Whether you like it or not, bands are finite. No matter how long of a run they have, at some point they decide to hang it up or internal tensions cause break-ups. In their place, the musicians of those bands go off to form new projects that sometimes fall into similar territory and other times go in drastically different directions. Better Lovers is a great example of the former, with the potential to expand to the latter as they continue to move forwards. Shortly after release of one of their better efforts (2021’s Radical), the estrangement of members of Every Time I Die from singer Keith Buckley led that band to implode. Three of that group’s members started working with Fit For An Autopsy/END’s Will Putney and then enlisted The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato to put the finishing touches on Better Lovers’ lineup, and they’ve quickly released the four song EP God Made Me An Animal. It pulls from a lot of the elements that defined Every Time I Die’s music while hinting at some newer directions, and while it doesn’t fully distinguish itself just yet this is still a fantastic start.
Opener “Sacrificial Participant” showcases the first changes to come from Jordan Buckley, Stephen Micciche, and Clayton Holyoak. You’re greeted with the same type of angular, soaring riffs that are drenched in rock ‘n roll swagger as Every Time I Die, but after the first minute or so the focus shifts over to melody and the track takes on a bit more of a post hardcore and alternative rock vibe. It’s a strong opener that showcases that despite the obvious similarities in riff styles, Better Lovers may have more in store than just being an ETID 2.0. The two tracks that follow do fall into that type of pattern, as “30 Under 13” and “Become So Small” have the swagger and mathcore meets metalcore type of scorching riffs that make this sound like ETID with Greg Puciato. But that’s not necessarily a negative considering how tight and technically proficient the performances are, with some added hooks in there to grab your attention. Out of these two songs I think “30 Under 13” stands out just a bit more with its jump into faster thrash and squealing breaks, but both have been on repeat since the EP came out. The title track follows the path charted by “Sacrificial Participant”, starting off with much heavier and raw guitar work that has that distinctive Southern swagger but transitioning over to much softer ideas around the halfway point. It feels like Better Lovers is just scratching the surface in this regard and teasing that they are interested in doing a bit more sonically than merely repeating the controlled chaos and rawer hooks of their past material. Yet with how strong the four tracks are I’ve still found myself having God Made Me An Animal on regular rotation, and that speaks to how cohesive of a unit the band already is.
The Dillinger Escape Plan may be known for its spastic instrumentation and complexity, but Greg Puciato always added a layer of aggression and accessibility with his combination of over-the-top screams and softer, emotional singing. He’s been quite busy since Dillinger disbanded in 2017, releasing two solo albums and working with numerous other bands in both official and guest capacity. Some of these projects utilized his abrasive side, but last year’s Mirrorcell emphasized the depth of his singing. Better Lovers marks a return to full-on fury and power with some dips into melodic territory. If you missed Puciato sounding like he’s going to tear out of your speakers, God Made Me An Animal will hit the spot and those first few seconds of “Sacrificial Participant” are just as intense as you could want. The chorus heads into soaring melodic territory and showcases just how he’s grown over the years, and this is continued on the title track. The middle two songs go for all-out rage with very little respites between one harsh verse after the next, showcasing that when he wants to let loose and get as abrasive as possible Puciato hasn’t lost any of his edge.
Better Lovers emerged suddenly and without warning in April, and the sudden drop of this EP makes it clear that these guys seem to be moving fast and already have a clear vision in mind. Some of the material may tread extremely close to what three out of the five members were doing in Every Time I Die, but there are hints that an album or another EP will diverge further. And in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with treading familiar ground when the riffs are as catchy and intense as they are and they have the aggressive and melodic depth of Greg to back it up. I’ll be tracking this group closely to see where they go from here, as there’s a lot to look forward to. God Made Me An Animal is available from Sharptone Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg