Grind that’s anything but the same old song and dance
Grindcore isn’t a genre of extreme music that’s known for innovation or experimentation but that’s not to say that the genre doesn’t offer up an album that takes you by complete surprise every now and then and makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about the genre. One act that’s completely taken me by surprise is California (U.S.) based outfit Liberteer, who have just released their debut effort, Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees.
Having been a member of acts such as Cretin, The County Medical Examiners (as ‘Dr. Morton Fairbanks’) and Exhumed, it’s not hard to image what sort of sound Liberteer mastermind Matthew Widener (who plays all instruments and vocals on the album) has in store for listeners with his latest musical venture. But while Widener’s Liberteer is essentially a grindcore project, there’s more to the album’s 17 tracks than simple pummelling blast beats, tight knit riffing and guttural barked vocals. What really makes Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees stand out is the inclusion of horns, banjos and strings, all of which gives the album a very different feel from the average grindcore release.
The short opening track, The Falconer Cannot Hear the Falcon, immediately lets listeners know that this album is going to be anything but ordinary, with the lone trumpet making way for banjos and military-like drumming – all of which usher in a cacophony of unrelenting grind with Build No System. Even on this track, Widener manages to incorporate a brief horn section, which gives the song a completely unexpected twist. On paper, it’s hard to imagine it working so well, but after giving the track a run through, it’s more than evident that the mix of traditional grindcore elements and the unexpected work exceedingly well.
Of course, not every track is an exercise in mixing things up, as tracks such as Without Blazon (Is the Flag I Hold Up and Do Not Wag), We Are Not Afraid of Ruins, and Class War Never Meant More Than It Does Now all are blasted out in a relentless fashion.
The banjo/electric guitar/horns infused instrumental piece Rise Like Lions After Slumber is a welcome respite from the onslaught around the middle of the album, while the hint of melody within tracks such as That Which is Not Given But Taken, the title track Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees, When We Can’t Dream Any Longer, and the symphonic instrumental piece Sweat For Blood are well balanced amongst the destructive numbers such as 99 to 1, Barbarians at the Gate, It is the Secret Curse of Power That it Corrupts and Feast of Industry.
Given that every track on the album bleeds into the next, it does feel a bit like the 27 minute album is like one long track with several different movements. It also means that some of the individual tracks tend to get a little lost in the mix as well. But despite this, Liberteer’s debut effort is an adventurous and daring take on the traditional grindcore sound that manages to impress more than it does disappoint.
(Relapse Records/Riot! Entertainment)