Every Time I Die, RIP – a transcendent, trailblazing, cathartic band till the very end
Monday night brought the heartbreaking news that Every Time I Die have broken up after 23 years as a band. It's news that understandably shocked and saddened the punk, metal, and hardcore communities for multiple reasons. It's only been three months since ETID released their ninth album Radical, one of the best of their career, and the band was just one month away from beginning a lengthy North American tour with Underoath. It also comes one month after tensions between frontman Keith Buckley and the rest of the band became public, but the band appeared to resolve their issues in time to headline their annual holiday mini-festival 'Tid the Season, which was, by all accounts, as awesome as the band had ever been. These days, a band just up and breaking up like this, especially with their career at an all-time high, almost never happens. Breakups are usually announced ahead of time and preceded by farewell tours (assuming no scandal is involved), not announced right in the middle of an active period for the band, putting a stop on all upcoming plans. And most of all, Every Time I Die just seemed like a band who would last forever. Up until news of the inner-band tension surfaced in December, founding members Keith Buckley, Jordan Buckley (his brother), and Andy Williams kept the band going without disruption for over two decades, and bassist Stephen Micciche was there almost the entire time too. A handful of other bassists and drummers (most recently Clayton "Goose" Holyoak, previously of Norma Jean and Fear Before the March of Flames) joined them along the way, but the core lineup stuck together for longer than most of their peers and never went very long without an album or a tour.
Every Time I Die not only stuck together for so long, they also continued to write excellent music, grow with their fans, and draw in new fans and inspire new generations along the way. Every Time I Die helped define the early 2000s metalcore boom with their 2003 sophomore album Hot Damn!, and their influence and impact didn't stop there. Later albums like 2005's Gutter Phenomenon and 2007's The Big Dirty brought in a more melodic Southern rock influence and attracted a new set of fans from outside of the hardcore and metalcore scenes, and as the mainstream lost interest in that style of music, ETID put out an equally solid run of 2010s albums that kept longtime fans on their toes and won over younger listeners who missed the boat on Hot Damn!. As a new wave of metalcore started to crop up in the late 2010s, ETID positioned themselves not just as forebears to the younger bands, but also as collaborators, with Keith Buckley singing on modern-day landmarks from Knocked Loose and SeeYouSpaceCowboy. ETID's reach also went far beyond metalcore, as evidenced by the multi-genre lineups of 'Tid the Season (which have featured Against Me!, The Get Up Kids, Ghostface Killah, Circa Survive, Ice T, Poison the Well, Cave In, Snapcase, Turnstile, PUP, and more) and their array of other collaborations, which not only included members of hardcore/metalcore bands like Deadguy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Glassjaw, Coalesce, and The Chariot, but also members of Manchester Orchestra, The Gaslight Anthem, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance. By the time Every Time I Die released their ninth and now-final album Radical, they were more than a band. They were an institution.
ETID's impact can also be measured in part by the tributes that came pouring in after the breakup was announced. Underoath, who they were gearing up to tour with, said, "They're leaving a hole in music that simply won't be filled." Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge called them "one of the best bands to ever do it." The Gaslight Anthem's Benny Horowitz said, "ETID changed it all [...] They were always different, musically and personally, brimming with fire and energy. Among my favorite bands ever, I’ll miss them." Multiple bands, including Stray From The Path, The Callous Daoboys, and fallfiftyfeet, expressed that they wouldn't exist without ETID's influence. And just from looking at the outpouring of tributes on social media from fans, it's clear that this is a band who touched so many lives and continued to do so up through the very end. We've seen countless bands last just a few years and call it quits right after releasing a soon-to-be-classic album, and we've seen even more bands burn out over time, but it's not very often we see a band go strong for over two decades and break up at one of their highest peaks.
Whether or not Radical goes down as ETID's best album, which it very well may be, it's at least their most ambitious and their most mature. With 16 songs in over 51 minutes, it incorporates everything from ETID's fiercest hardcore to their most gorgeous melodies, and Keith's lyrical content touches on everything from familial tragedy to systemic racism in a way that leaves you hanging on every word. It may have come as a shock to the world that ETID broke up, but the tension had to be building within the band long before the public caught wind of it, which makes me wonder if ETID had a feeling that Radical would be their swan song, and if knowing that inspired them go out with a bang. Keith's lyrics often feel open for interpretation, but given the fate of the band, it's hard not to wonder if a song like "Hostile Architecture" had anything to do with the band's imminent breakup ("I look at everything I love and all I can think about is losing it," "A real 'party's over atmosphere/You can't go home but you can't stay here," Don't you just hate to hear it?"), or if any of the band's tension spilled over into "All This and War" ("It was perfect, just embrace the chill," "All my history, it's a crying shame," "It ends when I say it ends/Yeah, and then we war, that's just who we are"). Speaking about "Post-Boredom" to Apple Music, Keith said, "I wrote this about what would happen if I died and was reborn. If I had another chance at life, what would I do differently? What would I do the same?" Even if that quote has nothing to do with Every Time I Die, it's fitting that feelings of death and rebirth loom large over the signature track of the band's final album.
As messy as the band's breakup is, Every Time I Die's story does -- in some ways -- have a neat ending. They went out after releasing an album that took their songwriting and reputation to a new level. Their last-ever shows were at their own big homecoming holiday party, surrounded by friends, collaborators, and diehard fans. We'll always be left wondering what could have happened next if they kept going, but at least we'll also remember them for having a spotless discography, for always moving forward, and for always playing every single show like it could be their last, even when it actually was. Every Time I Die leaves behind a legacy that spans generations and genres; they innovated at every turn, they opened doors for so many musicians and music fans, and they were true originals who entirely transcended whatever scene you could try to group them with. And more importantly than any of that, their music truly resonated with so many people. They're important and influential, but even if "importance" and "influence" on a macro level doesn't matter to you, you can connect to ETID's songs on a personal level. As much as they forged new paths and broke new ground, they never lost sight of the reason people gravitate towards music in the first place: human connection.
Some videos and more tributes below...