twentynine scene #2: EVERY TIME I DIE - Hot Damn! (2003)
The year 2019 is now twentynine scene. Join Two Minutes to Late Night co-creator Drew Kaufman as he looks at back at the seminal albums that defined what it meant to be someone who lived for -core between the years 1999 to 2009. Screamo, power violence, mall metal, whatever your older brother called it. Do these albums still live up to their hype, or are they beautiful little time capsules buried beneath the convenience store that sold you cigarettes when you were underage? Buckle up your studded seat belts and pull your old snake bites out from the scrapbook as we stave dive into number two on the Monster Energy Stage, Every Time I Die’s Hot Damn!
The second I discovered hardcore I felt like I was invited to a huge party that I always knew existed but I never knew the address. I had been going to local shows in my neighborhood for a few years without ever expecting anything other than being outside at 10 pm sharp so my mom could pick me up. Suddenly there was a dress code to follow, dance moves to learn, and lyrics to pretend to know so I could steal the microphone from a skinny 22-year-old English major. The handful of bands that steamrolled the hardcore scene in the late 90s influenced every band to follow and Every Time I Die taught everyone how to party.
In only a few short years, Every Time I Die went from being the young Buffalo band opening for Killswitch Engage to the reason why we all owned a pair of aviator sunglasses or grew handlebar mustaches as soon as we could. Keith Buckley, his brother Jordan, and big man Andy Williams were the coolest thing to happen to metal since torrenting. And fans knew everything about them because of their insane tour diary DVDs, Shit Happens (these introductory paragraphs are honestly “shinfo”). While our nautical star tattoos may not have stood the test of time, does ETID’s second album fair better?
Hot Damn! was great, is still great, and will always be great.
Every Time I Die’s first album, Last Night in Town, was a very good romp through neurotic guitar squeals with an obvious influence from Cave In’s Until Your Heart Stops and some Converge for good measure. With Hot Damn!, ETID drew a line in the sandy mosh pit to mark their new, individual sound. This album has riffs for days, vocals that draw you in, and lyrics that are still astonishing. This album started an upward trajectory in quality that still hasn’t shown any signs of stopping over 15 years later. Hot Damn! Is the reason why anyone with ADHD can’t listen to albums with songs that take more than literally one second to kick in. Seriously, every single song on here either starts with a thick-ass beef riff or a drum fill that makes “Wipe Out” sound like “Seven Nation Army.”
What’s so endearing about this album is how it can be sardonic without ever being ironic. I remember the first time I heard “I Been Gone a Long Time” and when those cowbells kicked in I lost my shit. At the time many of the more jaded people in the scene thought that the whole classic/southern rock style of ETID was a gimmick, but as a kid who grew up on those 70s and 80s hits, I recognized genuine appreciation for all things that belong being blasted from a Pontiac Firebird. From the 1-2-3-4 count in “Off Broadway” to the handclaps in “Ebolarama,” Hot Damn! finds a way to be fun, without funny. A rare feat in a time when the dominating force behind grindcore and art punk was scaring your relatives.
But This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race Let's tear apart Hot Damn! and Every Time I Die.
No Hardcore Dancing In The Living Room: Can you mosh to Every Time I Die? Look, this is a no-brainer. Any scene kid worth their carabiner knows that the end of “Floater” is the greatest breakdown of the 20th century. Every song on this album (minus the mostly instrumental “In the Event That Everything Should Go Terribly Wrong”) has the kind of breakdown that makes you want to do spin kicks in your mom’s basement at any age. Second place for me is… also “Floater.” They do that breakdown three times for a reason.
Gluing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You A Cantaloupe: Unlike many of their contemporaries, Every Time I Die doesn’t bother to waste their good word plays on song titles. Every title on Hot Damn! seems to be a logical pairing with its song. Interestingly, I wonder if “Hit of the Search Party” consciously evolved into Keith’s social media handle, Death of the Party. Also “She’s My Rushmore” is a reference to the Wes Anderson movie, Rushmore, which was not a huge hit and kind of obscure at the time. You go, Glenn Coco.
You’re Cute When You Scream: Keith’s vocals are incredible on this album. This is the first time I can really remember hearing a hardcore vocalist’s lyrics relatively clearly. Keith screams with intent and sings with confidence. So much so that ETID even got a shoutout by metal snob comedian Brian Posehn in his 2006 comedy song “Metal by Numbers.” Wow, now that song is problematic!
Nothing We Say Leaves This Room: Is this album problematic? Even before this album and Keith finished his very prevalent degree and chugged classic literature like it was cough syrup, ETID was consistently creating songs with thought-provoking lyrics (read the actual lyrics to “The Logic of Crocodiles”). One of the benefits of quality writing is it doesn’t feel dated at all. Some of these songs tackle classic scene tropes like breakups, suicides, and binge drinking, but they are hidden within dense idioms and Shakespearian references. You’ve got such great quotes as “when in Rome we shall do as the Romans. When hell we take shots at the bar” and “Everybody's dying to lay down with you. I got the order all wrong” and “the greatest lovers were murderers first,” which oddly became a very popular tattoo among Etidiots. I wonder how many of them realize it’s based off Othello.
Hey, It’s Your Funeral, Mama: So whatever happened to Every Time I Die. I think if you’re reading this, you know damn well ETID is still one of the absolute biggest bands in hardcore today. The truth is I almost never listen to this album anymore because every single Every Time I Die album is better than the last. While Hot Damn! Is 100% a masterpiece, I think every album after this is even better. Hot Damn! was followed up by two more albums in a similar vein; 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon and 2007’s The Big Dirty both expanded upon their southern-rock inspired party sound but also pushed the heaviness and catchy hooks further. This stylistic period reached the boiling point when ETID played their biggest single, “We’rewolf” on Jimmy Kimmel on Halloween in 2007. After that, ETID released two albums that were considerably darker and more experimental, 2009’s The New Junk Aesthetic and 2012’s Ex Lives. While these albums are a little weaker in self-assurance and more of a junior year hair cut, they are an important step towards the two most modern ETID albums, 2014’s From Parts Unknown and 2016’s Low Teens which are both, without-a-doubt, the best of the best. These last two albums absolute staples of what it means to be a modern metalcore band and prove ETID is not fading away any time soon.
I have plenty of love beyond nostalgia for Hot Damn! but in the year 2019 it is the weakest Every Time I Die album. If you don’t agree with me, think of it like this: when you get in the last place in the Olympics, you might not have gotten gold but you’re still a better karate motherfucker than pretty much every other person in your country. Every Time I Die is a band which has worked very hard to keep the energy of their work while also harnessing the craftsmanship brought with maturity. But don't worry too much about maturity having changed the band because they uploaded a music video to Youtube which features a real human penis. How the fuck this video hasn't been pulled down is the true spirit of punksgiving.
Please don't be a grumpy old scenester. Do yourself a favor and visit the more recent albums if you haven’t yet. Or at least give The New Junk Aesthetic another listen. It's whats Panic at the Disco would do, apparently. Every Time I Die rules, dude.
I give Hot Damn! five flatirons out of five… but I give the rest of their discography six XD roflcopter.