Freighter – The Den

Rating: 4.5/5
Distributor/label: N/A
Released: 2019
Buy Album: https://freighter.bandcamp.com/album/the-den
Band Website: https://www.freighterband.com/

BAND LINE-UP:

Travis Andrews – Guitar & Vocals,
Jason Braatz – Bass,
Matthew Guggemos – Drums.

TRACKLISTING:

1. Psychic Reading ’94
2. Future Duke
3. Presto Change-O
4. Hot Car Death Dad
5. Stick Around & Do It Right Until You Get It Perfect
6. King Pigeon
7. Harbor Of Dieppe
8. Cimitero

REVIEW:

On record, metal and the concept of fun don’t seem like the most compatible of bedfellows, do they? Sure, a live show can be a riot, and so too can a comedic album, yet it’s not commonplace for a regular album to bring about a smile. So what gives? How can a band manage such a feat? Enter technical prog-metallers FREIGHTER with their sophomore effort, “The Den”.

Let’s cut to the chase. Is “The Den” any good? Categorically bloody yes. The album is a tour-de-force of frenetic riffs, constantly shifting time signatures and multiple personality disorder-infected vocals that is at once an unforgiving assault on the senses and a metric ton of fun. Tied together with the theme of insomnia, it plays out as the sonic musings of someone properly sleep-deprived and coffee-addled as they try to keep things together. Whilst that may not seem like much fun for the sufferer, imagine this as the comedy movie representation of that life and you’ve a pretty decent idea of how FREIGHTER’s sophomore goes.

In fact, the band’s mastermind, Travis Andrews, describes it rather succinctly: “’The Den’ is a reclusive (sometimes flamboyant), intuitive (not intellectual), folk art (not fine art). It was designed to be pure fantasy or fiction about sleep and misremembering. There is some OCD about organising dreams, cataloguing human interactions, and exploring fantasy prone personalities — essentially mental illness in music.” There’s those two words: mental illness. Something of a risky subject to deal with, but “The Den” manages it rather well. It doesn’t come across as too heavy-going, and maintains a rather joyous lightness of tone – just you try and not have fun with this because if you don’t, you will dutifully be added to the government depopulation list for deviation from the norm.

Yet if you were fearing that “The Den” would not be a heavy album, then you are oh so wrong and should reconsider your life choices. On the surface of it, FREIGHTER have created a piece of work that could be deemed almost impenetrable, such is the chaos that the album possesses. The notion that “The Den” could be engaging to “metalheads and non-metalheads alike” really comes across as rather hopeful. Metalheads will certainly get a kick out of the break-neck freneticism of “Psychic Reading ‘94”, or the frenzied whirlwind of riffs and screams that is “Stick Around & Do It Right Until You Get It Perfect”, but non-metalheads? Good luck – we have trouble convincing that lot on the radio stuff, let alone this!

However, the smart money is on you being a metalhead, hence why you’re here and reading this. Ergo, such madness won’t be as inaccessible and you will be richly rewarded. The trio are such a tight group that they eschewed click tracks for continuous takes, and it shows, with the push-and-pull grooves of “King Pigeon” palpable, before culminating in a grind-y breakdown to round off proceedings. The human quality removes a lot of the sterility one would usually expect from such a record which, coupled with the mad vocal switches (crazed, caustic screams and mild-mannered if infrequent talking), makes it much more compelling. Just give the album’s highlight, “Presto Change-o” a whirl: a song so chocked full of staccato riffs married alongside the above vocal interplay and a SLAYER-esque atonal solo that it will bore itself deep down into your brain.

Simply, if you like fun, metal and dearly miss the likes of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, then FREIGHTER are here to save you from misery. “The Den” is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the lighter side of insomnia that admirably toes the line of coherence just enough for it to avoid being a total mess. It’s crammed with wild riffs, blistering drumming, snarking bass lines and vocals that run the gamut for the nice folk that reside in asylums, yet it all happily makes a strange kind of sense. It may take a fair few listens to fully appreciate for the uninitiated, but it is well worth the time should you choose to give it. Which you must do as that government list looms large. Do it. They’re watching you. Get in “The Den”.

REVIEW BY: LEE CARTER
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