Life Expectancy- Decline (Album Review)

June 20, 2023


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Considering how many decades it has been now since some of the earliest crust punk, d-beat, and everything in between, it can be hard for a newcomer to stand out.  A lot of groups choose a particular variant of hardcore or punk, whether it’s on the Japanese, Scandinavian, or American side, and throw together their best fast and dirty sounding riffs that still fall very close to their inspirations.  British band Life Expectancy does this as well on their debut Decline to a degree, but they’ve run everything through a sheer wall of noise and industrial sheen.  Not much is known about this group besides their country of origin, but when you’ve got fourteen minutes of d-beat and noisy outbursts that sound like a bomb going off, the music speaks for itself.

When it comes to punk of this type, I tend to find that noisier is better.  That’s one of the reasons that I still prefer the earlier stuff from more recent Swedish bands like 偏執症者 Paranoid that emphasize squealing guitars and as much feedback as possible over more polished productions, and Life Expectancy goes for this same approach in a weaponized manner.  The minute long intro greets you with a sheer wall of noise and distortion that could easily lead into a power electronics or straight noise album, but once “Eggz” kicks in you’re met with some of the densest and nightmarish d-beat I’ve heard in awhile.  It’s a fast-paced attack that punches you in the chest with a jackhammer, coming in somewhere between Napalm Raid and Driller Killer with some Japanese influences thrown in for good measure.  Each song is drenched in so much noise that it can be hard to make out some of the details, but if you give this some back to back listens some of the individual riffs start to stand out.  Songs like “Land Worm” slow things down ever so slightly in favor of some rock ‘n roll and punk edged grooves, giving you a brief respite from the onslaught of something like the seventeen second onslaught that is “Power Metal Suicide Bomber”.  By the time you reach the end all semblance of structure has been abandoned, with the majority of “S.M.R.A.” letting dense, hellish noise reverberate over your speakers before some guitar and drums come in to lay waste to what’s left.  And much like how it opened, Decline ends with a complete burst of noise and power electronics that feel like they can cave your skull in.  It’s a fast and wild ride that comes through like your favorite Japanese or Swedish d-beat band hopped up on meth and run through a diet of Whitehouse.  It’s a blur and there’s definitely room for Life Expectancy to further blur the lines between punk and power electronics together further, but I’ve hit the repeat button more times than I can count on this whirlwind of a release.

There are vocals throughout Decline, but they’re buried in the mix and sometimes get washed away by the noise and intensity of the instrumentals.  Listen a bit closely and you’ll hear some extremely distorted screams and growls that could easily fit in with black metal just as much as they do with extremely fast hardcore punk.  This is another area that adds to the whole nightmarish quality of the recording, making it sound as though the Earth could open up underneath your feet as you listen.  While they do disappear in the wall of sound during the most aggressive moments, when the tempo slows down on songs like “Liquidated Flesh” the vocals break through just enough to send chills down your spine and that makes Life Expectancy even more potent.

Life Expectancy’s extremity and sheer amount of noise isn’t going to be for everyone, but if music described as Driller Killer meets Whitehouse gets your attention then this isn’t one to miss.  It does blur together into a chaotic blur at some points, and there is room for this group to further blend these styles in ways that truly feels different from everything else out there.  But what a hell of a way to start, as there’s a sense of control and precision behind the sheer weight and violence that already give Life Expectancy an edge over some of the other newcomers in these genres.  Decline is available from Iron Lung Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg