The ever-varying portfolio of The Fierce & The Dead is nicely complemented by this live album, recorded on 7th May 2017, at RoSfest (Rites of Spring Progressive Rock Festival) in Gettysburg, PA. It collects selected tracks from the first three full studio albums, If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe (2011), Spooky Action (2013), and The Euphoric (2018).
Originating from Rushden in Northamptonshire, The Fierce & The Dead are a sensible and canny lot as their last live album Field Recordings (2017), which comprised their entire euphoria-driven and inspirational performance at 2016’s Ramblin’ Man festival, doesn’t overlap at all with this album; the tracks are completely different despite coming from the same eras, with a couple from before.
They’ve come a long way, both career-wise and musically, from both delighting and creeping us out with their sense of impending doom-laced first full album, which reminds me on occasion of incidental music to Dr. Who and Jan Svankmajer films. They’ve come so far, and their reputation has spread so widely and so quickly, that they were invited to play in America before any festival on mainland Europe, the latter achieved in June of this year at Freak Valley, Germany.
At RoSfest, going on stage first on a Sunday morning might have been a tad daunting for our potentially jet-lagged foursome, with the audience most likely tired and hungover having experienced the festival’s previous day and a half. Undeterred by the early hour, and with a clearly ecstatic Matt Stevens (guitar) referencing it part-way through the set, they drew a very enthusiastic crowd, satisfyingly evident but not intrusively so from the audible cheers heard between the tracks of this well-balanced sound-wise, and superbly mixed live set.
They start decisively with the exuberant 1991, that with its infectious high-toned riff appears to have got people quite rightly jigging about as bassist Kev Feazey quips afterwards, “I think you get the idea; we’re the band you can dance to!” If the audience wasn’t already awake after that, they certainly would be with the next number, Let’s Start A Cult, with its pay-attention-now arpeggio-layered start, and glorious American-feel jangly guitar mid- to end-section that wouldn’t be out of place on a Greg Allman album – perhaps a deliberate nod to being in the U.S.? Seemingly gliding into Flint, the guys show their contrasting ponderous coasting melodic style. Spooky Action takes the reins back firmly to stonking thrashy chords tempered with rising jangly guitar riffs, bright and exuberantly cheery. After this all-out flat-out pummelling drumming session, Stuart Marshall, who sounds as if he’s actually two drummers in sync, gets a likely welcome change of pace with Andy Fox, the track that, after an intense doom-laden beginning, builds to reveal Matt Stevens’ shredding skills.
Kevin Feazey’s sonorous burry bass starts off the riff-heavy I Like It, I’m Into It which revives the jovial mood with anticipatory rising tones leading to an all-out stonkfest before intriguing us further with its series of ‘ooh, where’s this going?’ melodic phrases, leading to further ascension to euphoria. The Wait changes direction with a softer illuminatory lyrical approach, and then, just as you think that might be the conclusion, along chugs Truck, veering off on a forthright commanding path to get everything in motion again. Likely there appeared a bit of a proggy mosh pit down the front of the audience with the energy of this gloriously frenetic piece!
Special mention should be made here of the fabulously inventive animated video from Mark Duffy that accompanies Truck, viewable below, which depicts the band setting out for the festival, and which includes a snippet of footage of the actual band playing at the festival.
Also to be given high praise here is Mark Buckingham’s marvellous artwork, in his trademark comic strip style, which suits the music brilliantly.
To finish the album off, Parts 7 and 8 together as one track restates TFATD’s credentials as a band of contrasts. It starts with a thunderous foundation of chugging bass and relentlessly battered drums over which the double layer of guitars from Matt and Steve Cleaton resonantly weave delightful rising melodic variations followed by heavy head-banging inducing riffs and runs, culminating in a ponderous passage of doom thrash, with a last resurgence of pure metal.
This band effortlessly defies categorisation, exemplified by this carefully chosen set. The guys work incredibly hard on stage to sustain the by turns vivacious mood and pervading atmosphere of tension and release, and were obviously enjoying themselves terrifically too here, as Matt and Kev’s between-song thanks and brief audible comments testify.
Compared to the studio versions of the tracks, there is little in it timing-wise, and we do not really miss the jazzier elements of the tracks from Spooky Action that originally featured saxophone, courtesy of Terry Edwards – however ubiquitous he may be, sadly no RoSfest guest spot – but the band have no need of him in performance as they individually and collectively serve us huge dollops of musicality and attitude as it is; plus their style has evolved so much since his input that it would perhaps even jar somewhat nowadays. These live versions do however feel faster and seem more energetic, such is the injection of infectious live excitement and enthusiasm that The Fierce & The Dead always deliver on stage.
01. 1991 (4:45)
02. Let’s Start A Cult (2:55)
03. Flint (4:31)
04. Spooky Action (3:11)
05. Andy Fox (5:43)
06. I Like It, I’m Into It (3:55)
07. The Wait (2:00)
08. Truck (3:52)
09. Parts 7 and 8 (6:57)
Total Time – 37:49
Matt Stevens – Guitar, Noises
Steve Cleaton – Guitar, Other Noises
Kev Feazey – Bass
Stuart Marshall – Drums
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th October 2019