British prog instrumentalists The Fierce & The Dead have launched their own podcast, Lets Start A Cult. While initially covering the history of the band, future episodes will feature interviews with fellow musicians and friends of the band, music gear discussion and commentary on things the band find interesting.
Guitarist Matt Stevens, “We’ve been interested in creating a podcast for ages and having stopped rehearsing and gigging due to ongoing events we thought now was the time to crack on with it. We’ll talk about the history of the band to bring people up to speed initially then we’re going to focus on talking to our friends about their music, music gear and tutorials, that sort of thing. It’s been fun to do and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it going, I really enjoyed it, but i was surprised how little I remembered about the making of the first album and EP. It was a long time ago! . “
Episode 1 is available on YouTube now with an episode to follow every week and it’ll be up on all major podcast platforms shortly. You can listen to the first episode below.
Just recently I have picked up on the Channel Four series of Philip K.Dick stories, Electric Dreams, in which dystopian nightmares are played out in mainly normal humdrum situations with a fear of foreboding dread building to a crescendo. Likewise, the third studio album from instrumental band The Fierce and The Dead, titled ‘The Euphoric’, is one that builds and builds, working around a juxtaposition of beautifully crafted melodies driven by crashing, hard driven and downtuned guitar riffs. A major compliment I can pay the album is that should channel four make another series of Electric Dreams this is the band and album that should soundtrack it.
Over the last eight years since their debut release, the ‘Part 1 EP’, The Fierce and The Dead have developed their craft, adding layering and texture to their already formidable playing and production skills. Using their influences whilst retaining their individuality is an enviable skill; one which is often not pulled off but, in the case of this album, most certainly is. You can hear throughout the album the influences of the musicians the band have worked with or obviously admire; from the hardcore metal of bands such as Slayer to the melodic tune creation of a Steven Wilson, The Fierce and The Dead have made an album of deep complexity whilst retaining a simplicity within the riff structure that drives the album on and doesn’t allow it to become samey or repetitive.
The two lead singles from the album are both standouts with the already successful, with accompanying video by acclaimed director Mark Duffy, Truck being followed by, on the 30th March, 1991. Both tracks show off the sound which you can expect from the album with their heavy psychedelia and cross over between guitars and synths being indicative of the direction the band have taken. The band are happy to confound, confuse and surprise in composition and performance which makes this album a fulfilling and satisfying listen.
The album, which is released on the 18th May by Bad Elephant Records, featuring amazing cover art work by Mark Buckingham, will be available in both CD and Vinyl formats. There will also be available limited edition bundles featuring a print of the cover artwork and an exclusive bonus CD of live and demo tracks.
Despite saying they would be easing off a little after last year’s hectic release schedule, Bad Elephant Music (BEM) are showing no noticeable signs of slowing down in unleashing new music to our ears for 2017.
Soon to be released and highly anticipated is the ‘Field Recordings’ EP from one of BEM’s rising bands The Fierce And The Dead,(TFATD) and catching them in all their glory, live from last year’s Ramblin’ Man Festival. It includes four of the regular favourites and two new tracks, which the band tease may or may not appear on the new album which they are currently recording.
Based in Northamptonshire this 4 piece instrumental rock band formed in 2010. They line up as:
Matt Stevens – guitar/loops, Steve Cleaton – guitar, Kev Feazey – bass and Stuart Marshall – drums.
(Eggcellent Photo Credit to Allyson Blue-Sky)
Serving up a sound that continually evolves taking in every genre they can squeeze in and veering from scuzzy guitars to chilled Hawaiian licks we find jazzy undertones married to punk style jerks and everything in between, moulded into their own distinctive sound. You can never get too cosy listening to the chilled rippling strings, because just as you sink into your deck chair, hanky on head with a cool drink in your hand you can be hit with brutal metal riffs and twitching rhythms that will have you up and jumping around, your head waving wildly like a rag doll. Their loyal and growing following have already seen them supporting Crippled Black Phoenix and The Aristocrats among others.
