Better Lovers is born out of pivotal bands that I was sad to see breakup over the last few years. In that respect, this might be the album that not only trailblazes new sounds, but brings a hint of needed nostalgia as well.
Better Lovers: The Ultimate Metal Supergroup?
I saw Dillinger Escape Plan several times over the last 20 years, and every single show was a life-changing event. Every album release was a new experience to pick apart and study. Every Time I Die was another band I often saw live, starting in 2003 or so when they played with Unearth. I bought every album they released as well.
It was a great time to be a kid into Hardcore and metal. Those shows and albums helped to shape my own career as a musician. It was a treat to see both bands grow and change with each album.
Let me tell you, when Dillinger Escape Plan called it quits, I was devastated. I knew why they quit, as it is better to go out on top, before you start releasing half-hearted music. This happens to a lot of bands, they keep making music long past their prime, and the result is usually middling albums. Bands just release “whatever” records and continue to tour with the “hits”.
The truth is, it was just time for Dillinger Escape Plan to end. They were tired of the music industry, and tired of each other. Carrying on after “Disassociation” would have been a logistical nightmare on all fronts. They could have continued to release music, but would it have been good?
Dillinger didn’t do that. Instead, they left us gracefully with one last amazing album. A swan song, if you will. Everyone from that band went on to do different projects. Still, it was sad to see pioneers of a genre leave a gaping hole in the scene that no one could possibly fill. Well, maybe one band could fill that space…
Every Time I Die was the band that could carry the torch. They had the same frantic energy, a versatile vocalist, thoughtful lyrics, and a seemingly endless pile of riffs. We reviewed their album “Radical” and it showcased the chaos the group was capable of, as well as the lesser-seen softer side. It was an amazing album, and it filled that gap that the fans were left with when Dillinger retired.
“Radical” was aided by the production genius of Will Putney, a musician himself, and he has quite the reputation. You have probably heard his name since he has produced a literal ton of heavy albums over the last 10 years. His expertise breathed new life into Every Time I Die, adding a polished sound amongst all of the noise.
Unfortunately, due to inner turmoil within the band… ETID also broke up right after the release of “Radical”. There are many stories as to why this happened, but the inner drama is none of my business since the result is the same. But it was sad to see yet another creative powerhouse break up, another irreplaceable band gone.
I was absolutely crestfallen when I heard the news. You see, Dillinger and ETID are my two favorite Metal bands by a mile. Being from Georgia, Norma Jean is also at the top of my list. But no other bands inspired me like Every Time I Die, or Dillinger Escape Plan. They created an entire sub-genre of music, and influenced me greatly as a vocalist and guitarist.
The world of chaotic, artistic hardcore was looking grim. While Norma Jean released a banger of an album last year with “Death Rattle Sing For Me”, something was still… missing. There was a void when I looked at concerts to attend in Atlanta.
I often complain about the homogenized sound of heavy music these days, and I had honestly lost faith. Where has music with a violent yet intelligent edge gone? I scroll through Spotify for hours, only to be met with the same down-tuned sound that permeates Metal culture these days.
That’s when our PR agent sent me a copy of Better Lovers, and while most of these team-up bands usually fall short, this album is exactly what I have been craving. In fact, it is probably what you have been craving as well!
Better Lovers features members of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Every Time I Die and Fit For An Autopsy. But how did this happen? Why did it happen? Have we been blessed with more greatness? Why am I writing this 5 months late?
Let’s dive in and take a look at how this band formed, and talk about the sound of the album. Strap in for this one, because this is some seriously intense music, as you can imagine from the members of some of the most innovative bands of the last 20 years.
The Members, Bio, and Inspiration
Better Lovers is:
Jordan Buckley (guitar)
Clayton “Goose” Holyoak (drums)
Stephen Micciche (bass)
Greg Puciato (vocals)
Will Putney (guitar)
It can be hard to take a tragedy like a band breakup, and turn it into something positive. This is especially true when a band has been together for decades, involves family, and have a dedicated fanbase all over the world. It may seem like the breakup of Every Time I Die is a fresh wound, but that grief was key in the development of Better Lovers.
