Review: The Damned Things – High Crimes

Count me as one of the (many? few?) that found great enjoyment in The Damned Thing’s 2010 debut, Ironiclast. That album served as both the most interesting project released during the late aughts Fall Out Boy hiatus and an album that tugged at my hard rock heartstrings, even though some found it (incorrectly) to be too generic. In many ways, it was ahead of its time, laying a foundation for other punk and metalcore acts to explore more accessible sounds in recent years.

You can buy or stream High Crimes on Apple Music.

Nevertheless, as time passed, it began to feel more and more like a fleeting moment that never found its foothold. The band’s members (Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, and Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley) all have successful careers and plenty to do aside from scratching a side project itch that a select group of fans quietly clamor for. But here we are nine years later with another album on our hands. And let me tell you, High Crimes is unbelievably good, one-upping its predecessor in almost every way.

The easiest place to find fault in Ironiclast was in its safety. While full of melody and fun, radio rock guitar riffs, the album goes by in a breeze, never really changing pace or taking chances. High Crimes truly feels like the band, now employing Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano on bass, just said, “Fuck it. Let’s have some fun.”

Opening track and first single “Cells” capitalizes on the potential a band with this much star power possesses. It’s raw, wild and manic throughout, feeling from its opening moments las if it’s channeling In Utero’s spirit. The track’s best moment comes near the end as Buckley shouts, “Guitar!” just in time for a sick guitar solo. It’s a moment so carefree and silly that it allows you to lower your guard and simply enjoy the ride.

High Crimes succeeds in capturing very distinguishable influences from each of its members – something Ironiclast could never fully execute. Here, there is no pressure to make something specific – just a group of musicians having a great time and bringing their own ideas playfully to the table. The album transitions from fast and dirty hardcore punk tracks like “Carry a Brick” to dark, eerie synth-driven songs like “Storm Chaser” to cheesy rock n’ roll sing-a-long moments like “Something Good”, which opens with a group chant of “Y-E-L-L / All of my friends are going to hell”.

Hearing Trohman and Ian have so much fun on guitar throughout the album is truly a delight. It’s almost as if that metaphorical loosening of the tie allows Buckley to tap into his signature wit and exuberant nature. On “Invincible”, easily the most accessible track on the album, Buckley croons, “And if you’re trying to bring me down / Then you’re the last to know / Once the bullet leaves my brain, it can’t be stopped / You’re in over your heard / I’m invincible!”

Later, on “Young Hearts”, Buckley flexes his voice in new ways, with ghostly back-up vocals added to the mix: “Young hearts don’t come free tonight (come free tonight) / And not one of them is built to save my life (to save my life)”. On grimy rocker “Keep Crawling”, he taps into a dark mood of self-loathing, singing, “I’ve been broken / I’ve been shamed / But I keep crawling back / You keep calling it faith”.

With all of its variety, High Crimes still manages to feel cohesive. There are changes of pace and plenty of moments to catch waning ears, but there’s an easy-going sense of purpose that helps tie things all together. Each member finds moments to shine, but never at the cost of pulling the sound too far in one direction. The band even manages to save one final fastball for closing track, “The Fire is Cold”, unleashing ripping guitar riffs and spastic screaming from Buckley, feeling like one final burst of artistic energy that has pent up over the past nine years.

Since its inception, The Damned Things has been a project full of the kind of potential that could conceivably go toe-to-toe with the legacies of the parts that made it. Unfortunately, super groups often suffer from that very trap, never living up to the expectations that come naturally with so many household names. High Crimes may not sit on the same shelf as some of the best releases from Every Time I Die, Anthrax or Fall Out Boy, but it sure as hell works as the kind of rock record that feels fresh in 2019, which is truly no small feat.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Review: Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

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This shouldn’t be happening. This is the point in a band’s career where things should be tailing off, the edge should be dulling, the fire should be dwindling. This is the time where we begin saying our goodbyes and living off the nostalgia. Right?

Now 16 years into their career, and seven albums deep, hardcore heavyweights Every Time I Die may have just released the most frantic, punishing, explosive album of their career.