Now whilst I have the band’s recorded output I must confess I have yet to have the opportunity to see TFATD live, something I must remedy in the future, so I can only review this from listening and using my wildly vivid imagination.
(Photo Credit – Ashley Jones of The Chaos Engineers)
They kick straight in after the briefest of understated introductions, blowing any clouds away with the fast distorted riffs of Magnet In Your Faceand anyone trying to chill is brought abruptly back to the land of the living. They lay on a few laid back chords like cars drifting smoothly round corners then crash back into the fray with Stuart’s drums careering like one huge pile up on the biggest of motorways with Kev Feazey’s bass weaving like Vin Diesel through the traffic as Steve and Matt’s guitars flick the NOS switch and hurtle to the finish line.
But there is no pit stop or time to refuel as it’s straight into Ark, with the guitars switching briefly to cruise after the bass revs it’s engine. But the temptation to rev will out and throughout the chilled rhythm the drums pull at the choke and the plugs spark in bursts.
Many albums can be lost in the studio as they are mixed and chopped, losing the ‘live’ feel. So it’s nice to hear the crowd and banter haven’t been removed from between the tracks and a credit to Mr Feazey’s mastering capabilities that he retains the atmosphere and gives him the chance to introduce the band before the next track, Dancing Robots, (a new one for those who do not have the knowledge).
Looping guitars drift in as the drums tick over before the bass presses the start button and we side-slip into the traffic before whipping out on to the fast lane racing weaving through the crowd and away.
We are treated to the sounds of tuning and a short modest merch promotion, before being introduced to another new track Verbosewhich will ‘probably’ be on the new record out this year. Drumsticks count us in and then frantic short riffs followed by the throbbing bass blow the wind through our hair and from somewhere I’m reminded of ‘Radar Love’ before the intensity builds and gains pace, all the while the bass driving the tune on. This is probably the heaviest track on this EP and ends with screaming distorted guitar as it slides down the scale.
Perfectly suiting the open top car on a sunny day, a looping Hawaiian lick introduces us to Palm Trees, the only track with ‘vocals’, but you’ve no sooner taken your beach towel out of the boot and spread it on the beach, when a huge wave of distortion hits you and you are left soaked in crumbling guitar notes.
Last track, live favourite 666…6, is introduced as the band’s hit single to a ripple of appreciation from the audience. Looping tropical chords warm up the engine one last time twisting through the air before a Biffy Clyro style riff changes gear and rips through them. Down a gear again to the loop before the band rev again. It’s like trying to reign in a muscle car that doesn’t want to cruise and pose along the sea front but would rather burn rubber and screech down the road towards the dramatic climax. This is how to burn out a musical clutch. The speed builds and it all comes to a crashing end, fading out as the crowd applaud and cheer an exhilarating performance.
For anyone not having heard the band previously I can heartily recommend this as not only do they revel in playing ‘live’ but it is a great taster for the distinctive TFATD sound. Then if you like it make sure you catch up on the rest before the new album comes out later this year.
If I can also give a special mention to the fabulous cover art from the legendary Mark Buckingham, nice.
‘Field Recordings’ is how live music should sound and many bigger bands could learn from this. Looking forward to the new album boys.
It is just under two weeks to go until Bad Elephant Music releases The Fierce & The Dead’s live mini-album, ‘Field Recordings’.
Taken from the band’s incendiary set at last year’s Ramblin’ Man Festival, ‘Field Recordings’ captures the band in their element – performing live on stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd. The album features two previously unreleased songs which may (or may not!) feature on The Fierce And The Dead’s third solo album, currently in production.
BEM’s CEO David Elliott:
“As a bit of Easter cheer on a rather grim Monday, we’ve released the stream of a second track, another new tune entitled ‘Verbose’. Get it in your ears – and if you like it, and you have £8 to spare, it would be lovely if you’d buy a CD. Mark Buckingham’s stunning artwork is worth the price of admission alone.”
The band reckon this album is the best statement to date of what The Fierce And The Dead are about. Even Matt (Stevens) himself has gone on record as saying “yeah, it’s okay” – which if you know him you’ll recognise as the highest possible praise when it comes to his own work.
You can listen to Verbose and pre-order ‘Field Recordings’ at the link below:
Well, this came out of nowhere. I was expecting that The Fierce And The Dead’s next outing would be the third album current being recorded in seclusion with an as yet undisclosed name or release date. Suddenly the Bad Elephant Music promo number 36, ‘If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe’, magically appears in my in box.
I never reviewed the original but had to revisit it to see what they had done to the smartly repackaged remaster. Mark Buckingham’s stunning artwork suits the band perfectly, the intrinsic darkness of the music mirrors the graphic novelist’s style very well.
I often think very little of remastered albums and feel certain artists are just cashing in on or increasing their pension plans (no names no pack drill etc.) I have all the TFATD material and Matt Steven’s solo stuff anyway but always felt it didn’t quite reflect what they did in the live arena, the sonic assault of the back line and the bass smacking you squarely in the chest, letting you know they had arrived and will not be ignored. The live version of Andy Fox, one of the bonus tracks on this release, has a crystal clarity and solid punch to it. The whole package is far more dense but,yet, has a clarity to it, it is not muddy or thin in the least and is a lot closer to what the band does on stage.
For those who have no idea of who The Fierce And The Dead are, they are a project that grew from Matt Stevens playing with some guys rather than doing his looping acoustic stuff and it gelled very quickly into a full blown project and the original version of this album was the first product of that. They grew from being a ‘Krautrock’ ‘electronica’ to something far harder edged with the addition of a second guitarist. They now have a line up of Matt (guitar), Kevin Feazey (bass), Steve Cleaton (guitar) & Stuart Marshall (drums) and with a hugely dedicated following to boot. Instrumental hard edged music that brooks no compromise but has a wicked sense of fun all rolled into one great package.
This is the version that I think, in 2011, they would have actually released if they had been able to. High points for me are Landcrab, 10×10, and Daddy’s Little Helper. They all benefit well from the remastering process and it breathes a new life in to them.
I am completely convinced this it was a very good idea to revisit the original release and make the best of the masters from what is the beginning of a very unique gem of an outfit. RoSfest in 2017 is in for a treat indeed!
The Fierce and the Dead have been announced as the opening band for Sunday at Rosfest 2017. This slot at the festival is often dubbed The Church of Prog; the truly dedicated audience filling these chairs on an early Sunday morning, receptive to good music and eager to spread the word about it, is the equivalent of a congregation in progressive rock circles.
I dubbed them ‘A soundtrack for the current generation’. Purveyors of ‘lovingly crafted noise’ and pioneers of what they call ‘Funny Music’, this cult band saw their latest, limited edition, E.P. ‘Magnet’ sell out before its release date on August 14th last year. The Fierce and the Dead are as hot as it gets in the underground, small label and independent world at the moment.
Blake Carpenter of RoSfest said,
“We can’t wait to see this band make their live US debut at ROSfest 2017, and we’re certain that our first-rate audience will give Matt Stevens, Kev Feazey, Stuart Marshall and Steve Cleaton a warm welcome.”
I spoke to the band about their first visit to America…
“We’re so pleased to be playing in America and to play our first show at RoSfest is very exciting. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has been has said what a great festival it is and we’re really happy be involved” says guitarist Matt Stevens.
“Events like RoSfest are willing to take chances and invest in the global scene they represent – we are beyond stoked to have been asked to play, a real honour” adds bass player Kevin Feazey.
“Getting the chance to play our material to a new audience in a new country is a really exciting opportunity for us, and we can’t wait to get over there and pick up the audience so they can join us on our sonic journey!” continues guitar player Steve Cleaton.
“And all that remained were The Fierce And The Dead…..”
The three day festival begins on Friday, 5th May 2017
Progressive rock stalwarts and innovators The Tangent return, after main man Andy Tillison’s heart attack last year, with a great lyric video for single A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road and you can watch it here:
Andy wanted to return to the more socially aware music that he has generally written since he was a teenager.
Andy told me,
” …obviously it’s something where we;ve beaten the punks, the independents, the Bonos and Stings to the post in having something to say about the Post Brexit racism. The song is NOT about Brexit itself… that wouldn’t interest me enough to write a song…”
In an announcement on the band’s facebook page he went on to say,
“It’s a song from a man who loves his Yorkshire, his England, his Britain and his Europe more than the self serving hacks from the tabloid press seem to love anything.
This is The Tangent. We are a PROGRESSIVE ROCK BAND. This is our new song. Play as loud as you can – and make sure you listen to the very end.”
The track, and the band’s upcoming as-yet-untitled album, will feature artwork created by renowned UK comic artist Mark Buckingham, who has provided designs for both DC and Marvel as well as artwork for The Fierce And The Dead.
A few years ago an unlikely hero entered the rock music scene. Like some sort of Rock ‘El Mariachi’ Matt Stevens rode into town armed only with a guitar, a few effects pedals and most importantly a prodigious talent and imagination. ‘Have guitar, will travel’ was his trademark, travelling right across the country willing to play any club, pub and venue, supporting any and everyone. Unbounded by any labels and by any notions of conforming to musical norms Matt Stevens’ music crossed many boundaries, but did not seem to fit any – just the way he liked it.
Roaming the musical hinterlands he was free to take his own path. Occassionally, venue’s saloon doors would swing open and in would step the silhouette of a musical man mountain maestro with a guitar slung around his neck, here to take on all challengers with fast fingers, exciting music and engaging charm. Venue after venue and crowd after crowd succumbed to his talent, won over by his talent, enthusiasm and his unquenchable thirst just to perform.
Well now, Matt ‘Mariachi’ Stevens is stepping back from his solo guitar days, having formed his own posse called ‘The Fierce and the Dead’ within which to express his impressive musical skills and imagination. ‘The Fierce and the Dead’ have been burning their own distinctive and unconventional path through modern music, turning up at contrasting music festivals such as ‘Summers End’ and ‘Arc Tangent’ and uncompromisingly blasting and riffing their way through the crowds, a few scattering to the bar but burning in to the hearts of many other unsuspecting punters.
(Photo copyright the Chaos Engineers)
To mark his current ‘retirement’ from solo performing Matt Stevens is releasing ‘Archive’ on Bad Elephant Music. (Of course, it’s on Bad Elephant Music – a remarkably diverse label which specialises in an increasingly diverse range of unusual, quirky, uncompromising and high quality recordings.)
This set is NOT a retrospective drawn from Matt Stevens’ already released albums, ‘Echo’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Relic’… that would have been too easy for this artist, who wanted to share a document of his live solo recordings. It is comprised of a live guitar and loop set recorded in a church for the Farncombe Music Club in 2014. (What a different experience in church that must have been!) Alongside those pieces Matt has included two ambient pieces (Intermission 1 & Intermission 2) and two ‘lost songs’. The marvellously named ‘Pecadillo’ was produced for a compilation released on the Believers Roast label of Kavius Torabi (Knifeworld) in 2012. ‘Blue Filter’ is an out-take from the recordings of Matt’s 2010 album, ‘Ghost’.
What can someone unfamiliar expect from this album?
Well, one can expect to hear a bewildering array of sounds and textures somehow conjured up from just a guitar and some looper technology.
What may be harder to imagine is the kaleidoscope of sounds and feels that splash sonically out of his guitar, cascades of riffs and melodies interweaving and echoing in a captivating tapestry of noise. This reviewer is not usually taken with purely instrumental albums – it’s just usually not my cup of tea (or glass of tequila). However, Matt Stevens is not your usual purely instrumental artist and I am glad I imbibed in this intriguing offering.
Opening track ‘Rusty’ (where does he get these names from?) immediately hits you with a torrent of riffs and echoes with intricate playing and sounds it does not seem possible to extract from just a guitar. As a manifesto for the album it certainly lets you know this is no ordinary musical ride. In contrast, later track ‘ A Boy’ is a much gentler acoustic glide which beguiles and shows that there is a range of musical colours described here. Amongst other highlights ‘Big Sky’ takes you right out there on the ‘Looper Plains’ as coruscating clouds of echoing lines scud across the musical firmament, before being gently brought down to earth and then once again in a psychedelic coda launched in to a reverb filled sky – at least that’s what I imagined… and all done by one guy and his guitar live!
Reviews are peculiar things – one never knows quite in what direction it will go. Before I even started on this review, knowing a little about Matt and his music, I decided to use the ‘El Mariachi’ theme as it conveyed his singular and somewhat heroic musical path, and captured the idea of ‘a loner with his guitar’. What I had not expected to find was a song on the album that perfectly captures that imagery – the aforementioned ‘Blue Filter’ is pure spaghetti western, even with effects sounding uncannily like a horse trotting.
It is a perfect way to effectively finish the album as our Mariachi guitar maestro decides to hang up his solo guitar for the time being and strides off to continue exploring other musical horizons (and upsetting a few along the way!) with his posse. Maybe one day he will return to a venue or saloon near you with his guitar slung around his neck but for now listen to this and imagine his legendary live solo days.
A scary picture to get things started, it’s that time of year again when everyone puts out their ‘Best of 2015’ album list and I’m no different to every other music journalist, budding or otherwise.
Lists like these are very subjective, after all, one man’s poison is another man’s wine but they’re fun to do and give a real retrospective of some of the great music that has been released over the past 12 months or so.
First off, the usual disclaimer, I won’t include any Bad Elephant Music releases as some people might say I’d be slightly biased. However, once again, this tiny independent label has given us some mighty impressive music from the likes of The Room, Tom Slatter, Simon Godfrey, The Fierce and the Dead and Twice Bitten, among others, all of which can be sampled at the link below:
I tried to get it down to a top 15, never mind a top ten, but that proved too difficult so, here it is, Progradar’s top 20 albums of 2015. Don’t see the position as being too indicative as, really, albums 20-6 could be in any given order on any given day, the quality is that close. The top 5, however, are my definitive top 5 albums for 2015.
Enough pre-amble, here we go……
20 – Transport Aerian – Dark Blue
A deeply dark, disturbing and highly original work of art from this talented, serious musician. Well worth a listen but, be afraid, very afraid!
19 – Steve Rothery – The Ghosts of Pripyat
Marillion’s guitarist is venturing further afield with his solo work and it’s simple, faraway beauty is quite inspiring. Put your feet up, get your headphones on, lay back and relax.
18 – Barock Project – Skyline
An unexpected highlight of the year, hopefully the fourth album by this extremely talented and still relatively young band will see them break into the mainstream of the progressive rock market. I for one think that, with music as deeply enjoyable and illuminating as this, that they definitely deserve it!
A new release full of sophistication and depth and powerful, thoughtful songs that resonate deeply with you. An album about duality, darkness and light and imbued with intricate compositions, complex arrangements and virtuosic performances, you will want this delight in your collection, trust me…..
16 – Mystery – Delusion Rain
2015 saw Canadian prog-rockers Mystery return with a new album and a new lead singer and it was as if they’d never been away. Jean Pageau has a voice that fits perfectly with the melodic progressive rock that the band deliver with aplomb. The epic track The Willow Tree is a superb, intricate and emotional hit of passion and takes the album from merely good to very good indeed.
15 – Hibernal – After the Winter
Mark Healy’s cinematic and evocative soundscapes waft over a post-apocalyptic spoken word storyline to deliver an immensely visceral listening experience.
