I have few rules in life, but number 15 reads “If it can be described in any way as 'Metal' and features a banjo, you listen good and you listen hard.” This rule recently got tested on Every Time I Die's newest album “Ex Lives”. Admittedly, Every Time I Die is not metal; they're Hardcore. The difference, you ask? Hardcore lives in the gray area between Punk and Metal. It's intense and heavy with decent musicianship like Metal, but it has that don't-care-about-noone-nor-nothing attitude of Punk without the pop melody Punk has picked up recently.
Hardcore had something of a grassroots popularity which started to die off around five years ago. One of its best acts, Every Time I Die, is still going as strong as they were five years ago. In their newest album, Every Time I Die shows little change from their last three or four albums, though the listener can tell they've matured or grown up a little. The production is much cleaner and some songs have very clear bridge, verse, and bridge sections. The days of the Hardcore formula of three or four loosely connected sections followed by a breakdown or a 90 second blast of a songs seem to be, for the most part, gone.
Old fans shouldn't worry, though, as the nearly nonsensical and occasionally silly lyrics and the groovy rhythms haven't left. The first track, “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space” (F.Y.I.- this is what your GWAR professor means by opening your paper with an “attention getter”), opens with the repeated line “I want to be dead with my friends!” Personally, I don't know what that nor the title means, but I find it silly and a light-hearted. The ending breakdown of “Typical Miracle” has the repeated line, “There was whiskey in the devil's cup, and there was blood in my cup.” As a common whiskey drinker, I've started using this line.
The usual groove and sense of rhythm Every Time I Die has become known for makes a consistent appearance on this album. What's new to “Ex Lives” is a southern feel to some of the riffs. The breakdown to “Typical Miracle”, mentioned above, sounds like the love child of Johnny Cash and Megadeth. Of course, banjos do make an appearance on “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow”. The introduction of the banjos followed by a distorted guitar following the same line was reminiscent of Georgia's metal act Mastodon, who are well known for conflating their southern roots with their metal.
At only 33 minutes, this isn't a lengthy album. Yet, the more one listens to the album the more one realizes they probably started with 45 minutes of music, but cut down all the needless fluff and repetition. The result is a concentrated and enjoyable album.
Those listeners unaccustomed to heavier or more aggressive music (especially those who refer to metal as “screamo”. You know who you are.) should steer clear, but those who have the ear for this sort of music will find a new and welcome addition to their music library with “Ex Lives”.