We are all mere rabbits, tucked up safely in our warren and they are scary, but hopefully benign Bear-Man creatures, capable of destroying all in their path with nothing more than big, scary sound.
Whether they intended to be or not, The Fierce And The Dead are a wonderful alternative to the manufactured artifice of modern factory-produced music.
I’ve stood there in front of this band as they play live. Me, a tiny baby white rabbit watching incomprehensibly as they, hurtle toward me at 100mph, driving a 1,000 ton Iron Ore train with foam-rubber buffers. They made that train with music. Crazy Man-Bears. The locomotive passes overhead, all noise and violence and I throw myself down between the sleepers as the remaining ore trucks thunder by, leaving me a spinning, happy, dazed, furry little mess, wobbling around between the rails.
The Fierce And The Dead’s appeal is not predicated on clean, bland wholesomeness. Their fan base is built on a foundation of hard work, committed and adrenalin-fuelled, accomplished live performances, clever use of social media and most importantly, varied, stimulating instrumental songs. This combination pays dividends because CD pre-orders are already making the guys at Bad Elephant worry about whether there will be any left to sell at gigs! Better order one!
None of your all-too-human pop-nonsense here. The songs on this EP offer abstract soundstages against which our emotions bounce, reflecting straight back in our faces and knocking our ears and whiskers flat… The music is powerful, visceral, in the bones. This isn’t aimed at angst-ridden young human lovers or teenagers with very important things to discuss until 3am, this is a band for grown-up humans and possibly angst-ridden adult rabbits with important things to discuss until 3am.
Magnet In Your Face sounds like it was made by a comfortably familiar, yet slightly stripped back version of The Fierce And The Dead. It is back to basics. Riffs and melody, distorted heaviness and jangling guitar interplay. The riffs are strong with these musicians.
I put this on and repeated all six tracks over and over. For quite some time. I kept hearing intricate subtleties and it made me want to hear them again.
Palm Trees is an exercise in contrast, the name of the track giving no clue as to what it might contain. I think it might be about a bunch of hooligan bear-man hybrids dancing in a pine forest, off their nuts on mushrooms and screaming affirmation at the sky of their belief in the elusive Palm Trees, rumoured by some to exist in the afterlife. I’m hiding, wide-eyed and buck-toothed, hoping my ears don’t show above the ferns. In places the chanting feigns tameness, in other parts it is positively orchestral, in others it is like summer, in others frighteningly uplifting. In the end they jump in the cab of that Iron Ore train and they’re off. That’s the beauty of instrumentals; one can let one’s imagination loose.
It would be so easy at this point to bang on about the massive talents of Matt Stevens and his special sonic relationship with Steve Cleaton. But what about that Kevin Feazey! He isn’t just a talented bass playing Man-Bear. His melodic bass lines flesh the guitar sound out still more and still co-anchor the whole band, working with Stuart Marshall like a symbiotic rhythm-organism made of Man-Bear, brass, wood, wire and skin. He’s a great producer/engineer. You can almost see the high vibration in the ride cymbals on this new version of Flint, contrasted with the guttural, distorted bass. It builds, like the inevitability of a grand piano falling in slow motion from a high building. Even though this is a reworking of the track that first appeared on their debut If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe album, this version of Flint is sufficiently updated to demonstrate just how the band has subtly evolved.
And while we’re at it, let’s twitch our noses in deference to Stuart Marshall. Whilst Kevin Feazey, Steve Cleaton and Matt Stevens can make their wood and steel voices howl together like a trio of raging Man-Bears or whisper conspiratorially above the warren, Stuart rises and recedes with the occasion, sometimes with the power of his enraged Man-Bear friends, sometimes caressing the cymbals and skins as you might the fur of a new-born kitten, always appropriately, always with finesse. This is doubly apparent in Flint.
I immersed myself in the Fripp-like, hypnotic soundscape of the introduction to Part 6 (The Eighth Circuit), wondering what was producing that bass sound, and those deceptively laid-back drums made more urgent and enhanced with digital delay. As the songs built up and the album repeated I found myself quickly and happily reliving those moments, and others, again. A minor source of disappointment is that only 9 minutes and 38 seconds of material was completely new to me.
As for the bonus tracks of Let’s Start A Cult and Spooky Action; expertly played, these rehearsal tracks show us just how tight The Fierce And The Dead are live. They give it 100%. Live there is a feedback loop between them and audience which is like a supercharger. If you think I’m selling these tracks short then you’re jumping to the wrong conclusion. No matter how good you think these are – and they are exceptionally good – The Fierce And The Dead are a better live experience than an unprotected field full of carrots. It’s why the expression “giving it 110%” was invented.
So you know what to do, order the CD and find out where you can catch them in concert so you can experience every one of those extra per cents.
01. Magnet In Your Face (1:41)
02. Palm Trees (3:59)
03. Flint (4:23)
04. Part 6 (The Eighth Circuit) (3:58)
05. Let’s Start A Cult (rehearsal recording) (3:18)
06. Spooky Action (rehearsal recording) (CD only bonus track) (3:12)
Total Time – 20:31
Kevin Feazey – Bass, Keyboards, Production
Matt Stevens – Guitars, Loops, Keyboards
Steve Cleaton – Guitars, Effects
Stuart Marshall – Drums
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Year of Release: 2015