At some point, you have to just start feeling bad for any metalcore band that isn’t Every Time I Die. Think about it: there you are, on your first Vans Warped Tour, with all your trendy merch designs, your new album with a feature from Tyler Carter, Johnny Craig, Vic Fuentes, or some other buzz-boosting vocalist, a cover on the latest “effort” in the Punk Goes series, and then literally the oldest band in the genre comes in, guns blazing, with a ripper of a new album in From Parts Unknown, and all of a sudden no one really has time to care about your band anymore. How is this possible?, you may ask yourself. It’s a fair question, but it isn’t the right one. What you should be asking yourself is this: Why would you expect anything different from Every Time I Die?
Every Time I Die, one of the living legends of the scene, have now released seven full length albums. This isn’t something that happens by accident; the band have achieved this incredible feat by never relenting from their pursuit of perfection, never staying stagnant with a specific iteration of themselves (Hell, they can barely keep their lineup intact for more than one album cycle), and never, never succumbing to whatever trends seem to be developing within the scene. The result has been a band who is never scared to throw a wrench into their own plans, which has yielded a discography known (with good reason) for its chaos and unpredictability. The band knows when and where to take risks, and on From Parts Unknown, each of those reaps a high reward.
Taking cue from the jarring opening line of their previous full-length (Kieth Buckley’s riot-inducing shout of “I want to be dead with my friends” on the curiously-titled “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space”), Every Time I Die open “The Great Secret” with a line that begs to be shouted back at them from the sweaty club shows they love to play, as well as the countless festival stages that they’ll be in high demand to grace thanks to this effort. Author’s Note: in order to not spoil the line for anyone who somehow hasn’t heard the album yet, I’m opting not to write it here. Seriously, it’s that awesome, and I’d hate to have that introduction to the album ruined for anyone.
Vocalist Keith Buckley’s vocal range has developed immensely thanks to his experiment known as The Damned Things, and the combination of his soaring clean vocals with his fast-paced narration over brother Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams’s relentless guitar riffing and his overpowering screams creates a perfect storm that few vocalists, if any, are able to put on an album. This range is on full display in tracks like “Decayin’ With the Boys,” the haunting “Moor,” and “Thirst.”
Ryan Leger returns to his seat behind the drum kit, and his developing chemistry with Williams and Jordan Buckley are evident, as he finds time to shine for himself while maintaining a delicate balance that allows the guitars to take their rightful place at the forefront of the album’s presentation. This presentation is made so special with the golden touch of Kurt Ballou, who has clearly pushed all the right buttons and brought out the best in the band. Ballou is no stranger to heavy music, as he first made his name in the legendary hardcore band Converge. Ballou’s band’s tendencies may have been an influence on how heavy Every Time I Die elected to make this album, as From Parts Unknown is a huge departure from its predecessor (Ex-Lives), and even New Junk Aesthetic, the band’s 2009 effort. This fast-paced album clocks in at just over a half-hour, but still packs as much of a punch as you’d expect from an Every Time I Die album.
Oh, and those risks they tried out this time around? They’re all great. From the chaotic opening track “The Great Secret” to the album’s closer “Idiot,” there will be no point that you can expect what’s happening next, from the piano-driven “Moor” to the completely unexpected yet somehow effective use of The Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon’s vocals. Fallon gets his own set of lines to sing himself, followed by a section of harmonies between the Jersey Boy and Kieth Buckley. It’s a collaboration that many other bands would either be too scared to attempt or would fall face-first with, yet because Every Time I Die are behind it, it somehow works, which is a great snapshot of what the band have accomplished here.
There is no use using more words here to describe the successes of From Parts Unknown. The album has a great-beyond-words feel to it, and therefore is begging to be experienced on an individual level. Everyone who listens to the heavy side of music will enjoy this album regardless of their prior knowledge of the band, and those who aren’t as keen to music with screams in it will still find it in their gentle hearts to thrash around their rooms to a few songs (like “El Dorado” or “Overstayer”) as well. If I were to use a metaphor for what Every Time I Die have achieved, it is akin to that of an older guy showing up to a YMCA pickup basketball game, remaining quiet while the younger, flashy players try to ham it up, and then absolutely dominating the game from start to finish by sticking to what he does best. It’s time to put these younger bands on alert: Every Time I Die are louder than you, they’re more creative than you, and they’re flat-out better than you.