Review: Freighter – The Den
Any chronically tired mathletes in the house?
I always hated math. Beyond the fourth grade, I can only remember about one or two instances where I sorta understood what was going on. Correspondingly, its namesake metal subgenre mathcore was never for me. All those Car Bombs and Dillinger Escape Plans and whatnot – that shit ain’t for me. Yet, much as in school, there does seem to be the occasional exception to the rule.
Spear highlighted Freighter’s The Den a couple Tuesdays ago and seemed surprised that he didn’t feel utterly repulsed by it, and I quickly found that I felt the same; their brand of mathcore seems wonderfully beginner-friendly. “Psychic Reading ’94” sets the stage for what’s to come with an intro that sounds like they’re clearing the table to lay out a battle map before launching into exactly the kind of dizzying start-stop riffs and beats that made me hate the genre. Except here it somehow works for me. The jazzy, seemingly random agglomeration of song parts should be utterly jarring, but each part is fun and each transition is technically impressive. “Future Duke” perhaps illustrates this formula, if you want to call it such, even better. The individual parts are easier to follow along, the brief transitions that link them together have me shaking my head in amazed disbelief rather than digust, and the sweet melodic part in the middle makes it all go down that much smoother.
As hectic as most of the songs are, I feel like there’s a flow to them that feels organic. They often seem to have a cadence that resembles speech or conversation rather than coming off totally machine-like (until later, that is, but we’ll get to that). Imagine time-lapse footage of some poor shmuck working in an office trying to get through conversations he doesn’t want to have and doing menial tasks he doesn’t care about, all the while teetering on the edge of madness, and you have a fitting (if clichéd) music video for “Presto Change-o”, an absolute highlight of the album. The intro riff is one of my favourites of the entire year, and the use of piano is just exquisite. After the frantic gallop that concludes the song, the album exhaustedly collapses into “Hot Car Death Dad”, the only consistently slow song, much needed at this point, if only for the comforting reassurance that the album follows familiar patterns at least to some extent. “Stick Around…” quickly picks things up again, strongly reminding me of the whackiness of French alternative band Psykup. A sort of whacky element runs through the whole album, helped along by the nature of the clean vocals and the samples, but it always stops short of becoming annoying and instead gives everything a rather jovial nature that helps to make the whole thing more palatable. “King Pigeon” keeps things quirky by dialing up the jazz element in the band’s sound and presenting us with a big, lumbering, and somewhat silly breakdown.
The theme of the album can roughly be described as dealing with dreamstates, sleep, and the lack thereof, which is nicely represented in the more frenzied, off-kilter elements of the music and, perhaps most of all, the lyrics, which seem like bewildering streams of consciousness, sometimes stringing phrases together in a free-form associative style. “Harbor of Dieppe” is one of the stranger examples in this regard and musically presents the last really frantic outburst on the album before closer “Cimitero” settles into perhaps the most machine-like (dare I say djent-y) grooves, making for a rather subdued and straightforward song compared to most of what came before. This makes for a fitting end to the record, as if tiredness was finally taking its toll.
In the end, I’ll still never become a fan of mathcore and feel thoroughly out of my depth talking about it, but I certainly enjoy The Den a whole lot more than I ever expected to. It’s a frantic yet funny and cathartic experience that I can only recommend and thus earns