A group of tried-and-true musicians got together and found the sort of camaraderie and kinship you typically only find once in a lifetime. They didn’t overthink it. They didn’t waste a second. They simply left their blood, sweat, and tears on tape—like they’ve always done.
I mean, it almost seems like this was the obvious choice after the breakup. These are two bands that have toured together, shared friends, and often influenced each other. Better Lovers almost seems like a no-brainer when you look at the past of each member.
For as much as Better Lovers represents the union of former Every Time I Die members Jordan Buckley [guitar], Steve Micciche [bass], and Clayton “Goose” Holyoak [drums] with The Dillinger Escape Plan and Killer Be Killed frontman Greg Puciato [vocals], and musician (Fit For An Autopsy/END) and GRAMMY® Award-winning producer, Will Putney [guitar], it really cements the bond of five friends around a shared vision.
That vision is as uncompromising, unapologetic, and undeniable as anything they’ve individually done, yet it’s refined by experience and a commitment to a future together. This is not a flash in the pan album like your regular supergroups. They’re in it for the long haul…
“To me, this band is refreshing,” exclaims Jordan. “Looking back, I’m so happy everything got me to where I am. The pandemic and the last few years made me hungrier and more grateful. This isn’t a hobby. This isn’t temporary. This is the next evolution for each of us. Greg and Will rejuvenated me and made me even more confident. Now, everybody needs to know we’re a wild animal that just broke out of the zoo—there’s no trying to put it back in the cage.”
“Better Lovers definitely feels like its own thing,” states Greg. “I’m in so many lanes right now, so it was important that one lane didn’t step on another. However, nothing I’m doing is this vicious. This is full-on scathing. It’s been really fun. I forgot how much I liked that.”
As the story goes, Jordan ended up back in Buffalo, NY, jamming in a basement rehearsal spot with Steve and Goose during the winter of 2022. After working with Will on the last two Every Time I Die records, they shared a handful of early demos with him to produce.
As the year progressed, Jordan caught Greg on the road with Jerry Cantrell in Las Vegas, mentioning the new music. Once ideas solidified, he shared them with the vocalist who replied at 3 am one night in December 2022 with a text.
Greg replied with: “Let’s give them what they want!” in a text to Jordan. Which is exactly what we wanted as fans, we wanted more! The state of the world has never been so chaotic, and we certainly needed a soundtrack to the current dystopia. Better Lovers delivers the spite and anger in spades, with an energy that is unmatched.
Everyone in Better Lovers has paid their dues, and are old enough to ignore things like ego. Each person in this band has road stories, and knows exactly what it takes to make an album like “God Made Me An Animal”. Better Lovers is the best of the best, and have been around the block a few times.
“Once I pick up the scent, I’ll go for the kill,” smiles Greg. “We’ve all hung out, gotten to know each other, and it’s all fire now. Everyone has already been through shit. You know yourself better. Your ego isn’t as big as it used to be. You can share your opinions. It’s a cool dynamic.”
These guys are veterans of the scene, and they know exactly what their strengths are, as well as their weaknesses. Everyone in the band sounds so sure of themselves, because this was such an obvious move. Better Lovers is almost a “dream” project for fans of these bands. It sounds exactly like you would think it sounds, but there are a few twists and turns…
While we only get a few tracks on “God Made Me An Animal”, it certainly shows us what to expect from this band. From the opening noise to the very last scream, we are reminded that this is three members of one of the most iconic Metalcore bands of all time, one of the most versatile vocalists on the planet, and a producer that has defined an entire genre.
“Sacrificial Participant” kicks off with a winding guitar riff that reminds me of Dillinger until the change-up, and there are a LOT of changes through this song. The chorus is Greg’s clean vocals with ethereal tapping licks, which gives you time to take a breather before the distorted bass shakes your headphones off of your head.
The next track, “30 Under 13” is a grooving Mathcore stunner. This one stays aggressive from the beginning to end. If you like weird “panic” chords and off-kilter rhythms then this one is going to definitely kick you in the teeth. From grooving riffs to all-out thrash at the end, this song is a journey.
