Every Time I Die, one of my favorite bands in the world, officially called it quits on 17 January. The announcement came after what appeared to be a couple of tumultuous months for the band, internally. At least that is what the now former bandmates have intimated on Twitter and Instagram. ETID, which started in 1998 in Buffalo, NY, enjoyed a long and successful run. During that run, they toured incessantly in support of their increasingly impressive and progressive discography. I had planned on seeing them live in February. Welp, there goes that idea. Instead of writing a review for that show, I bring you my homage to ETID. From the first moment I heard them until the day the music died, ETID’s music has been with me, constantly. They filled up the small cab of my Chevy S-10 in 2005, powered my move from Texas to Georgia in 2011, and kept me awake during the early morning hours with way-too-awake newborns. As 20s turned into 30s and now 40s, ETID has never disappointed with their music.
The sound of some kind of large cat/cougar screaming transitioned quickly to singer Keith Buckley’s vocal impersonation of that agitated feline when he yelled, “Stutter-step to the beat of a disparaged lover. Dumb and public we’ve become. The bedroom door is an old black lung. It’s arrhythmic, uninviting and pliable.” I remember thinking, “wow, what is this?!”
“Kill the Music” off of ETID’s 2005 Gutter Phenomenon album was my introduction to the Buffalo Bills-loving hardcore band. The music was right up my alley: fast-paced, chugging distorted guitars, instantly memorable guitar riffs, and aggressive drums. The vocals were raw, intense, and full of purpose. The lyrics were thought-provoking, and the more I listened to them, the more I tried to grasp the meaning of Keith Buckley’s lyrical kaleidoscope of figures of speech.
There is a great “blind covers” video where a folksy-style band is given only the lyrics to an Every Time I Die song. They have never heard, or heard of, ETID, so they have no idea about the band’s sound. Based on only seeing the lyrics – no music – they have to create their own version of the ETID song. As they read the lyrics and contemplate how they will structure their version of the ETID song, one of them suggests that the song must be a singer-songwriter type of song. Without knowing what the music sounds like, they are enamored with the depth of the lyrics. The drummer even says “they lyrics are crazy deep…” Another says “the lyrics are pretty beautiful.” The singer says the lyrics can be “so poetic.” At the end, they finally hear what the original song sounds like and I absolutely love their reaction.
I kept listening to the album, over and over. Every song boasted the same features that I described above. Then I found out ETID had another album out there, so I quickly purchased Hot Damn! WHOA!!!! For ETID fans, all I have to say is “Floater.”
Wait, what did he just say? Oh, he said “drag the lake, you’ll find it full of love.”
With two albums listened, I started to do some digging. What are their names? I know the vocalist, but who are the guitar players?
I discovered that Jordan Buckley (yes, Keith’s brother) and Andy Williams were the riff masters. The music they wrote and played was/is both catchy and complicated. Now, they don’t write songs like Meshuggah that go from a 4/9 time signature to a 39/76 time signature, or anything like that. But your casual guitar player is going to fail many times before playing most of the ETID riffs flawlessly. You’re not just playing a D, C, and G.
Every time I listened to a new song, as a guitar player, I couldn’t help but think “shit, I wish I would have come up with this riff.”
At the time I started listening to ETID, I had not really dabbled too much into “screaming” music, as my more folksy friends affectionately call it. But this band changed everything for me. For the “get off my lawn” listeners, hardcore music like this sounds just plain “noisy.” But when I listened to those first few songs, I was blown away by the intelligence that emanated from both the musicianship and the lyrics. ETID proved to me my gateway drug to hardcore and metal, and for that, I am forever grateful.
ETID put out several more albums after that moment in 2005 when I first heard them. I unfortunately only saw them live one time. They were touring in support of their New Junk Aesthetic album. It was the best live show I have ever experienced. I will never forget, they opened with “Roman Holiday,” track one off New Junk. I was in graduate school in Lubbock, TX at the time. After the show, I went up to Andy Williams, the guitar player, and said “thank you so much for coming to Lubbock! Our only opportunities to see live music here are when Vertical Horizon, The Newsboys, or Hinder go on tour.”
Within the last six years, ETID completed two of my favorite albums of the 21st century: Low Teens in 2016, and their most recent, and now last album, Radical, in 2021. Low Teens features Keith Buckley’s actual singing voice perhaps more than any other album. The songs from Low Teens reminded ETID’s fanbase of Glassjaw’s influence on the band’s songwriting. Speaking of, ETID recently did a masterful mash-up with Cave In, another one of the band’s influences.
Maybe it’s just because Radical is their most recent, but it might be ETID’s best. And that’s what makes this break-up more disappointing. It’s not like this band fell flat on their faces with their recent songwriting and albums. The last two albums are incredible. Radical is an in-your-face middle finger to today’s world of demagoguery, hypocrisy, willful ignorance, abuse of power, and narcissistic leadership that demands loyalty and vilifies the pursuit of knowledge. A world, according to Keith Buckley, that is “enough to make an atheist pray for judgment day.” I mean, there is a song on the album titled “Planet Shit.” In addition to lyrics and song titles, the guitars and breakdowns on this album rival, if not surpass all of their previous records. From the moment track one opens, you don’t really get a chance to breathe until track 8. Then, just when you think ETID can’t surprise you any more, they crank out “Thing with Feathers,” leaving me in awe.
Then, just like that, it ends. Just as you get a taste of some amazing new music, it all ends. But hey, they had a long run and made the world of music a better place.
It was a great ride ETID! You have a fan for life here. With this gigantic hole in the music universe, I ask other bands out there, “which one of you sons of bitches is gonna make me feel alive? which one of you motherfuckers is gonna get inside my heart?”