Every Time I Die have definitely settled into some sort of groove now, but it’s one that really works for them. Every couple of years, they’ll put out an album, tour it, reap the usually monumental successes and repeat the whole thing once again. No one really expects another classic at this point (though 2012’s Ex Lives came pretty close), but they still manage to come out with fantastic efforts time and time again. The defining factor of this is the reliability of their sound – frenetic hardcore cross-bred with balls to the wall rock ‘n’ roll and bourbon-guzzling southern rock for something that makes up for its lack of subtlety with stupidly entertaining hardcore jams.
Eight albums in, Low Teens is no different, and despite taking its title from the harsh winter conditions faced during its recording, it’s yet another firebrand of an album with Keith Buckley’s acerbic, effortlessly charismatic vocals and metric tonnes of top drawer riffola. So far, so Every Time I Die, but below Low Teens‘ surface it’s one of the darker inclusions in the band’s catalogue. Lyrically, it’s written as a response to Buckley’s discovery of his wife’s development of HELLP syndrome, a pregnancy complication with potentially fatal consequences for both her and her then-unborn daughter. It lends a sense of panic and pessimism to the album, with tracks like Petal and C++ (Love Will Get You Killed) being supremely cathartic, but still sticking to the mould that this band have become synonymous with. Because at the end of the day, even when viewed from a purely surface level, Low Teens feels like nothing more than a natural continuation of Every Time I Die’s sound, albeit one that inherently feels rooted in heavier territory. And given that the best feature of Every Time I Die is that they’ve become remarkably adept at playing to their strengths, Low Teens is another glittering addition to their discography.
To be honest though, Every Time I Die can write great albums in their sleep at this point, and Low Teens is one that just feels so comfortable in itself in its acquiescence of a formula. But it stands as a rare example where ‘formulaic’ isn’t tantamount to ‘boring’ – Two Summers swaggers around with its inebriated rock ‘n’ roll vibe, while I Didn’t Want To Join You Stupid Cult Anyway‘s shouts of “We’re gonna get carried away” can only be prophetic of the reaction it’ll cause when played live. Again, for a band eight albums in, it’s not pushing any boundaries but it’s in no way boring whatsoever. Hell, you’d even struggle to call if predictable given how Panic! At The Disco’s Brendan Urie pops up to lend his soulful pipes to the belly-dragging blues of It Remembers. It’s really the ideal place for a band to be in, having an immediately distinctive sound that they can stick to album and album, but still retaining the same fire and power to keep it unwaveringly exciting.
And make no mistake, from start to finish Low Teens sounds exciting. Even though they have a distinct sound, Every Time I Die are far enough into their career to know how to play around with it so it remains compelling without sounding too different, and on Low Teens they pull it off masterfully. It’s an album whose sound goes through a notable progression across its runtime, winding through different styles and influences to create a feeling of eclecticism, but always being anchored to its core sound thanks to Buckley’s vocals and a bone-rattling guitar tone from Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams. It’s this passage through different sounds that makes this album so appealing, spanning intricate, mathy hardcore on Awful Lot and Just As Real But Not As Brightly Lit, sludgy swamp noise like Fear And Trembling and It Remembers, and on closer Map Change, breaking into galloping arena rock. And it’s to the band’s credit that there’s not a single moment in all of this that sounds alien or out of place in its natural flow.
But really, this could be a review of virtually any Every Time I Die album. Any sonic progress that takes place of Low Teens is negligible, but then again, there doesn’t have to be any. At this point, Every Time I Die are successful enough and good enough to stick to their own game plan, and this album is testament to that. It’s not another classic, but no one was expecting it to be; rather, Low Teens is just another great Every Time I Die album that features everything that makes them great. Album number nine can’t come soon enough after this.
For fans of: The Bronx, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, letlive.
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Low Teens’ by Every Time I Die is out now on Epitaph Records.