Review Summary: "The Big Dirty" is everything an Every Time I Die album should be.
Every Time I Die are one of the few bands in the Metalcore genre that evolve with every release instead of sticking to the same formula for each record. You can see an exceptional amount of growth between "Last Night In Town" and "Gutter Phenomenon", not only by way of ditching their "every other note is a dissonant chord" mentality, but by way of the other genres they have decided to include in their sound. Namely Southern Rock and Rock 'N' Roll.
Which brings me to "The Big Dirty". Upon first listen I was slightly appalled. The production was so damn clean and without edge I found it to be very sterile and boring. Not just production wise but as a whole. The songs seemed to lack the strength and creativity that was in abundance on their last three records. I can honestly say I found nothing "Dirty" about it. However, I am an Every Time I Die fan and I just couldn't bring myself to give up on them so quickly so I played the album again. And again. And again. And again until I realized that this is definitely Every Time I Die just being... Every Time I Die. The amazing one-liners are still present and Keith Buckley's lyrics, as always, go back and forth between being brilliantly worded satires of society and just downright hilarious.
Jordan Buckley and "Awesome" Andy don't play anything too challenging or technical with their simplistic power chords (they play in drop tunings but they still use them nonetheless) and hammer ons and pull offs but the Mathcore quality to their music has been vanishing since "Gutter Phenomenon". Don't get me wrong, they still play mind games with you over how long a measure is and even though they still recycle riffs, slightly tweaking them every once in awhile (which has always been their MO), they are adept at doing it in such a way that you don't even notice most of the time. Mike Novak is, as always, at the top of his game as a drummer and has continued that unusual method of NOT following the guitars with double bass at every turn like so many other Metal band drummers do. He mostly sticks to single pedal, choosing odd rhythms and tempo changes frequently, making the double bass precise and perfect when it finally comes into play. A big part of the production are the drums which sound better than ever in the mix. This is the first ETID release without a permanent bass player but I'm sure the bass on "The Big Dirty" was tracked by either Jordan or Andy because it is definitely present though not as complex as what was brought to the table in the rest of their catalog. But these guys play guitar, not bass, making it a forgivable effort because, quite frankly, "The Big Dirty" doesn't rely on bass. It relies on kick ass songs which I will discuss... after I finish praising Keith Buckley.
Keith Buckley has always been one of the best parts of Every Time I Die. His lyrics are always fun to read and sing along to and include enough metaphors, similes and twists on familiar phrases to keep every song interesting whether or not the music is up to par with his writing. A noticeable change in his approach, which you may have already noticed on "Gutter Phenomenon", is the sudden appearance of a chorus or refrain. On "Last Night In Town" and "Hot Damn!" the lyrics were free form and never, and I mean never, had a refrain line. Yes, Buckley does repeat certain phrases to give them more power but he hasn't actually used choruses until these last two albums. I must add that Buckley sounds incredible compared to his vocals on "Gutter Phenomenon". His singing sounds better, his screams are less indecipherable and his throat is a powerhouse of epic proportions.
One of the best breakdowns, arguably, of all time is hidden at the end of the song "Cities And Years". As soon as the last chorus is uttered the band rips into you like a frat boy laying a virgin. With Keith's scream of "WAR! COME WITH US HOME!" you are left with no other alternative other than bang your head in victory just because it's that damn good. The album stays consistent but the tracks all differentiate from one another. "We'rewolf" is a party anthem. No more, no less. It sounds like ETID is just having fun with this one, especially with the sudden change to a Southern Rock riff towards the end that gets you pumped. The Southern aspect is continued on with "Rendez-Voodoo", "INRIhab" and the second to last song "Buffalo Gals". Being from Buffalo, NY, you wouldn't expect a northern entity to be using Southern Rock stylings in their music but they pull it off surprisingly well. Most of the tracks mock the counterculture and cookie-cutter bands. "Depressionista" is a fine example with its chorus of "'Til death do we rock! We're so full of ***! 'Til death do we rock! You keep buying it!" along with other lines like "Though we try, try, try we get the melodies wrong but we remember the words". The closer, "Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Battery", is the counterpart to "Depressionista" and has lines like "My job here is done, you're ***ing welcome.", displaying the hostility the band feels for up and coming acts putting out the same, sorry, uninspired drivel again and again. The last words of the record are extremely appropriate, capitalizing on their animosity, "It is better to destroy, than to create what is meaningless so the picture will not be finished. Good night.", and with that last phrase the record immediately ends. No ifs, ands or cigarette butts.
There are still a few snags in "The Big Dirty" that can be a downer some times, even with so many other great things going for it. The lead guitar work isn't as good as it has been in the past and seems kind of drowned out by everything else when it shows up, so you really have to listen for it. Though the twin guitar dueling is still present, it's not as innovative as anything on their previous efforts, meaning the guitars sometimes sound too safe instead of volatile which is what ETID's riffing has always been known for. And even though the production is top notch I still find it to be a little too clean for a record like this which would benefit from a style less sterile and confined. The biggest problem is that upon the first few listens, something I addressed earlier, nothing really stands out. The album has to grow on you and take multiple listens before you can appreciate each song for what it is. Without recurring listens most of the tracks will blend together and kind of leave you wondering which song was which in the end.
All in all, Every Time I Die have achieved yet another great record. Though I was skeptical at first, being a huge fan of their first two records, I have found that I can't always dismiss something if it doesn't fit the mold of earlier albums. Unless of course it actually is awful. That not being the case, I recommend "The Big Dirty" to anyone that just wants a damn good record. That is if you have the patience to let it grow on you because I guarantee you will not fall in love with it right off the bat unless of course this is your very first ETID album. Metalcore, Southern Rock, whatever. It's Every Time I Die being... Every Time I Die. Quoting yourself twice in a review earns you 15 Metal points.
"I got a bone to pick with the morning sun and the first last call but I didn't put my hair in a pony tail for nothin' so if I'm goin' home alone I ain't goin' at all." - We'rewolf
Highlights: No Son Of Mine, We'rewolf, Cities And Years, Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Battery.