If you are an avid reader of this site, then you already know how much I enjoy the hotly debated genre of post-rock. Much of the music I have reviewed from the genre have been intensely atmospheric symphonies filled with ambient guitar, melodic basslines, and soft drums that all build incredible crescendos, in which they reveal very emotional climaxes. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of this. However, let it be known that post-rock did not begin with these ambient rock soundscapes. Sigur Ros, Mogwai, and many other bands pioneered this side of the genre, but there is another side to the scene. A darker and more intense side that goes above and beyond the lush guitar work. Slint heavily influenced the genre with their dynamic compositions that range from clean guitars, light drumming, and whisper-like spoken word to highly distorted and squealing guitar solos, heavy hard rock drumming that sometimes contains complex time signatures, and harshly screamed vocals. Godspeed You! Black Emperor was also a huge influence, in that though they had ambience in their works, they knew when to drop bombs of atomic-like heavy rock on listeners. In the past few years, not much of this side has turned out. The influences are there, but it is not as prevalent as back in the 1990s. The Fierce & The Dead, a relatively new (as of last year) project from London, England, comprised of guitarist Matt Stevens (also acclaimed for being a looping guitarist, able to compose huge walls of noise from only the live recorded loops from his guitar), audio engineer, producer, and musician Kev Feazey (who plays bass on this album, by the way), and drummer Stuart Marshall (a busy drummer who has played everything from surf rock to hardcore), is bringing the intense side of post-rock back with their debut album, “If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe”. The usual ambient soundscapes are still here, but they have way too many noisy and fun surprises up their sleeves that at times even challenge just what the style and genre of this album is. Though sometimes, that is a good thing, because why would anyone want to try to spend time categorizing what the album is, when, in fact, they can just take the music as it is: a brilliant and noisy masterpiece unlike anything that has come before it, bringing back the remnants of Swans, Slint, Napalm Death, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and so many other bands all into one 37 minute journey?
The opener, “Flint”, is one of the strangest atmospheric openings I’ve ever heard on an album. It starts with heavily processed guitars, filled with twang, delay, and reverb, along with so many other combinations of sounds, ranging from distorted drones to white noise, and coming from a variety of instruments, including the cymbals of the drum set. The track seems to have no sense of beat or rhythm, except for an improvised bass line that then starts a smooth drum beat along with beautiful guitar riffs, which sometimes attacks clear as a bell, while at other times, it just swells in and out of the mix. Often, distorted guitar and bass enter the mix, and alternate between the two, while soon ending out quietly, which starts the album out great. “Part 2”, which may be a hint to their previously 19-minute release, “Part 1”, begins with smooth drums and off-kilter bass and guitar riffs, though they are never the less just as beautiful and cinematic as the opener. Later on in the track, heavily distorted guitar and bass riffs, along with some symphonic choir-like samples enter the mix, giving the listener a thought of the theme to a film that was never made. More emotional guitar solos ensue throughout, sounding almost like they have somewhat of a Western flair to them, before eventually ending out. This track again shows how emotional The Fierce & The Dead can make their music without using so much ambience to shapes the dynamics of the track. “The Wait” is a beautiful and happy-sounding guitar piece with a lot of guitar riffs and chords going on, as well as a soft beat in the background, and what may sound like ambient synths and some piano and organ as well. It gives a nice break from what has happened in the album, but it gives no trace of what is about to happen next.
“H.R.” is where the album picks up the speed, beginning with strange and dreamy sounding guitar riffs, a nice bass riff underneath, and a soft beat. It is hard to tell what the chord progression is, as the riffs seem to mesh together to the point where they become one. A harder beat then ensues, continue the strange riffs either further until eventually, an extremely distorted and speedily picked guitar riff takes over the track, almost in the same matter that a guitar solo would dominate in a punk rock track back in the 70s. It’s hard for me to say anything more than that, as the track is an experience within itself. “Hotel No. 6” is an ambient interlude featuring droning and mysterious guitar riffs that weave in and out to create a relaxing atmosphere, and yet again, it provides a nice break from the rest of the craziness going on in the album. However, there is still an unexpected turn around the corner. “Landcrab” is where the band shows their influence from grindcore and heavy metal, and it is intense as ever. Insanely fast and sharp drum hits, distorted guitar grooves, melodic yet dangerously noisy guitar leads, and melodic bass lines occur throughout the 2-minute long track. I can’t help but get the feeling of an intense fight or scene from a Western-inspired action film while listening to this, though maybe listeners have other ideas for the track.
“Daddies Little Helper” is a soft, dub-inspired track featuring light drumming, catchy bass lines, and short guitar strums before leading into beautiful guitar riffs and ambient soundscapes underneath the beat. Also, later on, saxophonist Terry Edwards makes a guest appearance, which shows how much jazz has also influenced the band’s works, in that Edwards’s saxophone licks range all over the place: from the styles of John Coltrane and Miles Davis to Anthony Braxton and John Zorn. All in one track. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album, and is quite a fun song to listen to. “Woodchip” is yet another ambient interlude, only this time, it is composed only with samplers, synthesizers, and effects, which gradually changes from beautiful and lush to bleeps and creeps by the end of the track. “10×10” begins with a soft drum rhythm, a melodic bass line, and ambient guitar swells before later on, clean guitar riffs pile on top of each other one by one, leading then into a faster section with more atmospherics and beautiful guitar work. The most surprising aspect of the song, however, occurs a little over a minute into the song, with an arpeggiated and distorted acid house bassline entering into the mix. There is a break that occurs with more atmospheric guitar riffs, before later on, all the elements previously introduced in the song combine to create an explosive and unforgettable climax. A beautifully arranged track. The last track, “Andy Fox”, begins with ambient noises before a creepy piano riff and more ambient guitar and string-like sounds appear, along with the bass riffs. The track builds steam when the drums finally enter, and the song flows at its own pace, before building up with more riffs, as well as more smooth saxophone riffs from Edwards, which sounds like a misty bar at midnight in the streets of a huge city. The track yet again builds more steam, as the guitar riffs grow even more louder, and the saxophone riffs become more and more intense and paranoid, similar to John Zorn’s works such as in “Spillane” or with his band on their self-titled album, “Naked City”. The album then slowly closes out with the ambient guitar loops, and soon, the album ends.
Overall, The Fierce & The Dead’s “If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe” is one of the more solid releases I’ve heard in a while. It brings post-rock back to its roots, as well as incorporating other genres such as avant-garde jazz, heavy metal, and progressive rock. It doesn’t focus on making ambience as much as it does in making emotional and cinematic music. It could quite literally be a post-rock album, but I don’t even think the term is strong enough here. Quite simply, “If It Carries On…” is the soundtrack to the film that never was. A Western-themed action epic of sorts, complete with huge fight scenes, steamy romance, and dark images of misty city bars in the dead of night. Maybe this is going too far. Maybe I’m over-analyzing. Or maybe, just maybe, I might be hitting the nail right on the head when talking about this album. I sincerely enjoyed listening to this album, as some of the tracks really caught my attention, such as “10×10”, “Landcrab”, “Andy Fox”, and “H.R.”. The other tracks were also exceptionally well made, willing to create ambiences and scenes of their own, which makes this one of the most intriguing and must-have independent instrumental albums of the year. Highly recommended listening.
Title: If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe
Artist: The Fierce & The Dead
Genre: Instrumental post-rock
Self-released May 16th, 2011
You can pre-order the physical copy of the album (copies will be shipped out by June 13th), or buy the digital copy for a name-your-own-price deal now at http://thefierceandthedead.bandcamp.com/!