Those that felt underwhelmed by Every Time I Die’s The Big Dirty (a company of which this writer is a part) need not worry – New Junk Aesthetic, their new album, has the energy, texture, and savagery the prior record lacked. And this isn’t to say The Big Dirty was a massive, St. Anger-style failure; it was just an alright album in the company of the splendid Southern-fried rock of Gutter Phenomenon or their debut, the up-there-with-Jane Doe lost metalcore classic Last Night in Town. And when viewed in retrospect, Big Dirty appears to be the band’s “growth” record: where they fumbled around, sounding somewhat bored and uninspired (though admittedly still pretty entertaining), perhaps even unsure of what to do next. New Junk Aesthetic is a band completely comfortable with itself, and pushing different boundaries because of that. Vocalist Keith Buckley belts out ridiculously catchy vocals hooks with his same refreshingly smarmy lyrical approach, while guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley tone down their Southern riff attack to eschew the risk of sounding like a novelty. The album finds the band at its most likable while occasionally incorporating a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on their debut. If you liked Every Time I Die before, you’ll probably find reasons on this record to like them more. That being said, the differences of the ETID on New Junk Aesthetic are subtle; they still sound a lot like the wise-ass hellraisers they always have. MySpace “singles” “The Marvelous Slut” and “Wanderlust” bring the sort of Every Time I Die you’d expect, with big riffs with the occasional discordant breakdown thrown in for good measure. “Wanderlust,” though, is a better signifier of the ETID of New Junk Aesthetic: groovy guitars with the singing Buckley providing his best clean vocal work in the band’s career. And Keith’s vocal performance – one of the trademarks of Every Time I Die – is top notch throughout the album, with wonderful, full-throated singing and screaming that’s more bile-heavy than it’s been since Hot Damn!. His clever turns of phrase and Ian Mackaye-grade simplistic sing alongs (“Marvelous Slut”‘s “If death’s coming, it best come quick or I’m all yours” and “Organ Grinder”‘s “Just because you’re afraid of the dark doesn’t mean that it’s frightened of you” may sound plain, but are fucking devastating in the context of their respective songs) are a wink to listeners with an IQ over 100 (As a writer, it’s hard to analyze lyrics – ESPECIALLY metal lyrics – but Buckley’s work with Every Time I Die has consistently been a notch above, characteristic of a guy who, you know, reads a book every once and a while).

Of course, all this talk about one brother Buckley is dismissing the other, who along with guitarist (and upcoming MetalSucks interviewee) Andy Williams crafts riffs that brilliantly segue between Southern-informed grooves and Dillinger Escape Plan/Botch-style breakdowns. Keith’s inspired rambling simply puts the band over the top; New Junk Aesthetics‘s real star is its riffcraft, perfectly inhabiting the middle ground between heavy and catchy.

While occasionally playing with tempo and dynamics, New Junk Aesthetic works best when it operates in the confines of Every Time I Die’s strongpoints: rocking balls out as often as possible. And the band haven’t rocked out this righteously since they dedicated themselves to sassiness on Hot Damn!. If you wrote the band off as being boring ‘core enthusiasts or Guitar Hero sellouts, New Junk Aesthetic will prove you wrong. Full of the energy, piss, vinegar, and whiskey you’d expect, the album balances its heaviness with the sort of subtle complexity that warrants repeat listens. Every Time I Die have always faltered when too wrapped up in having fun; they’ve been at their best when they’ve balanced quality riffs with substance. The latter is the lifeblood of the album. If you want to hear why people still give a fuck about Every Time I Die, New Junk Aesthetic is excellent proof. If you’ve written them off as fashioncore posers, it’s your loss.

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(4 out of 5 horns)


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