Though I had heard their notable single “Ebolarama” in passing a year or so before, it wasn’t until the release of 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon that the shitty dudes in Every Time I Die stepped into my life. I remember coming home from school one afternoon and seeing the music video for “Kill the Music” on IMF (yeah, remember that?) and just being enthralled by its unique sound and swagger. I hadn’t heard anything like it at the time and would keep my eyes glued to the TV in the hopes the video would be replayed.
At this point in their discography the band started to really embrace the hard and southern rock aspects of their sound, while maintaining a semblance of metalcore angularity and hardcore grit. As a kid whose previous frame of reference for heavy music was FM radio rock, and as one who was just starting to discover the more aggressive sides of punk and metal, Gutter Phenomenon and Every Time I Die were essential slippery slopes into a world of gnarly tunes.
You cannot possibly fathom how many times I listened to that record when I purchased the CD many, many years ago. I even spent time learning several of its songs on guitar, which I had just started playing mind you. I was so serious about this band and this album that I am certain I had contracted some rare illness that compelled me to listen again, and again, and again. But, like any good music consumer, at some point it was time for me to explore the band’s back catalog, which led me to purchasing their 2001 debut full-length, Last Night in Town, sometime in 2006.
I was not prepared for what these 10 songs had in store for me.
The breakdowns and face-melting dissonance that comprises the opening track “Emergency Broadcast Syndrome” immediately ripped me to shreds with their ferocity. The contrast between the band’s later work and this LP is staggering. Last Night in Town is raw, chaotic and angry as hell, as made evident by this two-minute stormer of a tune.
Vocalist Keith Buckley’s acidic screams and wailing clean vocals, which would become more dynamic in albums to come, were the icing on the metalcore cake. As a lover and student of literature, creative writing and journalism, the lyrics on this record, with their highly intelligent prose and tongue-in-cheek snark, were very impressive to me at the time and pushed me, inadvertently, to write better myself.
Tracks like “Jimmy Tango’s Method” and the closing one-two punch of “California, Gracefully” and “Shallow Water Blackout” were some of the heaviest songs I had heard at the time. The stampeding, off-kilter rhythms that could change on the drop of the time kept me on the edge of my seat, while the guitars provided their own brand of aural punishment. Guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley trade concussive, six-string blows on these tunes, crafting memorably heavy riffs and breakdowns that are all at once pummeling, noisy and volatile.
The album even features one of the more “experimental”, yet rarely mentioned pieces in their discography; “Nothing Dreadful Ever Happens”. The track opens with a barrage of cacophonous riffs that decays into a gloom, acoustic-led interlude before unleashing more metalcore madness and concluding with somber piano and walls of feedback. Then of course you have the band’s infamous tune, “The Logic of Crocodiles”, which speaks for itself.
From the breakdowns galore in “Emergency Broadcast Syndrome”, to the eviscerating “Punch-Drunk Punk Rock Romance”, to the head-spinning riff salad of “Shallow Water Blackout”, Last Night in Town is a bludgeoning masterpiece that continues to kick my ass to this day. Even though the band generally regard this album as their worst release, I feel its rawness, noisiness and insurmountable ire makes it standout from subsequent releases, despite its imperfections.
To this day, I still regard Every Time I Die to be one of my favorite musical acts and happens to be the one band I have seen live the most. While the southern metal groove and swagger of Gutter Phenomenon drew me in, the visceral aggression of Last Night in Town sealed the deal.