Every Time I Die – Ex Lives
Release Date: 6th March 2012
Record Label: Epitaph
Frustration is something we have all had to face in our lives. Whether it be frustration in something we have done or in something we are struggling to do, it is a feeling that we have all experienced – and a feeling that we would all rather avoid.
Frustrated is exactly how Every Time I Die singer Keith Buckley found himself writing the lyrics to Ex-Lives. Stuck in the middle of Europe whilst touring with his side-project, The Damned Things, Buckley was left with time to reflect on his life and achievements, and was not best pleased with what he saw.
The result is Every Time I Die’s sixth studio album, Ex-Lives, the fastest and most pissed-off ETID record to date. More similar in tone to Gutter Phenomenon than the two albums released in the interim, Ex-Lives largely shuns the balls-out riffage and party advocation of previous ETID releases, instead questioning the worthiness of such a lifestyle.
This album has no ‘New Black’, no ‘We’rewolf’ – songs that once careened around house parties chasing girls are now the ones at the bar sipping whiskey. There is regret in Buckley’s words, a questioning anger as to how he has found himself where he has, thanking God and those around him for “bearing witness while he wastes his fucking life”. More so than ever before, his sentiment is not hidden behind cryptic lyrics, but stated plain for all to see.
Buckley has often been lauded as the pinnacle of metal lyricism, an intelligent voice in a sea of machismo and idiocy – and Ex-Lives¬ proves to be no different. From beginning to end there is a wonderful fluidity to Buckley’s delivery, and his voice sounds stronger than ever. His cynicism reaches its peak midway through the album, in ‘The Low Road Has No Exits’ and ‘Revival Mode’. In the former, he asserts how “from the cradle to the grave it has been a walk of shame” before asking “will the machine gunners please step forth? There is only room on the boat…for men of hope” on the latter. For years, Buckley has toed the party line, and now, in 2012, he is unhappy with where it has left him.
As is the case lyrically, Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams have raised their games on guitar. Banjos segue seamlessly into lead lines, those famous ETID riffs are still very much in place, but streamlined and refined – and all the more powerful for it. And with new drummer Ryan ‘Legs’ Leger frantically underpinning everything, tempos and rhythms chop and change at the drop of a hat. Make no mistake, these songs are fast. Where The Big Dirty largely took a step off the accelerator, replacing tempo with lead-weight-riffs, Ex-Lives finds its power in the speed of its delivery. Only ‘Revival Mode’, with its laid-back rock’n’roll rhythms, provides any respite to the onslaught.
All of which makes for the most focused and direct Every Time I Die attack yet, and by the time you’ve realised what’s happened, it’s skulked back to the dark corner of the bar from whence it came. It’s a cliché, of course, but Ex-Lives really does contain something for Every Time I Die fans old and new. All will surely agree, though, that is an extremely powerful and accomplished album, deserving of its place in ETID’s rich back catalogue.