‘The measure of intelligence is the ability to change’ – Albert Einstein
Some people don’t like change, some people are scared of change but things must evolve, things must progress. Let’s face it, if there was no evolution then I wouldn’t even be writing these words, there would just be primordial sludge (now there’s a name for an extreme metal band!).
The Fierce And The Dead have embraced change in a huge way and in a way that their fans, and the wider world, would never have thought remotely possible just a couple of years ago! These self-proclaimed pioneers of ‘funny music’, one of the most influential instrumental bands of recent years have added vocals to their music, yes, I said it, vocals!! Now, if that isn’t progressive when it comes to music and a huge evolutionary step for the four guys from Rushden, then I don’t know what is but, before we delve deeper into their new long player, ‘News From The Invisible World’, let’s look back at their history…
The Fierce & The Dead are a British rock band formed in 2010. The band consists of Kevin Feazey (lead vocals/bass), Matt Stevens (guitar/keys), Steve Cleaton (guitar), and Stuart Marshall (drums). While they started as an instrumental band, Feazey has taken on the role of lead vocalist in recent years, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound. Their music is a fusion of psychedelic rock, old metal records, post-rock, prog, broken analogue synths, and shoegaze.
The 8-song, 42-minute ‘News From The Invisible World’, their fourth studio release, marks the band’s first release featuring vocals from bassist Kevin Feazey. Guests include Matt Jones (Jamie T/ Beady Eye) on keys, Tom Hunt on backing vocals (Orange Clocks), and brass from Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey/Gallon Drunk). The album has been 5 years in the making.
For vocalist/bassist Kevin Feazey: “The album really digs deep into where we come from musically and sets up the path ahead, we’ve always found ways to do things differently, and now those doors are wide open. It came together over lockdown, which meant that we had a chance to take stock, see the music from a different perspective, and allow ourselves time to experiment with different textures and sounds. Adding vocals didn’t seem like a dramatic step, but something that these pieces would benefit from, it felt obvious to us.”
“We wanted to make an ambitious record like Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips made in the late 90s, but you can hear lots of influences in there, even the Carcass and Napalm Death records we loved when we were teenagers, Slowdive and all sorts,” says guitarist Matt Stevens. “We didn’t get to tour the last record as much as we’d like due to my cancer diagnosis and then COVID, and it went bonkers, so hopefully, this one will be somewhat easier.”
I have a long history with the band, first reviewing the band’s 2013 release ‘Spooky Action’, and have followed them ever since and my role at Bad Elephant Music has meant I have been involved in a lot of their subsequent releases. However, this review comes without bias, this album is brilliant because of the music and I’m not the only one who thinks so! I must also point out the incredible artwork from the legendary Mark Buckingham.
I love the fact that The Fierce And The Dead do things properly ‘old school’ by releasing singles before the full album and the first release was the excellent Wonderful, a cacophony of joyous, chaotic music with Kev’s energetic, almost manic, vocal giving it a wide-eyed clarity and an almost Cardiacs-like vibe, especially with the excellent use of the brass section. This was a pointer of the wondrous things to come. The second single, Golden Thread, opens with a riff that’s a punch to the gut, harder than granite and Stuart Marshall‘s heavy, primeval drums adds serious weight. There’s an ebb and flow to the song that reminds me of prime Faith No More but with a more laid back vocal approach. This song wants to shake you by the hand and then punch you in the face and, you know what, you’d probably just let it! Photogenic Love was the 3rd single and the one that most notably veered away from the band’s original sound, TFATD but with another dimension ( or, should I say, FROM another dimension!) but you aren’t progressive if you aren’t progressing, so to speak. I think this is a fantastic new direction and sounds like 90’s pop mixed with fuzzy psychedelica, almost like A-ha met with the Gorillaz and asked Billy Corgan to join in the fun. It sees the band taking the next step in their journey and is, to my ears anyway, bloody fantastic and their best song yet.
And that’s just the three singles, we are lucky folk indeed as there are another five tracks to gorge yourself on. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, opening song The Start is, indeed, the start of something new for the band and majors on Kev’s vocals. There’s a wonderfully uplifting feel to the track as it begins to build and swell into a wall of jubilant and exuberant music. You cannot help but smile as the multi-voice chorus takes you higher and higher. Shake The Jar opens with a fantastically fuzzy, psychedelic riff from Matt and gives this high energy track a hard edge almost reminiscent of The Jam in their early years. Another song that has a bit of ebb and flow but this is music of the highest quality and a band who have embraced their new direction and are having an awful lot of fun with it. Shoe-gaze, Lo-fi, call it what you want but the brooding, edgy and ever-so-cool Non-Player is a mighty fine piece of music. Kev’s vocal has a haunting, mesmeric quality to it and the music has a world-weary, knowing grace at its core. The guitar playing could be straight from a spaghetti western at points and the sax playing from Terry Edwards is just genius.
Time for a bit of full on bombast methinks. The opening to What A Time To Be Alive is the closest we’ve come yet to a traditional TFATD track on the album so far and actually makes you realise how much the band have progressed in the last five years. It is monstrous, heavy and yet very melodic and also a very good piece of music but, to my ears, the rest of the songs have much more maturity to them. It’s a wonderful nod to the past and a pointer to where the future lies for this talented group of musicians (and vocalist!) as the track closes with a synthesised vocal interjected between Matt’s huge riff and Stuart’s thunderous drumming. There’s a Foo Fighters meets Nick Cave feel and vibe to the album closer, Nostalgia Now. A portentous title perhaps as the old TFATD is just nostalgia and the band are embracing the future. Kev’s heartfelt, delicate vocal and the elegant piano note are all that’s needed to give a hushed and almost melancholy feel to a track loaded with different textures and sounds. If there’s one song on this album that points to the band’s future then it surely is this masterpiece.
‘News From The Invisible World’– true fans will love it, there’s real maturity and creativity in this album, The Fierce And The Dead shift effortlessly between different styles to show they are no one trick ponies. You could say that this is a case of a band reinventing itself but staying close to their roots but it’s more than that, this is band raising their game to the highest level and that is really where they belong…
Released 28th July, 2023.
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