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There are some great things to discover in New Zealand. Most of them used to be found on that New Zealand’s Finest Youtube video (here’s part of it), but ever since that got taken down they’ve been harder to unearth. Well, er’rryone’s in luck, because Die! Die! Die! have made themselves heard, furiously tapping away at the glass ceiling that hangs over the Land of the Long White Cloud and Even Longer and Unnecessarily So Movie Adaptions.
A long time staple of the noise rock / punk scene, Die! Die! Die! prove their riffs are more intense than the fires of Mordor on What Did You Expect.
Aligning a pace so blistering it could possibly cauterise blisters with arrested and partly laconic vocals, Die! deliver noise punk no doubt honed in the student bars of their hometown of Dunedin with a shape somewhat more impressive than Michelangelo’s David’s doodle. The trio have codified their rock into a new EP, What Did You Expect, a title that begs a lazy headline. It has five songs, and they go from rather noisy noise punk to approaching something like jovial indie rock. Dark Arrow, music video in tow, is the crest of the album. It’s eighty seconds of punk, a tent of a determined riffs and rhythm section punctuated only by the saintly ironic guest vocals of their mate Annabel Liddell of Miss June, the bar-hopping drum fills and, for a moment, an absolute thrashing of the drum kit more akin to something found on a grindcore album.
I Love Space Travel opens the EP, and is distinctly weird in that it clearly contains two songs woven into one. For the first two and half minutes, it’s up-tempo and noisey like the rest of the album, but for the last minute and a bit of the song it suddenly swivels on a six-pence into a brick-sized shit wave of sludge punk that has a riff only one layer off becoming Sick, Sick, Sick. For a song about meditation and transcendence, it’s awfully intense.
Past the first two songs, the very clear modus operandi of noise punk begins to seep away, leaving behind two traces. The first is the latent tones of punk, like it’s just another thing that people do now, as Die! explores softer indie territory. The second is the encapsulation of the raw aesthetic, Die!’s sound being mastered in the same way a noisy fly is muffled after you capture it under a box of tupperware.
In sequential order, first there’s (I Love How You) Listen to the Radio, which is a rather unremarkable speedy indie rock mastered raw, at least at first. It is unremarkable not in a euphemistic sense of diplomatically saying it’s shit, but rather because it coasts along like any good rock song should do, providing enjoyment whilst not probing any senses with any particular fervour. Out of these pleasurable doldrums, it slowly begins to fold in on itself, silently building up to a crescendo that features a neat swirling of Liddell and frontman Andrew Wilson’s vocals.
Then there’s the title track, ostensibly about some sort of breakup (“Truth hurts!” is screamed early on). What Did You Expect features the nadir, so to speak, of noise punk on this album as it all but dropped for a slower sound suitable for a ballad. It’s still a rather hard song – the notes are still nailed to the ground and haven’t floated away just yet – and could be thought of as perhaps a Dallas Green-helmed Alexisonfire song, with intentionally rusty mastering replacing Green’s dreamboat vocals.
And then there’s Is What It Is, is a tad punkier, faster and harder-hitting than the previous track. It features a lot of absent-minded strumming and percussion-ing, which seamlessly fits in with repeated exhalations of “You’re free”. It makes sense as a album-ender, but What Did You Expect would probably fit better.
In his most recent interview, Andrew Goddard of Karnivool attributes his band’s success partly to the isolation of Perth, in that it allowed them to perfect their art with little pressure and plenty of support. It’s intuitive to imagine that’d be similar to Die!’s sitch over in Dunedin – well actually, over in New Zealand. In all their songs, and especially throughout the album as it morphs along the spectrum there’s a steady, intelligent craft that’s well worth a good look.
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