Leave it to Kurt Ballou to summon even more chaos from Every Time I Die. The esteemed producer and guitarist for Converge lends his vicious hand to From Parts Unknown, ETID’s seventh album in thirteen years. It’s one of the best-sounding records of the year: the guitars haul ass, the basslines rumble, the drumming is hefty and crisp at once, and vocalist Keith Buckley’s hellish howls grate just enough to induce hearing loss at high volumes. Yet all the production prowess in the world is meaningless if the songwriting doesn’t deliver.
It’s a good thing From Parts Unknown delivers in spades. Ballou’s strict work ethic must have really lit a fire under the band this time, as each and every song maintains the perfect balance of all-out recklessness and attention to detail that’s come to define this Buffalo-based quintet. Opening track “The Great Secret” toys with some quietly strummed chords before launching straight into a full assault on the ears. Buckley lays waste to the track (and the rest of the album) with exceptionally fine vocals whether he’s singing smoothly or screaming his ass off without a hint of hesitation. Apparently he lost his voice merely moments after recording began and had to finish the rest of the vocals in a day—a day!—but that’s hardly a surprise when the record starts like so:
Blow your fucking brains out Blow your fucking brains out Tune that pale flame out
Extinguish the glow forever and in will come the sun
It’s one of many morbid moments on From Parts Unknown, but this one happens to bookend the last lines of the album’s incendiary closer, “Idiot”:
All I want is for everyone to go to hell It’s the last place I was seen before I lost myself All I want is for everyone to come to hell There we can be free and learn to love ourselves
Buckley’s obsession with death and the afterlife continues on “Decayin’ With the Boys” and “El Dorado”, two rollicking cut of hard rock that bristle with swagger. Guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andrew Williams pump out the sort of mighty, memorable riffs ETID is known for, and when the band isn’t ramping up the groove they’re pounding away at devastating breakdowns. Ryan “Legs” Leger delights in drumming behind the beat, and his deft playing adds even more brutality to ETID’s crushing instrumentals.
But the best track on From Parts Unknown, “Moor”, strays from the band’s tried and true dynamics. Buckley’s somber piano stabbing and plaintive vocals are sourced right out of old horror film—and it only gets creepier from there. The chilling lyrics address a mugging the singer’s wife suffered around the time the band recorded 2012’s Ex Lives. Buckley channeled his anger into a memorably unhinged performance, but that’s nothing compared to the lyrics here:
I slept through the war You waged with him For a little bit Until he cracked your bones And you had To let go So I make believe I discovered peace But I’ll skin the man alive And sell the meat
His uneasy murmuring drags on and on until the band suddenly slams through the dread, plodding and chugging until one more quiet interlude ends the tune exactly as it began. “Moor” is the closest thing to a breather on this album, perfectly placed in the middle of the tracklist. In fact, there’s precious little singing on From Parts Unknown—and if the album were any longer than 30 minutes it’d be unfortunate—but these brief flashes of melody only further the confrontational attitude on hand.
The other surprising aspect of this record is its tasteful use of drastically down-tuned guitars. Refusing to give into the trend of guitar parts that may as well be played on bass, Every Time I Die resorts to a minimum earth-shattering frequencies. The band’s restraint builds up to one hell of a release in the mind-blowing, pants-shittingly heavy conclusion of “Idiot”. I’m not sure if the guys actually tuned their guitars down a full octave or if they used an effects pedal, but it’s a gut-churning riff you won’t see coming from a mile away. (Until now. Oops.)
At this point in the band’s career, Every Time I Die might as well be considered a part of the old guard of metalcore; however, the band shows no signs of slowing down on From Parts Unknown.It’s an especially impressive addition to their acclaimed discography. Congratulations.
Nick Porcaro is a 24-year old graphic designer, musician and writer based in Jersey City, NJ. Nick graduated in 2012 from UArts in Philadelphia, PA with a BFA in Graphic Design. As a musician he’s played guitar for over 10 years, in addition to dabbling in bass, drums and vocals. Nick currently plays rhythm guitar with Max Feinstein and has worked with Matt Scuteri, Sara Martin, Shakedown Inc., and The Nerd Who Ate St. Louis. When he’s not freelancing for the Wilma Theater, Nick is writing songs for his debut solo record.