From Parts Unknown is certainly the most rabid and angry release from the band since 2003’s Hot Damn!, which is truly saying something. Whereas their last outing, Ex Lives, was an experimental look at the band’s potential future path, From Parts Unknown is a shockingly explosive return to the dark, dirty, filthy rock and roll that put Every Time I Die at the top of the heavy music pack.

Over half of the songs on the new album clock in at around or under two and a half minutes, creating an urgency not found in most bands ten years their junior. Opener “The Great Secret” bursts down the door with its thrashing guitars, while “Pelican of the Desert” transitions to a hardcore punk/post-hardcore hybrid akin to Underoath in their heyday.

They’ve always been one of the best duos in the scene, but guitarists Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams push themselves further than ever on this new release. Relief comes in the form of sludgy passages on tracks like “Moor”, before the break-neck pace is restored on songs like “If There is Room to Move, Things Move”. This isn’t shredding for shredding’s sake – this is an artful display of technical talent, conveying every measure with purpose, even if it causes your head to spin.

Likewise, vocalist Keith Buckley turns in a performance for the ages. Long considered one of the best screamers around, Buckley’s work on From Parts Unknown is downright legendary. It would be easy to believe that many of his vocals were completed in one take – it can’t be easy churning up this kind of emotion for hours on end.

Buckley’s screams and shouts seem to come from a place of deep pain and anger, and as goofy as Every Time I Die tends to be in their live performance and on-camera demeanor, his lyrics sound the opposite – full of despair and frustration.

From his repeated opening cries of “Blow your fucking brains out” to his chilling lines of “And girl, you know I want to tie up a rope and crack my crooked spine” on “Decayin With the Boys” and “All I want is for everyone to go to hell / It’s the last place I was seen before I lost myself” on album closer “Idiot”, it’s clear that this isn’t the faux-angry metalcore angst that plagues much of the genre.

Like Architects’ stellar release Lost Forever // Lost Together earlier this year, From Parts Unknown digs to that uncomfortable, sometimes scary nerve with its blunt dose of painful reality. That blend of unstable emotion and a knack for crafting otherworldly crushing tracks to convey it makes for a toxic brew – one that’s much needed in a genre thirsty for something authentic.

Every Time I Die seem to defy logic. Not only has the band yet to release a forgettable album, they’ve continued to push themselves and their peers with every move they make. No one would fault the band if they began to fade away – everyone does eventually, no matter how great. If From Parts Unknown is any indication, Every Time I Die have no intention of releasing their iron grip on the scene any time soon.

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Every Time I Die release music video for “Thirst”

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Post-hardcore act Every Time I Die are set to release their new album From Parts Unknown on July 1. Can’t wait to hear some new tunes? You’re in luck – the band has released a new music video for a new song titled “Thirst”. The track is short, but packs a punch. You can view the video below:

You can also check out the artwork and track listing for the new album here:

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1. The Great Secret
2. Pelican Of The Desert
3. Decayin’ With The Boys
4. Overstayer
5. If There Is Room To Move, Things Move
6. Moor
7. Exometrium
8. Thirst
9. Old Light
10. All Structures Are Unstable
11. El Dorado
12. Idiot

Like what you hear? You can preorder From Parts Unknown in the band’s webstore.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

letlive. release rendition of “27 Club” featuring Keith Buckley

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If you’re like us and couldn’t get enough of letlive.’s stellar 2013 release The Blackest Beautiful, you’re in luck. The band is giving the songs from their album an overhaul as part of their Renditions series, in which they give guest vocalists an opportunity to sing over a part of one of their songs. Lead vocalist Jason Aalon Butler explained:

We presented them one song off of our latest album and asked them what they would do with a certain section if I (Jason Aalon) never sang in said section. We asked them to explore with free reign utilizing their particular style and prose. The point of this was not only to share our gratitude and adoration for other bands/artists, but to work with other artists we appreciate in new methods of collaboration and provide listeners with an exciting approach. In doing this you will hear the same song with different artists providing their artistic signature in the same section. The contrast, we believe, will not negate any single performance, but enhance all of them.

The first rendition features Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die singing over the bridge of “27 Club” – check it out below:

You can buy The Blackest Beautiful on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck