When I found out Every Time I Die’s new album would be recorded at GodCity Studio by Kurt Ballou, I felt excitement, and also trepidation. Some of the greatest metal albums I’ve heard are recorded by Ballou— Board Up The House by Genghis Tron, Axe To Fall by Converge—and it seems like a great metal producer, plus a great metal band, SHOULD equal sonic bliss. On the other hand, ETID has been flirting with mediocrity ever since coming down from the high of their stellar 2005 album Gutter Phenomenon… and if Ballou doesn’t bring a fresh creativity out of them, I’ll be ready to write off one of my favorite bands for good.
A lot was riding on Unknown, and I’m happy to say it measures up. It’s not that the music is notably different from the last couple ETID records; this one just has more focus and more soul behind it.
You’ll get the familiar formula; it’s almost identical to their iteration in 2012’s Ex Lives—A few blistering opening tracks that have the singer screaming obscenities at you over really fast, really heavy metal, then more party anthems and straight rockabilly influences the farther into the album you go.
All of it is a lot like Ex Lives, but it’s all executed with much more finesse. The spirit of hardcore band Converge’s amazing songwriting is present in both albums, but it’s able to find a clearer expression here, with Converge’s songwriter Kurt Ballou behind the mixing board.
The standout track here is “Moor,” where the album drops its rock band formula for a moment in favor of a heavy, brooding piano riff that frames the singer’s laissez- faire-morose crooning before growing into a sludge-y, heavy-as-fuck death anthem. The song had potential to go to a completely different musical territory… ETID decided instead to do their familiar loud screaming thing… But it’s still one of the better songs.
The overall tone of this album is the best part, thanks to Ballou. The drums are clear, ballsy, and not too loud, and the guitars are an accurately chaotic mess of heaviness. Vocalist Keith Buckley is dialed back in the mix for
the first time since 2003’s Hot Damn, and the result is a balanced, singular beast of a mix. Every instrument lends itself to every other one, helping to frame what’s important—not any one aspect, but the entire band itself.
You won’t find anything groundbreaking here, but this is still one of ETID’s greatest albums. There isn’t a lot to be excited about in metal and hardcore these days, but this band is still very original, and very much in the top tier.