Someone please help me because I’m confused. According to certain sections of the rock press, Every Time I Die are the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas, the puppy’s privates – if you will – of hardcore punk. Gutter Phenomenon is the album where the promise and talent they showed on Last Night In Town and Hot Damn! is supposed to come together into a noisy package that will have listeners – in the words of track seven – Champing At The Bit…
…But I just don’t get it.
Now, I’m not saying that Gutter Phenomenon is a bad album. Not at all. Tracks such as Apocalypse Now And Then and The New Black are actually spot-on with oodles of energy; masses of dirty, greasy and downright heavy guitars; and yet still with a memorable quality that increases with repeated playback.
Meanwhile, courtesy of a superlative job by Lamb Of God and Clutch producer Machine, the guitars sound huge, while it’s true to say that Every Time I Die’s trick of adding a Southern fried, redneck feel to their riffs and licks gives them something of a unique edge in a genre that became cluttered beyond a joke aeons ago.
So what’s the problem? Well, this aural palette just doesn’t find enough of the tracks special or extraordinary enough to warrant anything more than a cursory shrug of the shoulders.
In fact, too often Every Time I Die seem stuck between wanting to actually write songs (tellingly, the two “good” tracks mentioned earlier) and abandoning such notions in favour of chaotic, Norma Jean-ish brutality. And when they do go for the latter, as in the pounding Bored Stiff, they spoil it all by going out of their way to ensure the listener understands what they must think is a lyrical pearl of wisdom: ‘Hey there girls, I’m a c**t’. A piece of advice gents – stop fannying around…
Even the presence of My Chemical Romance‘s Gerard Way on Kill The Music and Glassjaw‘s Daryl Palumbo on Champing At The Bit does little to raise the bar. In fact, I defy anyone to tell me they’d have known said rock stars were guest-vocalling at all if they hadn’t been told first.
Perhaps I’ll eventually come to understand what all the fuss is about. In anticipation, the humble pie is already baking in the oven but in the meantime my conclusion is that this album should be enjoyed for what it is – a piece of perfectly produced, razor-sharp but only fleetingly exceptional hardcore.