Buffalo, New York's EVERY TIME I DIE gets right to the point with its distinct, in-your-face conflation of metallic hardcore, Southern groove and rock 'n' roll on its eighth full-length: "Low Teens". The release is a much more controlled, focused and interesting outing compared to the band's material in recent years, including 2014's "From Parts Unknown", which, in many ways, is due to the more mature and textured guitar work of Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams.
Frontman Keith Buckley's lyrics were driven by a pregnancy scare he and his wife had. Mother and unborn baby were at risk due to complications, which they've both fortunately recovered from since then. His characteristic sharp wit remains lyrically, while outside of the band, the charismatic vocalist has leveraged his writing prowess into novel writing and work with Comedy Central. Yet, this time around, the focus seems less geared toward crafty word play considering his family trauma. In "Petal", he repeatedly screams, "Untimely ripped into this world, I was born again as a girl.” There's little surprise, then, that the delivery of his lyrics is much more passionate, seemingly drifting between love, anger and fear as he reflects upon mortality and family.
"Fear and Trembling", showcasing guest vocals from Tim Singer (DEADGUY), kicks things off somewhat awkwardly. The loose guitar work that eventually tightens up and finds a steady course—thanks largely to drummer Daniel Davison pinning things down—appropriately fits the motif of Buckley's turmoil, and eventually leads to a more confident stance and outlook.
Whether intentional or not, the sequencing of tracks also suits what one would imagine to be Buckley's rollercoaster of emotions and perspectives during his family's ordeal. Spastic rage and unhinged anger steer the ship early on, while a greater sense of control and confidence permeates the songs vocally and musically toward the release's end—as with the busy yet focused groove of "Just as Real but Not as Brightly Lit".
PANIC! AT THE DISCO's Brendon Urie seems an unlikely choice for guest vocals, yet his contribution to "It Remembers" perfectly compliments Buckley's bluesy swagger. The song has a Southern, seventies burnout quality as distant as you can get from the metalcore tag EVERY TIME I DIE is so often associated with.
"Low Teens" is a solid EVERY TIME I DIE album that touches upon the different styles and sounds from the group's back catalogue with memorable results worth revisiting. The unit isn't reinventing the wheel, but why fix what isn't broken? Instead, the band has driven itself back on the highway and put the pedal to the metal.