I am so happy to see The Fierce and the Dead along with their label, Bad Elephant Music, getting more coverage and even coming over to the USA for a show. The Fierce and the Dead are up and coming quickly, and they recently released a live album called “Field Recordings”. It’s honestly a delightful screenshot of who these guys are and the progression you can hear in their sound.
The Fierce and the Dead consists of Matt Stevens on guitars and loops, Steve Cleaton on guitars, Kev Feazey on bass, and Stuart Marshall on drums. As you can probably tell from the instruments they play, this isn’t the typical prog band. They are completely instrumental and they tend towards gritty bass, huge riffs, delicate guitar loops, and thundering drums. I’d even say they border on math rock at times, as their music is complex and heavy without really entering metal territory.
I’ve loved all their past albums, and especially their most recent EP “Magnet”. That EP represented a slight shift in tone for the band from meatier and grittier grooves to more ethereal and proggier passages. This live album is a good indication and map of that change in tone, as there is a good mix of new and old here. There are even a couple of completely new tracks, as well.
When I approach a live album, I’m generally looking for a level of enjoyment along with a distinction from their studio albums. “Field Recordings” is only about 30 minutes long, and I think that plays into their hand quite well. The band’s songs are never all that long, and the reason is that they are more about blood, sweat, and groove than about epic suites or structural oddities. Indeed, you can feel the sweat and grit in their playing, and it becomes all the more amazing when they shift to a delicate melody because the contrast is enormous.
One of the best things about “Field Recordings” is the fun these players are having. The guys banter back and forth with each other and also with the crowd to great effect and plenty of funny moments. They never take themselves too seriously, even though their songs are very intricate. With this humorous atmosphere in place, this live album blows by quickly in a blur of blazing bass, towering guitars, and enormous drums; and it’s all just so fun to hear.
Matt and Steve play their guitars with gusto and rigor. They play off each other well, creating rhythms and loops that will stick with you (that’s always vital for an instrumental band). Stuart’s drums are awesome here with plenty of hefty fills and the like, but it’s the off kilter beats that really are the gravy. Probably the most recognizable feature of the band for me, Kev’s bass is mixed superbly (as are all BEM releases) and is just so fuzzy and meaty that I can’t help but love every second.
The band plays some of their best songs, like “Magnet in Your Face” and “Palm Trees” from their last EP. “Ark” is also a favorite from their “Spooky Action” album. The album ends with “666…6”, one of the oldest tracks but also one that has a massive change in mood in the middle. It might be my favorite on this release. There are two new songs, though, called “Verbose” and “Dancing Robots”. The latter is great fun, but the former is the one that everyone will love because of the addictive rhythms present.
All in all, The Fierce and the Dead sound great live, but they definitely go for a raw, authentic presentation. The music is fresh and gritty, but they present themselves as people in an extremely real manner, too. I appreciate that greatly. This live release is a blast to hear, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next!