The lyrics from “Become So Small” really hit me. The music goes along perfect with Greg’s ripping vocals:
“Sacrifice yourself for an idol
Wasted life, an ego entitled
Visions of grandeur in your mind
Siphoning other people
Following delusions in your mind
Another marker that you hold to be divine“
Every track on this album sounds exactly like what you would hope for considering the members. It is organized chaos, and Will Putney’s production is as epic as ever. In fact, the album sounds a lot like his work with Every Time I Die, almost a continuation of “Radical”.
But the lyrics are painting a different picture. One of anger, and mocking. Greg has always managed to twist words in a way that can seem vague, but have serious meaning below the surface. Each track takes this up a notch, and it is seriously bitter.
I can see the pit going insane during the closing track. “God Made Me An Animal” kicks in after the bluesy, clean intro. The double bass drum hits lead into a groove that ETID is known for, only to break back into frenetic rhythms. The soft break in this track just builds back into the distorted chorus groove.
The album ends the same way it began, with laser-focused shred. There are a lot of song sections that I wished lasted just a little longer, because everything goes by in a blur. You will probably find yourself hitting the “repeat” button a LOT!
New Single & Wrapping Up
As of the time of writing this article, Better Lovers just dropped a brand new track, and its a banger as well. The new track, “Two Alive Amongst The Dead” leaves off right where the debut album ended. The new track is a glimpse at what’s to come from Better Lovers.
If you were afraid that this was a one-off project, it absolutely isn’t. Better Lovers are here to stay. While I can’t see Greg ditching his side projects, I think it is safe to say that this is his main “band” now. Honestly, this is Greg at his very best, and while I like his other projects, this sounds like his home.
If I have any criticisms, the band does sound exactly like you think it would. You can hear riffs that probably belonged on an ETID album, but I think this is just growing pains. The latest track stretches the sound to less predictable places, and I think we will see more of that going forward.
There was a huge hole in the music scene when we lost two of the most important “core” bands. They were the first of their kind, and while there are bands that attempt to copy them, no one has been able to really fill that gap. Metal has never been so popular, and the members of Better Lovers are some of the figureheads that created this scene.
Everyone deals with grief and loss in different ways. I can imagine the boys from ETID were devastated to think they would not be playing live anytime soon. They took a really unfortunate situation, and channeled that grief and anger into the sounds we hear from Better Lovers.
“We feel like we’re going to explode if we sit around any longer,” Jordan leaves off. “This is my life’s work. I learned all of my lessons, passed all of the tests, and took all of the right turns and the wrong turns. It turns out what I thought were wrong turns got me here, and that’s all that matters. I have no regrets. I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
If you are a fan of Every Time I Die or Dillinger Escape Plan, then you will feel right at home with Better Lovers. It honestly feels like the two bands combined, as there are moments where Better Lovers definitely has that “signature” sound of both bands. There are moments where it sounds like Dillinger, and moments where it is obvious that Jordan Buckley wrote the riff. I’ll let Greg finish this off:
“I just want you to view this on its own merits,” Greg concludes. “I hope it reaches some new people. For me, the enjoyment is making the music and putting it out. The second it’s released, I don’t look back. You drop the bomb and keep flying the plane. You don’t circle back to see how much destruction you cause. You keep moving, which is what we’re going to do.”
Album Credits & merch
Jordan Buckley (guitar)
Clayton “Goose” Holyoak (drums)
Stephen Micciche (bass)
Greg Puciato (vocals)
Will Putney (guitar)
Produced Engineered Mixed and Mastered by Will Putney at Graphic Nature Audio
Drums Recorded at GCR Audio
Vocal Production by Josh Wilbur
Additional Engineering by Steve Seid, Jay Zubricky
- April 18, 2024: Indianapolis, IN, Old National Centre
- April 19, 2024: St. Louis, MO, Off Broadway
- April 20, 2024: Lawrence, KS, Bottleneck
- April 2024: Tucson, AZ, 191 Toole
- April 2024: San Diego, CA, Brick By Brick
- May 2024: Minneapolis, MN, Fine Line
- May 2024: Madison, WI, Majestic Theatre
- July 9, 2024: Nottingham Performing, Rescue Rooms
- July 10, 2024: Bristol Performing, Thekla