If there is a positive opposite to a musical midlife crisis, then it is fair to say London-based The Fierce And The Dead are currently enjoying a musical midlife revelation.
Since they formed 13 years ago, they have been known as a very animated, vibrant instrumental band but this new album News From The Invisible World, their fourth studio album, takes them in a very different direction. It has vocals.
The voice belongs to bass player Kev Feazey with vocal harmonies from guest players.
To ease the listener into this new “Fierce” territory, opener The Start is vocally led with a haunting quality. It steadily builds through tinkling synths before Feazey and accomplices turn it into a spoken narrative before it explodes into a full anthemic chorus.
There's a furious urgency to Shake The Jar, which sounds like an 80s indie track, rhythmically tight throughout, a rumbling bass line section driving it along during a quieter section before it bursts into life again.
The groove on Golden Thread could almost have come out of the Black Sabbath playbook via the crunching guitars of Matt Stevens and Steve Cleaton together with the staccato rhythms.
Photogenic Love is altogether different, a slower paced song that packs a grungy punch, echoey voices and a melancholy air breaking up the flow.
A throaty bass and Stuart Marshall's huge pumping beat kicks off Wonderful, the shortest track, which also features some brass effects from guest Terry Edwards.
Non-Player has an airier feel, its different passages evoking light and shade until Edwards' saxophone break takes it into different realms of quirkiness. “It's all so strange” Feazey sings over a gradually fading instrumental section.
Big and bouncing, What A Time To Be Alive sees Feazey pumping out a big bass line underpinning the massive guitar sound and crunching beat, before it slows right down as distant voices speak its title.
Nostalgia Now is slow, deep and darkly haunting, Feazey really expressing emotion and a certain wistfulness in his voice. The sombre guitar and increasingly frantic piano add real drama to the album's closer.
For daring to do something different and potentially out of their comfort zone, this is right up there as one of my albums of the year.
***** Alison Reijman
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