The Fierce and the Dead – Magnet (2015)

The Fierce and the Dead are still fierce, and most definitely not dead.  With Magnet, to be released in August, we have an EP with 21 minutes of music, though only 15 minutes of it is new.  A disappointment, maybe?  Not really.  If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to the aptly-titled teaser track, “Magnet in Your Face.”

OK, that’s about a minute and forty seconds.  Got good headphones or earbuds?  Try it two more times.  A punchy statement, played with a unified voice.  It’s a glimpse at a soundscape that will keep giving of its subtlety the closer you look.

The contrast in length and compact punch was already well-developed by 2013’s Spooky Action, as compared to the almost eighteen minutes of “Part 1” that was our introduction to the band in 2010.  But there’s an Spooky-Action-CD-Cover-FinishedOverannouncement here of something new-ish, characterized by guitarist Matt Stevens as being “more joyous and intense, with bigger riffs and more of an electronic feel” (teamrock.com).

Perhaps it’s not that TFATD is simply doing something to us (as if it were a magnet TO the face), but that they provide a revelation of the magnet that is already there in one’s face, an attraction as well as a reception.  When I open to the otherness of well-crafted music, the force of my openness draws into its light and its purview whatever it is that the artist has to give.  Think about how you listen to what someone says, how it’s not only passivity, but also activity, how it’s a drawing to oneself of what is said, or an attaction outward to whatever “metal” it might contain.

The EP will bring three more new tracks, plus two bonus rehearsal recordings of songs from Spooky Action.  “Palm Trees” and “Flint,” though longer (four or more minutes each), follow the tighter, joy-and-part1intensity aesthetic so compactly captured in “Magnet in Your Face.”  Even so, they allow for some stretching and soundscape exploration that assures us that this is still TFATD.  “Conceptual continuity,” to invoke Frank Zappa’s phrase, is naturally strongest on “Part 6,” picking up the thread that began with their first outing.  Here is the mix of abstract and concrete that first grabbed my attention by the scruff of the neck and connected with that center of force between my ears that the guys have now identified as my magnet.

As I’ve remarked before, Matt, Steve, Kevin, and Stuart make music as a unit, as tight as nearly any guitar-based quartet I’ve heard since early to middle Wishbone Ash, but with that exquisite King Crimsonesque sophistication.  The bonus tracks bear this out.  The delightful “Let’s Start a Cult” is rather more raw and more fun than the Spooky Action version, while “Spooky Action” (a CD-only bonus track, according to our copy) nicely shows just how rich is the sound that these four guys get in performance.

The band has indicated that Magnet is an appetizer for another full-length feast now in preparation.  Pull up a chair and have a taste.  I’ve ordered another drink, and am settling in to wait for the main course.

More info, and links for pre-ordering, can be found at TFATD’s website.

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