The Fierce And The Dead – News From The Invisible World

The Fierce And The Dead – News From The Invisible World

‘Metathesiophobia’ is the persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of change. It’s a common syndrome in music fandom, with a higher than usual propensity in the prog community. Is that down to purism? The age of the average listener? In many ways it’s ironic that a genre with the word ‘progressive’ in its title doesn’t always mean listeners want the music or musicians to undergo any kind of, well…progression (I prefer the Hackett era Genesis albums myself and I struggled with the last Bent Knee album, so I’m not completely immune to it either).

The Fierce and the Dead, an established and well-respected instrumental band, are back with their first album in five years. Brace yourselves dear listener, as this album features vocals! Not just a bit of spoken word here and there, like on And So I Watch You from Afar’s Jettison album, but full-blown, check the lyric sheet, singalong at home vocals.

Since The Euphoric came out in 2018, an awful lot has changed, in the world and in the band. Guitarist Matt Stevens had a cancer diagnosis and we went through a worldwide pandemic, so that record wasn’t toured as planned, and like most creative people The Fierce and the Dead found themselves at a crossroads.

It would be odd for a band to come out of lockdown the same as they went in. With no touring and a lot of time to contemplate the future, TFATD went through a period of reflection, I’m sure. They weren’t alone, as Big Big Train had extensive line-up changes even before the tragic death of their talismanic frontman, and Anathema went on indefinite hiatus. I’d like to think that the members of The Fierce and the Dead decided they had nothing to lose and should make a record that truly took them to new places. They didn’t fold or stick, they decided to twist! It’s a bold, brave move and not without risks, but for me it was a very good decision and one that has really paid off.

This isn’t just The Fierce and the Dead I know and love with added singing, this is a band who has opened up their sound to take in as many influences as possible. That’s as progressive as it gets for me, and this is intelligent, expansive music done right. It’s an evolution, not a revolution, and if you are already a fan then this still feels like the band you know. The addition of vocals, along with six backing vocalists, a guest saxophone and trumpet player, and a guest on keyboards adds layers that elevate TFATD to new heights. Above and beyond that, just like the singles they have released, I expect this album to expand their listener base quite considerably. Really speaking, BBC 6 Music should be all over this record like a rash.

It’s hard to pick out specifics from each song as it’s the whole album that blew me away. The killer singles, Wonderful, Golden Thread and Photogenic Love make up the middle of the record and gloriously all sound even better within the context of the LP. I almost wish I hadn’t listened to them so much before hearing them this way. In a parallel universe where director James Gunn hadn’t crossed the road to run the DC movie slate, he’d be making a fourth Guardians of the Galaxy film for Marvel, with one of the singles from this album pumping out over the start of an epic space battle. Well, he would in my head anyway.

The signature TFATD sludgy groove is still there, evident on Shake the Jar which is an absolute beast of a track. Like all the other songs it’s just at the right place in the record too, the sequencing is masterful. Intelligent bands use space to their advantage – Non-Player is an amazing example of how to do that, slowing the tempo, bringing in new sound elements to let your brain take on the lyrics and music. So much magic happens in the gaps.

What A Time To Be Alive is the closet to a traditional TFATD track, not just because it has the least lyrical content. The main riffs get under your skin and live there. The special sauce that this album has added to the band’s sound is still sprinkled all over this song though, and not just the ELO style vocoder section.

Vocally, bass player Kevin Feazey is a bit like Damon Albarn channelling PiL’s John Lydon, but once we get to the album closer Nostalgia Now he hits us with a vocal performance that Elbow’s Guy Garvey would be proud of. It’s a truly beautiful final song. It has that wonderful shimmering feel of true nostalgia for simpler times, childhood or old TV shows, then shifts into a much a darker feeling, like realising you are stuck in the past and getting older and less relevant.

Listening to News From the Invisible World took me back to my youth, not because the music was particularly retro, but that’s when I made time to really let music into my soul. While many prog stalwarts will always look back on the ’70s as their formative years, mine was the ’90s and that’s when I’d put a new cassette or CD on, close my eyes, lie on the bed and let it wash over me. No phone in my hand, no doing something else while I listened, just pure unadulterated listening pleasure. It was usually on the third listen that a seminal album really dug its hooks into me. That happened with the likes of OK Computer, Superunknown, Jar of Flies, In It for the Money and Stupid Dream. I wasn’t bothered about genre back then, I just knew what I liked. This album made me feel like that again. It’s not really anything like any of those albums, but on that magical third play it felt like this music had always existed, someone just needed to bring it to the surface and allow us all the privilege of hearing it.

If I had a time machine I’d take The Fierce and the Dead back to the early ’90s, as I’m 100 per cent sure they’d be cover stars in Select magazine thanks to this record. Imagine what would happen if Kim Thayil from Soundgarden joined The Super Furry Animals and you’re scratching the surface of what this record is like.

The band are already working on the follow-up, have a London gig booked and a 2024 tour planned, so there’s plenty to sate the desire for more TFATD. Let’s hope they play the album in its entirety as it’s a real work of art. This has ‘Album of the Year’ written right through it. My only criticism would be I’d have loved one or two more songs to round the record off, but that’s more selfish fandom really as it’s perfect as it is.

If you are a sufferer, please put your potential metathesiophobia to one side and give this album a chance. It’s a world class record by a band who deserve worldwide recognition. News from the Invisible World is the kind of album that reminds me why I love music and why music is such an important part of life. This is music. This is what life is all about.

01. The Start (3:11)
02. Shake the Jar (5:35)
03. Golden Thread (6:45)
04. Photogenic Love (5:19)
05. Wonderful (3:04)
06. Non-Player (6:41)
07. What A Time to Be Alive (4:45)
08. Nostalgia Now (6:48)

Total Time – 42:08

Matt Stevens – Guitar, Synthesisers, Keyboards, Programming
Steve Cleaton – Guitar, Synthesisers, Programming
Kev Feazey – Bass, Vocals, Synthesisers, Keyboards, Programming
Stuart Marshall – Drums, Percussion, Programming
~ with:
Terry Edwards – Saxophone, Trumpets
Matt Jones – Piano, Keyboards
Tom Hunt – Backing Vocals
Tia Bush – Backing Vocals
Lara Callaway – Backing Vocals
Heidi Henders – Backing Vocals
Lorraine Richardson – Backing Vocals
Natalia Stevenson – Backing Vocals

Record Label: Spencer Park Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 28th July 2023

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