14 – Built for the Future – Chasing Light
‘Chasing Light’ is one of those rare albums that grabs you immediately AND keeps on getting better with every listen. Built for the Future’s debut release is a thing of rare wonder that resonates with me on a personal level, their commitment to delivering music that connects deeply with the listener has produced a record that shines brightly.
13 – Sylvium – Waiting for the Noise
Superb progressive rock with tones of Porcupine Tree and Riverside. A musical experience that emphasizes emotions rather than the eternal quest for a perfect pop song.
12 – The Wynntown Marshalls – The End of the Golden Age
Scottish tinged Americana with powerful and haunting songwriting and outstanding musicianship.
11 – Echolyn – I Heard You Listening
Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America. A band I have heard little of in the past, this new album will definitely change that, a melting pot of sweet melodies and delicious harmonies.
10 – Tiger Moth Tales – Storytellers Part One
An album that is even better than the delights of ‘Cocoon’. My inner child is brought to the fore by the magic, charm and allure of ‘Story Tellers Part 1′, it takes me away to an inner nirvana where nothing can touch me or spoil my mood.
9 – Comedy of Errors – Spirit
Do you believe music has soul? I do and, when it is as deeply involving and emotionally uplifting (and draining to be honest!) as this, it becomes life affirming in many ways. All the songs were written by Jim Johnston but I’m sure even he would agree that they are given life by the whole of Comedy of Errors.
8 – Glass Hammer – The Breaking of the World
It could have been this studio album or the equally impressive ‘Glass Hammer – Live’, recorded at this year’s RosFest but, first, let’s get the Yes comparison out of the way, these guys do traditional progressive rock so well they have transcended that to stand in their own circle of praise. A highly impressive effort once again.
7 – Karnataka – Secrets of Angels
The first album written specifically for vocalist Hayley Griffith’s voice, a symphonic prog- rock masterpiece with towering anthems and delicate ballads concluding with the epic twenty-minute plus title track.
6 – The Tangent – A Spark in the Aether
A return to traditional progressive rock, incredibly addictive, flippant and irreverent and, well, just darn good fun!
5 – Big Big Train – Wassail (yes, I know it’s only an E.P. but I like it!!)
You can put your heroes on a pedestal to be knocked off when they don’t reach your lofty expectations but, with ‘Wassail’, Big Big Train have just enhanced their reputation as purveyors of unique and sublime progressive rock which is founded on the elemental history of this blessed isle. A history that is fundamental to the everlasting allure of this captivating group of musicians.
4 – Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah II
‘Arcade Messiah II’ takes all that was good with the first album and enhances by taking the raw, coruscating energy of the first release and developing it into a superb sound that, while holding nothing back, is full of nuances and intelligence. A ‘Wall of Sound’ that makes Phil Spector’s look like a diminutive picket fence and it is quite possibly the best thing this highly talented musician has ever produced.
3 – Maddison’s Thread – Maddison’s Thread
Folk is rooted at the core of Maddison’s Way but this album is all about the music and the way Lee can diversify with aplomb is very impressive. A contender for album of the year for me and one that will stay with me for a very long time.
2- Subsignal – The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime
See, this is why these bloody lists are only subjective. I had mine all worked out and then I listened to the fourth album from German band Subsignal and it was blown out of the water. Arisen from the ashes of the great Sieges Even, the first three albums by the band failed to really hit the heights for me. Well, all is most definitely forgiven as ‘The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime’ has just hit me right on the correct spot and elevated them to a higher level. It has a real emotional depth to it and is one that is highly, highly recommended, nearly making it to the top spot…..
1 – Riverside – Love, fear and the Time Machine
So, after a tough fight it is Polish band Riverside that take the crown this year. I have always been a fan of this band without actually loving their work. All that changed with this years beautiful release. There is a depth and maturity to this release that resonates deep to the core. The fragile, breaking vocals and signature sound have taken the band to the forefront of the progressive rock genre and, in this album, they have left behind a musical legacy of which anyone can be proud.