CD Review: LIBERTEER Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees
Taking his adage if not necessarily his credo from Emiliano Zapata, Matthew Widener (Cretin, Citizen) launches a new one man project in Liberteer, the flagship project – Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees – serving as a rallying cry of patriotism by way of civil disobedience.
In this case, playing all the instruments himself does not seem to be so much a stunt on Widener's part as a statement of individualism, a resolute stubbornness toward diluting the purity of his vision by outsourcing elements of it to session musicians. Here as always, of course, the one man band ethos is only as good as the chops behind it, and in that regard Widener is an above average (if not necessarily virtuoso) practitioner on each of his respective instruments. Err, there are some rousing marching band-style interludes that feature everything from bugle to banjo, and it's unclear whether Widener is in fact responsible for every last one of those as well – they don't sound sampled or keyboard triggered – but who really cares, right?
The presence of non-metal instruments doesn't at all point toward avant garde sensibilities here… this isn't exactly Ihsahn channeling his inner Coltrane. Quite the contrary, Better to Die On Your Feet is traditional grindcore through and through, albeit of varying tempo and often incorporating old school death metal influences (the filthy, overdriven guitar tone of Entombed is an obvious production influence). The brass and acoustic instruments are used sparingly, basically as stopgap motifs between proper songs, reminding the listener of the patriotic intent behind the largely indecipherable lyrics as well as giving one a break from the incessant, punishing grind pacing; which is good, because the album is otherwise sequenced Sgt. Pepper-style, with no breaks between tracks.
Some listeners may balk at this, but Widener does a pretty good job with pacing and there is a point to it all – this is essentially a concept album, although more of a thematic than a narrative one – and at 27 minutes anyone hardy enough to be a grind fan to begin with should be able to handle it in one sitting.
Whether the lyrics strike a chord with you or not will probably depend entirely on which side of the conservative/liberal spectrum you reside (lyrics were not provided along with review downloads, but perhaps they will be in physical copies of the album). Song titles like "99 to 1" and "Class War Never Meant More Than It Does Now" should give you some idea what you're in for, but Widener also addresses broader revolutionary themes in "We Are Not Afraid of Ruins" and "Revolution's Wick Burning Quick". For anyone that has even the faintest inkling of "rip it up and start again" coursing through their veins Better to Die On Your Feet is a rousing listen.
9 out of 10