The Fierce And The Dead (TFATD) first appeared in 2010 with the release of their debut EP, Part 1. This was followed up in 2011 by the wonderfully titled If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe. Subsequent releases were another EP, On VHS (2012) before ending up here with the release of their second full length studio album, Spooky Action (2013).
My introduction to TFATD came through guitarist Matt Stevens, a name that seemed to crop up in all manner of support slots around 2010. Although I never managed to catch Matt live I was intrigued enough to check out his solo album released in 2010, namely Ghost. A great little album which I still enjoy today. Equally impressive was the follow up EP, Song For Dan which featured the absorbing acoustic led, eighteen minute, title track.
For whatever reasons however, it wasn’t until the release of Spooky Action that I finally decided to check out The Fierce And The Dead. Initially I was a little taken aback, probably as I had anticipated a fuller, band arrangement of music. similar to Matt’s solo material. Initially the Frippian opening of Part 4 suggested this might well be the case, however the delicate guitar lines were rudely interrupted by a driving, grinding band onslaught. As the track finished I was unsure of what I had just listened to, so I pressed the replay button. Yeah… I like this and amidst the wall of sound were compelling layers of infectious melodies. Next up is Ark and again the driving sound is countered by catchy guitar hook-lines…
In some respects Ark reminded of Manchurian band Bulbs who impressed with their debut album, On, in 2013.
As we move to track three, Let’s Start A Cult, it also becomes evident that this music, whilst riffy, grungy and fairly intense, has levels of complexity that will need further investigating. In fact as the album unfolds the band’s obvious skills become more apparent. The interplay between guitarists Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton is captivating, whilst the rhythm section of Kevin Feazey and Stuart Marshall remain punchy and dynamic throughout.
This a tricky, nay impossible, band to put a definitive label on, just at the point you think you’ve “got it” they throw in a little in swinger, as with Pyramid Hat. The opening guitar riff bearing all the hallmarks of 60s guitar pop – but – not for long. It was at this point however that the commonalities between what I was listening to and some of Matt’s solo work did start to emerge – albeit cranked up to number 11. So we have that repeating, layering combination that derives from looping tracks, with the addition of simple but effective phrases and melodies making the sum greater than the parts.
What TFATD do well is work as a unit and their music comes across as four guys playing together with the aim of writing complex, but accessible material. There’s also little in the way of instrumental excursions, which you may have gathered from the track lengths, which in general clock in around the three to four minute mark.
Spooky Action proved to be one of my finds of 2013 and an album that grew on me very quickly. Across the eleven tracks there are some real gems, here’s just a little taster…
This isn’t an easy ride, but certainly well worth the journey. Did I mention there’s no singing? No? So unlikely to appeal if you are not keen on instrumental albums. Seriously, this is well written and executed music that although pretty much in your face throughout, is not without its subtleties and retains a sense of melodic structuring to keep you interested. The influence of 80s era King Crimson is evident as is Talking Heads (minus the singin’ of course).
01. Part 4 (3:32)
02. Ark (4:03)
03. Let’s Start A Cult (3:35)
04. Pyramid Hat (3:10)
05. I Like It, I’m Into It (4:06)
06. Intermission 3 (2:39)
07. Spooky Action (3:16)
08. And The Bandit (4:42)
09. Entropy (2:56)
10. Part 5 (1:50)
11. Chief (6:03)
Total Time – 39:55
Matt Stevens – Guitar
Kevin Feazey – Bass
Steve Cleaton – Guitar
Stuart Marshall – Drums
Terry Edwards – Brass
Sarah Gill – Cello
Released by: Bad Elephant Music
Release: o4 November 2013
Spooky Action (2013)
On VHS [EP] (2012)
If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe (2011)
Part 1 [EP] (2010)