Died Revives ’90s Post-Hardcore with ‘Less Life’

Died’s first-full length release pays its respects to classic post-hardcore (Boul God).

If you’re like me and want music that is combative and visceral, look no further than at ’90s post-hardcore. A genre that birthed from the desire to expand the ’80s D.C. hardcore scene to accompany more intricate arrangements. That form of post-hardcore is dead now, and emocore bands such as Pierce the Veil, Falling in Reverse, A Day to Remember, and other mediocre groups occupy the post-hardcore name.

It’s unfortunate because it would have been interesting to see how post-hardcore would hold up in today’s musical atmosphere. All I can do now is listen to old records from the glory days and only dream of what could have been. Or so I thought.

Died is a Brooklyn post-hardcore quartet that I admire as their sound and style are reminiscent of that classic post-hardcore sound that defined Slint and other similar bands from the ‘90s.

Spoken word passages, eerie, dissonant chords, aggressive vocals, and complex, tension building arrangements made up the band’s debut EP, Died.

I heard bits of Fugazi, At The Drive-In, Unwound, and of course, Slint throughout that EP. While I love all these bands, it seemed that Died was having difficulty pinning down their definitive sound. I kept them on my radar as I was excited to hear their growth with each new release, and because I was happy they were bringing back that ’90s sound.

With their first full-length project, Less Life, Died builds on the foundation they set up with their debut EP, as well as the follow-up EP, Anonymized Internal Criminals, while also showing they are more than a group that recycles the styles of their inspirations.

“Oja de Macao” is the best example of Died harnessing elements of classic post-hardcore and making it their own. This song follows a basic post-hardcore structure. It explodes with abrasive and fast guitars while keeping the aggression alive and fresh throughout its runtime. The band adds their flair as bright, power-pop chords shine through the noisy guitar melody. The track enters post-rock territory toward the end as soaring guitars take over the main melody.

While the music is sometimes cheerful and energetic, the lyrics tell a different story. Alex Geisel agonizes over a failed relationship, using cuts and blood as metaphors for the pain they caused each other.

A lot happens in this track’s four-minute timeframe, yet it never feels underdeveloped. Died is demonstrating their prowess of crafting complex yet concise arrangements.

“The Trial” is another song that feels overwhelming due to the mesmerizing, distorted vocals, entrancing drums, and guitars that play in circles. It’s a track that invites the listener to get lost in its disorienting repetitiveness.

More importantly, it’s another track that showcases the band’s strengths and distinguishes them from groups that came before them.

“Wasted” is a short track but it’s ferocious aggression and dissonance makes it a critical component to the record.

The opener “Boxwood” is another highlight as its confrontational, repetitive guitar riffs make for a memorable opener. The buildup to an intense climax where the chord progression follows a continuous rise and fall motion made for a stunning listen.

Listen to “Busy Man” by Died.

This song also exhibits the band’s preference to switch from rapid and abrasive to slow and temperate. “Busy Man” is another example of this. It shifts from the infectious and moderate bassline to the brutal onslaught of guitars, drums, and shouting on the chorus. This track is my favorite, as it is the best example of Died’s dynamic and intricate songwriting.

In contrast, “Less Is More” is the band’s songwriting at their weakest. The melodic progression stays mostly the same throughout the track, making it static and uninteresting. “DN Muzik” is similar, but it is a different kind of rock song. It uses guitars and pianos to create an ambient interlude.

A re-recording of “Died” from their self-titled EP appears as the last track. It gets compared to Slint’s “Good Morning, Captain” and not for no reason. It features a spoken word passage, tension and release, and wearied instrumentation.

“Died” is nowhere near as intense or dynamic as “Good Morning, Captain,” and comparing the two will undoubtedly make the former disappointing.

That said, “Died” does create anticipation with crescendoing guitars and drums alongside introspective lyrics on finding satisfaction in everyday life. But when allowed to release this tension and emotionally impact the listener, the band gives mixed signals as the instrumentation is bright and vivid with elated background vocals. It could be argued this represents the momentary bliss found in everyday life. But then I ask, why does this come after Geisel describes losing a family member?

On top of this, the main vocal melody during this chorus sounds off-pitch, which leaves a sour aftertaste.

However, the final moments of this track are great, as it sounds like the harmonic progression was dying to get to this point, and the maniac screams fill that emotional void the song couldn’t fulfill earlier.

I’m glad the positives outweigh the negatives as Less Life exceeded my expectations, despite some minor hiccups. This album has been on repeat since I first played it, and I cannot get enough of it.

However, I am expecting more from Died after this one. They are capable of creating dynamic post-hardcore arrangements, but how long can they keep this up before it gets stale? Will they incorporate elements of contemporary music or craft something entirely that only Died can create?

Is this the beginning of a post-hardcore revival movement? Only time will tell.

Essential Tracks: “Boxwood,” “Wasted,” “Oja de Macao,” “Busy Man,” “The Trial”

8/10

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