomplished this through a simple philosophy: Turn down the metal and crank up the rock’n’roll. Gutter Phenomenon is the current peak of that philosophy.
Without relying too much on breakdowns and open-chord chugging, Every Time I Die still rock just as hard as they used to, but with much more emphasis on the rock’n’roll parts that were starting to come through on Hot Damn! Thin Lizzy-inspired lead riffs pop up all over the place, the best example being the downright delicious riff in “The New Black.” That riff stands out so boldly, it’s at that point in the album that you know you’ve stumbled into a full-on rock’n’roll sleazefest.
Keith Buckley’s vocals, however, went less in the rock’n’roll direction, and back into the hardcore delivery he used on Last Night In Town. He doesn’t just shout anymore. It’s now a throatier, grittier sound, and it actually works really well with the music. As always, Buckley’s lyrics are abstract and stream-of-consciousness, challenging the listener to either love them or dismiss them as pretentious. But if you look past the vagueness, his lyrics turn out to just be competently thrown together pieces of ideas. For the line "Hey, girls! I’m a cunt!," Buckley should be awarded a Pulitzer.
Gutter Phenomenon is a blast to listen to, but the replay value is hurt by the fact that some of the sounds blend together too similarly. You can only have the same hammer-on guitar lines in so many songs before you become repetitious. Also, Buckley lets his clean singing go wild on this album, doing self-affected crooning in spots he wouldn’t have before. It works at very specific times, but mostly gets annoying. Though it’s tough to tell whether his singing is tongue-in-cheek, it definitely shouldn’t be there either way.
An album like Gutter Phenomenon probably isn’t even meant to be evaluated. Every Time I Die do not care about being taken seriously, and that’s why their music has taken this sharp turn towards the rock. This is good-time, fun music. When Buckley yells "Fuck yeah, we’re gonna party tonight!," that’s Every Time I Die’s flag being shoved into the sand. They’re here, they’re party animals, and they’re not going anywhere.