Review Summary: Gutter Phenomenon is an excellent synthesis of the expected and the unexpected.Chapter III: Branching Out
After an experience as explosive as Hot Damn!
, I suppose it was inevitable that Every Time I Die would start expanding their sound a bit with the followup album. While retaining much of the same musical DNA found in the band’s previous records, Gutter Phenomenon
sees them treading upon more melodic and anthemic territory. Elements of southern rock and classic rock have now started making their way into the group’s signature sound, as Keith Buckley’s clean and screamed vocals are delivered more equally than ever. For many metalcore outfits, this would usually be regarded as a sellout move; however, the way Gutter Phenomenon
juggles its contrasts makes for a compelling and even fascinating record.
Prior to the recording of the album, the members of Every Time I Die looked back at their previous releases and started contemplating ways that they could branch out their sound for the next project. In the end, it seemed like the best way to move forward was to look backwards; that is to say that they began wondering if classic rock had any possible place in hardcore or metalcore. However, if the brutality of opener “Apocalypse Now and Then” is any indication, it’s pretty clear that they weren’t going to fully abandon their roots; instead Gutter Phenomenon
is the result of merging disparate styles together while still being surprisingly consistent and cohesive. In any case, the variety found on the record is highly welcome. On top of the melodic clean singing that adds a new dimension to Buckley’s voice, the instrumental passages are given much more diversity in both arrangement and performance. Guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley have greatly expanded their roles here, such as on the catchy-yet-unsettling leads on “The New Black” or the manic tremolo picking on “L’astronaut”. Of course, they don’t completely digress from what made them such staples in the metalcore world to begin with; there are still plenty of heavy-as-fuck breakdowns and angular riffs that make their way onto the album as usual. But it’s nice hearing the duo fusing other sounds into their preexisting style. Add the stellar drumming from Mike Novak on top of all this, and the lineup is in fantastic form on Gutter Phenomenon
One of the most impressive traits of Every Time I Die is that they always managed to evolve their sound step-by-step without ever abandoning their roots along the way. Any stylistic shift that seemed poised to alienate listeners was always met with thick slabs of metalcore bliss to assure their fanbase that they hadn’t lost the plot. It’s difficult to walk that artistic tightrope, but Every Time I Die pull it off near-effortlessly; “Kill the Music” (featuring Gerard Way!) and “Pretty Dirty” may have their share of melody and accessibility in their clean-sung moments, but such moments are still accompanied by the same off-kilter riffs and intense screams that we’ve come to expect by the band. In other words, Gutter Phenomenon
is an excellent synthesis of the expected and the unexpected. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Hot Damn!
- largely due to lacking the same pure, visceral thrill of that record - it still manages to be another solid entry in the band’s discography. Don’t let the clean vocals and accessible moments deter or fool you: this is still an Every Time I Die album in every sense of the word, and it’s a damn good one.