With Regret - Expire
By Barnaby Britten
Expire’s first album, Pendulum Swings, came out a little over four years ago. With a blueprint of meaty riffs, heavy breaks and catchy barked vocals, it wasn’t long before the Milwaukee four-piece became one of the biggest names in modern hardcore, touring the world over and garnering a massive and devoted fanbase. When they announced at the beginning of August that after the release of their then-forthcoming album, With Regret, and the subsequent tour, that they would be calling it quits “rather than fading off”, it came as quite a sorrowful surprise for the hardcore community. But the decision was one that, I believe, is worthy of respect. To leave a legacy to be proud of, instead of needlessly declining into irrelevancy, is a noble aim, and with the assurance that this record would be the one they “wanted to leave on”, Expire left the scene eager to see how they were going to be remembered.
Fortunately, and emphatically, With Regret makes good on that assurance. It is no great departure from the sound of their previous two LPs, and no one expected it to be, but while their sophomore effort Pretty Low didn’t feel quite as inspired as their debut (though still a hell of a lot of fun), this album might just be their magnum opus. The urgency of their debut has returned: only two tracks exceed the two minute mark, and neither do so by more than two seconds. These sub-two minute explosions of hardcore are where Expire work best. Even though Pretty Low didn’t see a track last longer than 3 minutes, the average extra 30 seconds or so per song makes a difference.
But obviously it’s not all about track length, the content matters far more and Expire sound like a band that had an amply full creative inkwell when it came to writing this record. The sound is familiarly Expire, thus familiarly metallic hardcore, but it is executed with tasty precision, no riff or break outstays its welcome, no musical idea allowed to become stale. Opener “Fighting the Slip” demonstrates this perfectly. The stop-start interplay between guitar and drums crafts an infectious groove that almost makes you want to dance, but not to the same extent as it makes you want to punch the nearest passer-by square in the face. But before you get the chance to commit said assault, it’s 90 second runtime has come to an end and the next track has begun. But the next track will also make you want to harm someone.
And the album continues in this vein, each track chock full of riffs that will make you a danger to society and each with its own little highlight, such as guitarist Zach Dear’s vocals in “Hidden Love”, or the outro riff on “Vultures”, or the outro riff on “Turned to Dust”, or the ou-… you get the idea.
In the band’s own words, “Expire started as a band that didn’t know how to slow down and that’s the way we’ll end it.” This perfectly describes the legacy that they will bestow on the hardcore community, both in terms of their relentless touring schedule, and their equally relentless music, which With Regret exemplifies so assertively.