WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITE EVERY TIME I DIE SONGS?
Working alphabetically, each week The Monolith staff vote for their favourite iconic bands, and once a winner has been chosen, the experts go to task on voting for the top ten songs for your enjoyment and discourse. After a 2 week hiatus, the recurring feature is back with a vengeance. Today we’ll be tackling the venerable Buffalo metalcore group Every Time I Die. Hot Damn!
It’s pretty much common collective thought that Buffalo’s own rock and roll sons Every Time I Die have never put out a bad record. Despite over a decade of trying, each full-length has come back shining – and the EPs aren’t bad either.
Formed from the creative core of brothers Keith and Jordan Buckley – vocals and guitars respectively – along with the man-tank that is Andy Williams, ETID have garnered a reputation for fusing the catchy, party ethos of metalcore with a deeper, intellectually hungry attitude to their work.
Despite a revolving door rhythm section, and the members being into their thirties, they still outstrip the vast majority of their peers, and sit at the very top of their game – but they don’t seem to let that stagnate them. We’ll likely be seeing more quality than we can shake a stick at in the years to come, and many potential new candidates for this list; yet, as it stands, here are our choices…
Every Time I Die’s discography:
Demo Tape (1999) – EP
Burial Plot Bidding War (2000) – EP
Last Night In Town (2001)
Hot Damn! (2003)
Gutter Phenomenon (2005)
The Big Dirty (2007)
New Junk Aesthetic (2009)
Ex Lives (2012)
10. “Revival Mode” – Ex Lives
Every Time I Die are not afraid to slow things down and get in touch with their rock n’ roll roots. From its blues-tinged opening lick, “Revival Mode” is whiskey-soaked perfection. The barroom bleeds into the courtroom, as frontman and tattooed heartthrob Keith Buckley spills a down-and-out gambler’s lament in a jail cell confessional, delivering lines like “I got debts piling high / I got addictions and ex-wives / But I’ve stayed true, so I thank you / For bearing witness while I waste my fucking life” with mournful finesse.
“Revival Mode” showcases the band’s ability to write catchy, rock-oriented songs that retain the emotional weight of their more straightforward hardcore. The structure is rather traditional, verse gives way to chorus, chorus gives way to bridge, and so on. The hook, “Thanks, Lord, but I don’t need any more poor advice”, is an earworm of epic proportions, virtually guaranteed repeated spins in the DJ booth of your brain. With “Revival Mode”, Every Time I Die produce something bearing a passing resemblance to radio rock, but manage to imbue it with a degree of passion and soul so often absent from the offerings of more mainstream musicians. It is the radio rock we need, though sadly, not the radio rock we deserve.
9. “Roman Holiday” – New Junk Aesthetic
When it comes to first impressions, there are no mulligans. This truism applies not only to interactions between humans, but to albums made by some of those same humans. Without a solid start, even generally strong records can lose their chance at greatness. Luckily, Every Time I Die take first impressions quite seriously, as evidenced by the fact that four of the ten songs on this list are album openers. “Roman Holiday” is the first track on 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic, the band’s first album to be released by Epitaph Records, and if the label switch planted any doubts about their future, this song rips them out by the roots.
The song tears loose from an ocean of crackling feedback, rising like a phoenix with neck tats and a predilection for fistfights. There is a haunting drone to it, something of the grave. “Roman Holiday” is a hardcore dirge, a beefy chord beatdown with a sick sense of humor. This is a black comedy with Mr. Buckley as the villain, spraying some blood on his tongue-in-cheek witticisms, “We are the death of the party / We are the life of the funeral”. It’s dark, it’s dramatic, and, above all, it’s damn heavy.
8. “Leatherneck” – The Big Dirty
While Every Time I Die dips their toes in an eclectic selection of stylistic pools, they still remember to deliver undiluted doses of their trademark mix of metallic hardcore and rollicking southern rock. 2007’s The Big Dirty is a singularly focused and filler-free record, each song easily justifying its existence. And clocking in at a scruffy beard hair over two minutes, “Leatherneck” is a quick and dirty reminder that the solid centre of this band is hardcore (see what I did there?).
“Leatherneck” is a macabre treatise on the armed services, its name a military slang term for a member of the Marine Corps. Despite the band’s fun-loving image, there is a rich vein of morbid beauty that runs through their music and it is on full display here. The couple stanzas of this punk poem illustrate Keith Buckley’s knack for penning fabulous lyrics, “Marched from a burning ship / Into a rained out parade / With a bottle and a bible / The dregs are armed to the teeth”. The man can write more than a sarcastic one-liner, not to mention that it turns out that he “is the richest man in town”. It seems some guys just have all the luck.
7. “No Son Of Mine” – The Big Dirty
There are songs that try to entice and woo you and then there are some songs that pick you up and shake you like a bad nanny. Another of the excellent album openers gracing this list, “No Son of Mine” gets out of the gate faster than a greyhound on fire. It’s the kind of no nonsense track that makes Every Time I Die such a durable band; the Buffalo quintet doesn’t follow the trends, they create them. Since their inception, scores of bands have attempted to co-opt their brand southern rock-inspired metalcore with varying levels of success (no need to name names — they know what they’ve done).
Listen to any Every Time I Die song and you’re bound to get a few catchy lyrics stuck in your head; listen to “No Son of Mine” and you’ll get a skull-full. There are more get-up-and-sing-along parts in this track than on some entire pop punk records. Keith Buckley can even make a pair of words sound like pure genius, dropping “Deadbeat godfather!” like some sort of hardcore Wordsworth. The final breakdown is well-earned and brief, a taste of mosh-worthy action that caps the song without bogging it down.
“Blaspheme! When you are under my roof / Don’t ever say rock n’ roll” Keith screams. “I never will,” I whisper.
6. “Apocalypse Now & Then” – Gutter Phenomenon
In the wake of Hot Damn!, commonly considered the band’s breakout, ETID needed to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Gutter Phenomenon went a long way to doing just that. A lean 35 minutes of savagery, the album still managed to showcase the band’s most accessible music up to that point. Yet, the opening track alone was enough to show that accessibility didn’t compromise any of the intensity the band was known for.
“Apocalypse Now & Then” begins with a sinewy, meandering guitar line that makes up the infrastructure of most of the song. Guitarist Jordan Buckley is an absolute riff machine, and this song is a prime example of that fact. It is particularly impressive in the way it swims around, never staying in one place for very long, yet far from sounding disjointed. When the rest of the band crashes in, the energy level immediately hits critical levels, and rarely tapers off. Michael “Ratboy” Novak’s drumming provides most of the drama, in that he constantly subdivides the main groove, accentuating and suspending as he pleases. Singer Keith Buckley bemoans pop culture and celebrity to the soundtrack of a party being thoroughly crashed. It fits exceedingly well with the lead-in to track two, the sound of a beer opening.
5. “Ebolarama” – Hot Damn!
For many, “Ebolarama” epitomises Every Time I Die. One of its quintessential lines – “when in Rome we’ll do as the Romans, when in hell we’ll do shots at the bar” – is one of the most tattooed lyrics from a band whose words are absolute ink fodder.
The album from which it comes, Hot Damn!, is one of the heavier of their catalogue, and although it was only the second they ever released, but it’s no less potent than their later stuff, both musically and lyrically, and “Ebolarama” is as fast and furious as they come. The scratchy guitar intro is instantly recognisable amongst ETID’s oantheon
What may seem on the surface like a song espousing narcissistic chauvinism – “We’ve tricked the pigs into thinking that this auction is a pageant // In no time there will be makeup on our new set of cutlery.” – Buckley’s far cleverer than that, and the song is a dichotomy of bravado and self-effacing introspection: “we’re just thoughtless incessant buzzing apparatus. Disillusioned and lonelier than the last man standing.”
Both angles satisfy certain the itches that we all crave from our heavy music – both catharsis and a bit of intelligence – but ultimately, when Keith starts screaming “This is a rock and roll takeover!”, you absolutely believe it, and not nobody is going home
4. “Wanderlust” – New Junk Aesthetic
Eleven years into the band’s career, 2009’s New Junk Aesthetic had practically every right to be predictable. Five records down, most bands would accept their fan base for what it is, and give them what they would reasonably expect. For ETID, this would mean another raucous, southern-tinged, hardcore punk/math dust-up. But these elder statesmen weren’t having any of that. Instead, the band decided to amplify everything about them: more energy, more soul, more destruction. The second single, “Wanderlust”, represents the creative crest of an already legendary band.
