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9 out of 10
When it comes to snobbish elitists, it's not unfair to suggest that the hardcore scene has more than its fair share. They want to be first to own each release on all 38 different shades of limited edition clear orange vinyl, they want every shirt to be limited edition and they will insist - even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary - that a band's earlier work was vastly superior to anything they've attempted since. "Every Time I Die", they say, "will never top Hot Damn!" To some degree the band themselves are at fault here, as their second full length release way back in 2003 was the kind that raises the bar for an entire sub-genre; a relentless barrage of churning riffs, punishing breakdowns and witty lyrics that managed to combine speed and heaviness whilst always remaining surprisingly accessible.
Expectations for album three were high; Gutter Phenomenon was a success in bringing the band to a wider audience but the induction of southern rock elements into their punkish metalcore alienated portions of their fanbase. Therefore when they unleashed 2007's The Big Dirty it was a total shock, like Gutter Phenomenon (which by now even the band were slating in interviews) had never happened. It sounded like the logical progression from Hot Damn! only more streamlined and backed with superior production courtesy of Saves the Day/Dillinger Escape Plan cohort Steve Evetts, who beefed up the guitars and pushed the vocals to the forefront making vocalist Keith Buckley's wonderful turns of phrase even more evident.
It also marked the fulfilment of their contract with Ferret Records and the band has since inked a deal with legendary indie label Epitaph, who are releasing album number three: New Junk Aesthetic.
Any worries prompted by first single Wanderlust that the group has taken to excessive use of melody are swiftly laid to rest as the preceding trio of Roman Holiday, The Marvellous Slut and Who Invited the Russian Soldier, shout and growl their way into some of the heaviest territory the group has ever occupied. Wanderlust itself is more Inrihab than Ebolarama, with hints of Queens of the Stone Age in the way the drums roll around beautifully during the "Morals are simply a matter of time and where you lay your head's a question of pride" refrain. Drummer Mike Novak has since parted ways with the group, ironic given that the band have finally found a permanent bassist in Josh Newton after a revolving door of previous four-stringers that threatened to give them a Tap-esque number of previous members. Still, Novak leaves on a high as his distinctive style ties the more off-kilter riffs together making even the trickier time signatures flow effortlessly from section to section.
What really becomes apparent halfway through the album is how it never lets up; it's frantic and intense but never at the expense or hooks. Lyrically it's a cut above other bands of their ilk, with references to everything from Discworld to Nietszche. Melody is used as sparingly as ever but when Buckley does turn up the croon it's always tasteful and almost invariably over hugely impressive guitar work. That's other quality ETID have in spades: Fucking. Huge. Riffs. Loads of them. Guitarists Jordan Buckley (brother of Keith) and Andy Williams never suffer from a lack of ideas and whether it's a galloping verse section or a Coalesce-style discordant breakdown there's bags of variety. The cameos are slightly less inspired than usual, while in the past Gerard Way, Daryl Palumbo and Dallas Green (each possessing a particularly distinct vocal) have been roped in this time we're treated to Matt Caughthran of The Bronx and Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan. Both talented screamers to be sure, but neither is especially different from the coarse roar of Buckley. Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy is on there somewhere too, but it's unnoticeable to the point where the band recently staged a competition where fans were invited to guess which track exactly it was that Wentz featured on.
The fact that a song as blistering as recent tour highlight Buffalo 666 can be relegated to a bonus track on the deluxe edition is testament to the rich vein of songwriting form that the band has tapped into. As well as a second exclusive track (The vaguely Deftones-y Goddam Kids These Days) the real draw of the deluxe edition is the Party Poopers DVD, their third after Shit Happens and Dudes and Don'ts. It focuses mainly on the making of NJA and their UK tour with Gallows and if either prequel was to your liking then you'll find plenty of alcohol fuelled antics to keep you going until Shit Happens 2 arrives next year.
According to Buckley, the title refers to how hard it is to distinguish between good and bad art. What's valid and what's worthless? There can be no disputing the quality of the artwork for NJA, created in-house by guitarist Jordan during the recording process. Each song is accompanied by a striking illustration offering a pictorial interpretation of the lyrical content. It brings the whole package together perfectly and makes you hope that perhaps now, with a new label able to provide them with a much larger promotional budget than they're used to, Every Time I Die will finally make the breakthrough they so richly deserve.
1. Roman Holiday
2. The Marvellous Slut
3. Who Invited The Russian Soldier
5. For the Record
6. White Smoke
7. Turtles All the Way Down
8. Organ Grinder
9. Host Disorder
10. After One Quarter of A Revolution
11. The Sweet Life
12. Buffalo 666
13. Goddam Kids These Days