New Junk Aesthetic
2009 has seen Epitaph acquiring some pretty big established names. First they welcomed veteran pop-punkers New Found Glory; then they extended an offering to former screamo group Thursday, followed by hardcore favourites Converge, and now most recently New York hardcore staple, Every Time I Die. Every Time I Die have been pumping out their unique brand of hardcore since 1998, and amassed quite a following over the past decade. They’re latest album, New Junk Aesthetic, serves as my introduction to the group, and after listening to their unique take on hardcore I can see what all the fuss is about.
Firstly, there’s no question that vocalist Keith Buckley has nailed the art of screaming. Buckley screams in a style that preserves lyrical clarity without sacrificing hardcore’s ragged intensity. Although not a chronologically accurate comparison, Buckley’s cries are quite comparable to those found in recently reviewed UK hardcore act Confide. But Buckley isn’t a one trick pony. For example, on tracks like “Wanderlust” and “Host Disorder” he pulls out some southern swagger. The change is abrupt but natural, and plays a big part in giving It Dies Today an edge over their peers.
Furthermore, New Junk Aesthetic carries on Every Time I Die’s knack for creating unpredictable yet oddly appealing song structures and lyrics centered on vivid imagery. Tracks like “White Smoke” may start with seemingly standard riff heavy breakdowns, but then the unconventional chord choices reveal themselves, as well as some dominant bass work and, pardon the comparison, surprisingly mellow System Of A Down-like moments. The occasional use of clean-backing vocals on tracks like “Turtles All The Way Down” further helps tame the madness without watering down their sound.
Lyrically, tracks like the aforementioned “Wanderlust” demonstrate a keen understanding of lyrical purpose. A tale of guilt and self-examination, the track doesn’t degrade into visceral imagery right off the bat, but takes almost the entire track to escalate from phrases like “lord only knows/I’m tied but won’t rest my head until I’m home/and if my hands find another body, well you can’t blame them for trying to keep warm,” to the deep anger and blunt imagery a couple minutes later: “And when they take my head and put it on a stake/I’ll know that guilt and disgrace keep the dead men awake.” The band’s keen sense of development makes lyrics like these just as engaging as the music itself.
And before I end, a quick note about the artwork. It’s fantastic. Each song contains an accompanying full-page illustration. The images all communicate a very over exaggerated and abstract, “fleshy” style. They’re morbid without being violent, and fascinatingly detailed. The artwork alone more than justifies picking up the jewel case over the digital product.
New Junk Aesthetic is a great package physically, instrumentally, and lyrically. If hardcore is your thing, then don’t let this one pass you by.