Sound — 8
From their extreme metal sound amalgamating parts of hardcore punk, southern metal and mathcore, to their notoriously witty lyrics, Every Time I Die have set themselves apart from their contemporaries as one of the more intriguing hardcore/metalcore acts of this era, as well as being the one of the most consistent. After signing onto Epitaph to release their fifth album, 2009's "New Junk Aesthetic," ETID's next couple of albums would bring forth some of their most chaotic songs to date, from the bounty of frenetic and techy riffs in 2012's "Ex Lives" to the breakneck-paced hardcore energy in 2014's "From Parts Unknown."
With that one-two punch investing primarily in an intense high gear, ETID's eighth album, "Low Teens," veers in another direction to tone things down a bit. Being their longest album to date - clocking in at 43 minutes - more songs on the album show ETID's initiative to build songs with more structure rather than the fleeting and chaotic riff-to-riff nature of their previous couple of albums. This is noticed from the get-go, where their hardcore/metal sound comes in easier-to-digest iterations in the early stretch of the album, like the hooky lead riffs in "Fear and Trembling," the straightforward hardcore of "Glitches," the "New Junk Aesthetic"-style southern metal cut of "C++ (Love Will Get You Killed)," and the metalcore-minded "Awful Lot." But what really spearheads this initiative for more stability is an increase in frontman Keith Buckley's clean vocals. With his singing voice getting more room to carry the melodic torch than his harsh vocals get to roughhouse in "Religion of Speed" and the wistful "Map Change," he completely abstains from harsh vocals in the southern swagger of "Two Summers" and "It Remembers" - the latter also includes guest vocals from Panic! At The Disco's Brendan Urie and is also the least aggressive song ETID have written in a long time, being pretty clear that this song is intended to be a reach at something more accessible than what they usually deal in.
These things considered, one may draw to the conclusion with unease that "Low Teens" is easing up to the detriment of what they're most appreciated for and watering down their sound for worse, but ETID make sure to keep a grip on their chaotic Hyde moments to counter the contained Jekyll moments. "I Didn't Want to Join Your Stupid Cult Anyway" taps back into the frantic pace and odd measurements championed in ETID's previous album, "Petal" highlights the rhythm section with notable bass riffs and fits of blastbeat drumming, the fretwork gets good in "The Coin Has a Say" and even better in "1977," and the chock-full-of-riffs abundance of "Just as Real But Not as Bright" easily makes it one of the top contenders of the whole album.
Lyrics — 9
Still trudging through the concept of faith and doubt and its many paradoxes, Buckley's lyrics in "Low Teens" focus more specifically on the dichotomy of enlightenment and powerlessness that choosing or rejecting the belief in a higher power offers. The opening "Fear and Trembling" makes for a perfect microcosm of Buckley's feelings towards the prices that faith demands, where, examining Abraham's final test of sacrificing his firstborn to God, Buckley grimly states that Abraham was influenced more by the cruel bargaining nature of man rather than trusting God ("I am sorry, it's not right / But you are mine, a sacrifice / I was hopeless, I was tired / But we all kill to survive"). In other cases, Buckley rails on about that belief not being worth the prices paid in "Petal" ("First I need to save the life of God / So that God can come and save me from myself / If I have to walk alone I'm giving up / I can't stay here knowing love is not enough") and that faith not being sufficient for world peace in "Religion of Speed" ("My flower in your barrel hasn't stopped the slaughter yet").
But though this reasoning for being against faith is in hopes of transcending the transcendental for the real answer of enlightenment, Buckley also admits the unsustainable nature of trying to assume complete control. With "C++ (Love Will Get You Killed)" highlighting the frailty of being the sole operator of one's existence ("When everybody gets a universe / They can do what they want / I'm gonna need another universe / I tore mine apart"), and "The Coin Has a Say" showing the collateral of rejecting anything to believe in ("I will aimlessly wander this wasteland guided only by a sickness, not a purpose"), the choice of nihilism is one that doesn't offer solace in confirming one's complete inability to believe in anything but nothingness, as he articulates in the ending "Map Change" ("Clenched in the jaws of anguish / Are only godless men / Chaos is drawn to silence / Like life is drawn to death / The dusk is so much clearer / Than the dawn has ever been").
Overall Impression — 8
ETID have long established a style that works for them, and without choosing to deviate substantially from that sonic brand, "Low Teens" tackles the issue of keeping things fresh by not trying to one-up the increasing intensity of "Ex Lives" and "From Parts Unknown," but rather, spreading out its energy in different gears. Though the cases of songwriting that appeals to a more accessible and less aggressive sound will always be ambivalently received by a listenership that's used to balls-to-the-wall energy from start to finish, ETID still flaunt their known strengths of blistering speeds and talented riffs to clarify that they have no plans on turning away from their loud and angry side.