Every Time I Die - Ex Lives (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Every Time I Die

Ex Lives (2012)


From the distorted shrieks that open "Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space," two things become instantly clear: Every Time I Die is back, and they are pissed off. Other than a weird, meandering (but strangely catchy) 20-second clean vocal bit, the track is a full-on rager, and a wonderful way to open Ex Lives, a record that reintroduces the band after a couple years of side projects and relative inactivity. Next up is the even heavier "Holy Book of Dilemma." With its breakneck pace and sporadic blastbeats, the song approaches Dillinger Escape Plan levels of controlled chaos. It is the most intense song the band has written in years. All of this takes place in the first four minutes of the album.

The intensity level doesn't stay quite that high throughout the rest of Ex Lives, but there are some moments that come pretty close. "The Low Road has No Exits" is the closest to a straight up thrash metal song Every Time I Die has ever gotten, showing plenty of Slayer and Anthrax influence, especially during the verses. The band's identity shines through thanks to some classic Keith Buckley one-liners, however. It's hard to imagine a line like "From the cradle to the grave / It has been a walk of shame" appearing on Reign in Blood.

Buckley's sharp-witted lyrics have always been a highlight of Every Time I Die's music, and that holds true on Ex Lives. Lines like "Separate hearts are the whole of the law" from "Holy Book of Dilemma," and damn near all of "Typical Miracle," which opens with "I need a new rock bottom / I gotta find a more loving back alley / I'm bored as hell in Sodom / And it's just another dry county" are sure to be plastered all over Facebook statuses sooner than later.

While for the most part Every Time I Die sticks with what it does best on Ex Lives, there are a few experiments. The band intertwines banjo licks with speedy metal riffs on "Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow." It could be a trainwreck, but it actually works quite well, certainly better than other bands who have tried similar things (Maylene and the Sons of Disaster spring to mind).

Every Time I Die has included melodic rock tracks to balance out the chaos for most of its career. Tracks like Gutter Phenomenon's "The New Black" and New Junk Aesthetic's "Wanderlust," as well as a number of tunes from 2007's The Big Dirty, have showed that Buckley actually has a pretty decent singing voice, and that the band has a sharp sense of melody. The band have never been as purely pop, however, as they are on first single "Revival Mode." Buckley's time spent with side project the Damned Things shines through here in a big way. It's a good radio rock song, but it seems a little out of place in the context of the album.

Ex Lives is the heaviest album Every Time I Die has made in years, but it also has more dimensions that don't reveal themselves immediately. Nothing is radically different than what we've heard from the group before, but they continue to improve and grow as songwriters and musicians. Ex Lives is exactly what you'd expect from the band at this point in their career, with a little extra. Fans will not be disappointed.