As much as it would be completely justifiable to go down the line and list off the individual contributions on this song, it’s just not necessary. Keith Buckley doesn’t just steal the show, he crafts an elaborate heist, setting fire to a vehicle outside to create a distraction as he back handsprings his way to the vault, where he will use an elaborate laser-guided pulley system to swipe your very heart. Far from a slouch before, this song showcases Buckley brandishing a vocal dexterity and broad emotional palette some might not have thought possible in the confines of hardcore. Cooing, silky bridges drop out to some of the vocalist’s driest, most corroded verses ever. It is an exemplary performance from one of the best metal frontmen around.
3. “Pigs Is Pigs” – The Big Dirty
“Pigs Is Pigs” is the quintessential ETID affair. The band catches the listener’s ears with a blitz. No drawn-out intro, no indulgence, no bullshit. Urgent and threadbare, the song is an exposed nerve, start to finish. Syncopated transitions delineate the Buckley brothers’ dizzying riffs and poetic lines. Lyrically, the song is seemingly about a bad breakup, but in the singer’s typical clandestine fashion, it’s quite possibly about a myriad of things. The imagery inherent in the lines is more important than the overarching message. A judge, a trial, a hanging. It all combines with the ferocity of the music to form an uneasy yet alluring mixture.
While the band sarcastically claim The Big Dirty features “ironically distasteful rock and roll pretenses”, this song is all the indication one would need to see that it’s actually the result of shedding said pretenses. By taking their trademark concoction, but occasionally stripping away the veneer, songs such as this convey the raw, fundamental sounds that charmed fans in the first place.
2. “The New Black” – Gutter Phenomenon
I saw a review about a month ago that spent three paragraphs going on about party metal – whilst not really saying anything substansive – but I thought there was a good analogy for what a lot of party metal is: “copious amounts of shots and occasionally (+ideally), tits flying everywhere”.
As we’ve established, ETID have party metal down to a tee, and “The New Black” is the purest form of this ethos. Right from the off, with the sound of a can opening, it’s rock & roll style with a metal edge to it – but it’s also deconstructive and introspective: “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the jaded one with pop insensitivity! When I finish struggling, we can make our way to the dance floor and stand like strangers in an elevator stuck between stories”
Buckley has written before about the younger generation of “look at me” bands, and “The New Black” is ETID’s counterpoint to this way of thinking. It doesn’t hurt that it contains a fantastic set of riffs, and were it not for the harsher register of the vocals, it would easily be joining the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age‘s “No One Knows” as part of mainstream radio’s hard rock playlists. What a tune.
1. “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” – Ex Lives
Every Time I Die are one of those bands that write classic live songs, resplendent with big riffs, catchy hooks, and infinitely quotable lyrics, which fans scream back at Keith Buckley with gusto.
Despite its relative youth in the ETID archives, “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” is the band at their raconteurish best, with every line a classic; every beat a call to arms; and every crunchy note a stir of the punk pot. Opening line “I want to be dead with my friends!” immediately launches crowds into moshing frenzies, and every passage after that is defined and full of energy.
Credit, as always, must go to lyricist Keith Buckley. “Against this, even gods fight violently in vain, What chance could we have stood?” is so very true, and surely if gods are powerless to resist, what chance have we mere mortals?
That’s followed by easily-flowing lines like “We’re the last of the lost, but now we’re the first of the fashionably late!” and “We made the scene when we made a scene, and though it was brief, it meant everything!”; lyrics that stick in your head and slip off the tongue like butter; like a Shakespeare for the rock and roll age.
All of these are slung around with swagger and verve, and every word is crystalline in its self-belief, so that when the final line of “I refuse to be the only man put to rest in a mass grave” is repeated over and over, you’re there chanting it along, and willing to go six feet under with him.