'Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees' - Liberteer (8/10)
Liberteer is the sole work of mastermind Matthew Widener. A hardcore project aimed at expressing social anger and political frustrations, Liberteer delivers a highly fired-up experience from both a musical and lyrical standpoint. Although this may be conjuring a sense of deja-vu for just about anyone who is any bit familiar with hardcore or even grind, the amount of thought that has gone into this project's debut album is what makes it stand out. Of particular note is the fact that Liberteer uses ample symphonic orchestration in its music. Pair that with an album-length sense of epic composition, and you have something that begs to be revisited. Although Liberteer's frustration may have benefited from a sense of restraint at times, it's impossible to deny the ferocity that one man has managed to bring onto this record.
Liberteer has a single defining sound to it, but it draws elements from a number of extreme and non-extreme sources. Most notably, 'hardcore', grind, punk and sludge metal make up the meat and bones of the sound, although black metal, and even post-metal come to mind when hearing the album. Adding another dimension to the music is a rich sense of orchestration, often making use of a horn texture to accentuate certain themes within the music. All in all, Liberteer would have not appealed to me, had it stuck to its essential parts, but the intriguing melange and depth makes it hard to resist. There is a uniform sense of heaviness to the album, and while there are so many different styles that appear to have contributed to the finished product, Liberteer does not feel outwardly diverse or loosely consistent. All of the harder-edged sounds that have gone into the making of this music have been fused together. Only the symphonic arrangements escape the melting pot, making them all the more surprising to hear when they pop up throughout the album.
Although the album has been chopped up into a number of annoyingly short snippets, it all comes together to create one flowing forty-odd minute epic. 'Better To Die On Your Feet' is also graced with a series of musical themes that recur throughout the album, often as variations of one another. This helps to offset the disappointment I would have had approaching the album from a song-by-song perspective. Liberteer often feels as if they're in either one of two gears for the course of the album. There's either the punkish sludge of their 'heavy' side, or the more atmospheric and cinematic edge of the melodic passages and arrangements. As a result of my own musical taste and history, its the latter, more complex aspect of Liberteer that I find more impressive, although Matt Widener's penchant for heaviness is plenty enjoyable. His vocals are gruff and manage to get a good sense of anger through, although Matt's vocal speed feels as if he's trying to rush through the lyrics, cramming in as much of his radically left political interest as he can before the album's time runs out. This does work for the sake of creating a more intense experience, but when that's the only angle we're treated to in terms of Liberteer's heavy side, it can wear a little thin.
It's very interesting to hear music rooted in a fairly straightforward style like hardcore and sludge, that's given the compositional bells and whistles of a progressive rock album. Matt Widener gives us alot to take in here, and although at times it feels as if there's too much going on, Liberteer has the depth in its composition to warrant just about every one of the experiments it tackles.