Liberteer – Better to Die on Your Feet than Live on Your Knees Review

Liberteer // Better to Die on Your Feet than Live on Your Knees
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Battle Metal, USA-style
Label: Relapse Records
Release Dates: EU: 2012.02.12 | US: 01.31.2012

Liberteer - Better to Die on Your Feet than Live on Your KneesLiberteer is the brainchild of one Matt Widener, who the more grind-minded among you might remember as the bassist for San Jose sickos Cretin. Cretin’s lone album, 2006’s Freakery, received high praise at the time, but they’ve been laying low since then while their singer goes through some changes.During his new-found free time, Widener has put together Liberteer on his own, playing all instruments on this album, including guitars, drums, and banjo? [Hey, if Høst can do it, so can WidenerAMG]

Here’s where it gets interesting. [You had me at “banjo”AMG] Throughout Better To Die On Your Feet, there are many passages incorporating horns, flutes, percussion, and yes, banjo. A gimmick, you say? Bullshit. I mean, if all those pagan metal bands can have folk instruments alongside drums and guitars, and Sepultura has been using Brazilian percussion for years, why wouldn’t an American, revolution-themed project make use of revolution-era American music?

Though, gimmick or not, it doesn’t really matter, because any doubters will be silenced (or instantly killed) by the opening shitkicker “Build No System.” The straightforward grind tracks on this album could level a house, but the orchestrated sections feel like charging into battle. What’s even cooler is that parts of the instrumental themes pop up repeatedly throughout the album, tying everything together nicely (and apparently the CD version comes with this handy chart! How awesome is that?) If Ken Burns had gotten Misery Index to score those Civil War documentaries, it would probably be kind of like this.

LibrteerOf course, with any worthwhile grind record, the message is just as important as the music. So what exactly is the Liberteer manifesto? Does Widener want you to attend a local Occupy rally? Would he prefer that you buy your groceries locally instead of at Walmart? Let’s take a look at these lyrics (from the track “99 to 1”): “to be happy, god damn it, kill those who own property / to be happy, god damn it, cut the priests in two / and answer to no one, not even god above / for if real we’d need to kill him too. Clearly, this dude is looking at the bigger picture. He demands complete freedom from any and all oppression, and he would like that freedom NOW, thank you very much. He’s also barking out these lyrics like Barney Greenway being chased by a pack of Rottweilers, which raises the intensity factor considerably.

My only possible gripe with this record is that each song leads directly into the next, essentially creating one 27-minute-long track. People complain enough about how all grind songs sound the same anyway, and attaching them together Human Centipede-style [Angry Metal Guy thanks you for the imageryAMG] certainly doesn’t help. Then again, these tracks are all connected by repeated musical themes anyway, so laying them out this way does make sense.

Overall, this record is outstanding in a “what the fuck just happened?” sort of way. Whether you agree with Widener’s political views (or his liberal use of banjo), there is no denying that this is a pretty unique album, grind or otherwise. Widener has both tremendous musical abilities and strong political convictions, and the combination is devastating. So whether you’ve been holding out for that Napalm Death bluegrass album, or you just want something furious to listen to while the United States circles the drain, Liberteer might be just the thing for you.

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