Published May 28, 2020For many people, fear is the brain's short circuit. As an emotional response, it operates through a sinister circular logic, manifesting as a crippling sense of anxiety and indecision — experienced as vicious internal questioning and second-guessing of one's choices — which, in turn, only serves to heighten and produce more fear.
On their debut full-length LP, NYC group Died use fear to take a bold inward look at their own behaviours and mindsets. Recorded by Sasha Stroud and mixed by legendary engineer Steve Fisk (Unwound, Nirvana, Car Seat Headrest), Less Life finds the Brooklyn-based quartet harnessing their fear and projecting it outward through a volatile blend of post-hardcore, post-punk and alt-rock soundscapes, blending seemingly disparate genres into something dark and moody yet strangely digestible.
Where 2018's Anonymized Internal Criminals EP bristled with moments of youthful energy and vitriol, levelling disdain and arrogance at the world in equal measure, Less Life feels more patient and self-assured, content with meditating on complex themes of dying, mental illness and media fetishization. After a distorted sample and stuttering rhythms, bassist/vocalist Alex Geisel lays out the introspective thesis of the record on opener "Boxwood" ("You think too much / You drink too much / But not too often"), pairing tales of substance abuse with winding, angular riffage from guitarists Ian White and Caio Brentar. Things quickly escalate on the frenetic and discordant "Wasted," a minute-long rager bolstered by a penetrating guitar lead and Matthew Leichenger's arresting, arrhythmic drum patterns.
Thrusting the listener into a palpable sense of unease, Died unfurl the searing melodic catharsis of "Oja de Macao". Echoing the abrasive post-hardcore of luminaries like Drive Like Jehu, the track finds Geisel ruminating on cuts both literal and metaphorical, finding both positivity and power in pain. "Busy Man," "Less Is More" and "The Trial" recall the shimmering, snarling post-punk of British acts like Shame and Idles, complete with wandering basslines and vacillations in loud-soft-loud dynamics, as Geisel deadpans his desire to escape the mundane rigour of routine and the endless cavalcade of media saturation.
On the eponymous closing track, Died cap off Less Life with a sprawling, seven-minute epic, driven by restless reflection and spoken-word invectives on everything from masculinity to modern living to memory — aspects of a life's journey to seek and (hopefully) find contentment in the everyday. Ultimately, by addressing the many faces of fear, Died make Less Life a captivating and urgent listening experience, one that confidently explores a profoundly universal sentiment. (Boul God)