REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Fierce And The Dead – Ramsgate Music Hall, Ramsgate, Kent 4/5/2024

It’s been a great day in Ramsgate. The town has been buzzing and the sun has been gloriously bright. It’s felt like the “seaside season” has finally arrived. At the Ramsgate Music Hall, a sell out crowd are in really friendly spirits. They’ve come out to see The Fierce And The Dead – the Northampton post rock/art rock band who took the prog scene by storm with the release of their third album, 2017’s ‘The Euphoric’. That success came with almost a Trojan horse-like approach: for a while, it seemed as if the band were too much of a heavy/stoner rock phenomenon to click with the proggers, but a bit too strange to find a home amongst the Fu Manchu and Kyuss fanbase, but here they were, finally gaining enthusiastic press and a keen live audience.

That success grew even further with the release of 2023’s ‘News From The Invisible World’, a critically acclaimed disc that found the band adding vocals to their concoction of sound. Prior to this night, gigs in Nottingham and Bristol have been well received, but the Ramsgate crowd are especially keen. Not just because they suspect they’re in for a great gig, but because this night has been in the works for what feels like forever. The band had originally made plans to appear at the venue at the end of 2018 as part of their ‘Euphoric’ promotion, but guitarist Matt Stevens found himself battling cancer and future gig plans were put on hold. Then Covid hit, and the whole world ground to a halt. Almost six years on from the first hints that The Fierce And The Dead would play at the Music Hall, they’re finally here – and everyone is more than up for it.

From the moment the opening drone of ‘The Start’ fills the room, the atmosphere is terrific, and at the point the song’s harder riffs kick in, the band’s sound is enormous. They’ve often sounded huge in the past but, here, with the gig area not much so bigger than a large living room, they sound like a genuine force. With the arrival of the bigger ‘Shake The Jar’, they really kick into gear; Kevin Feazey’s bass, especially, gives the performance a forceful bottom end that really works. The sheer volume means that various things are distorted, but there’s still a clarity in what the band plays. Matt’s guitar, cutting through the density, brings the complex textures that lifts the number above your standard stoner rock groove, and Orange Clocks man Tom Hunt – supplying keys and vocals – plays up a storm, giving everything a massive boost.

As the band moves into ‘Golden Thread’, the opening riffs sound immense. It’s here, perhaps more than ever, that the band’s massive stoner rock credentials become very clear. The mix of clean and dirty guitar works well despite the slightly muddier live sound, and the wavering present within the lead vocal makes the track sound almost other worldly. Amid a row of steady nodding heads, a man in the front row, sporting a semi-Nutkins haircut, begins lurching about and dancing like a mad rag doll, taking the old maxim of “dance like nobody’s watching” to a natural extreme. Further into the crowd, the band’s still-new sounds appear to be greeted with a genuine love. This is an audience moving forward with the band; very much in it for the long haul, and not just out in the hope of hearing the older classics like ‘Palm Trees’ and ‘Ark’. And it’s a good job, since this tour has been heavily weighted towards the current album with all eight of its songs gracing the set list. Another of those new songs, ‘Photogenic Love’ is introduced by Kev as being his “nemesis”, but regardless of the material’s complexity, he performs very strongly, even with the sound distortions making some of his vocals sound a little off kilter in places. The very 80s feel to the studio track isn’t lost, though. Its mechanical verses still convey a brilliant prog-pop sound, and during some of the heavier moments, Matt’s clean guitar notes cut through the bass groove very effectively.

‘Photogenic Love’ segues very neatly into a hazy, almost psychedelic ‘Flint’, a track that allows Stevens a broader scope for showing off his smart guitar work, and despite the dramatic change of pace, the dancing man in the front row doesn’t actually waver; he just continues to move almost manically, as if somehow possessed by the demons of underground art rock. Cranking things massively, a supercharged ‘Magnet’ (labelled a “heavy metal interlude” by Kevin) provides a set highlight, and ‘1991’ really shows off drummer Stuart Marshall’s more technical side. The opportunity to watch him up close really shows off what a great player he is; often undervalued within the whole Fierce/Dead set up when dominated by the fuzz bass and complex guitar parts, but he’s playing up an absolute storm tonight. ‘Wonderful’, meanwhile, captures the whole of the band’s sonic range in one big groove-laden hit; the bass attacks with distortion and its punchy rhythm shares an ominous power, whilst the quiet interludes give an opportunity to, once again, enjoy Matt’s shimmering tones. What’s clear at this point, if it hadn’t been before, is how much of a connection The Fierce And The Dead have with their audience. They play completely without ego, and without barriers; the banter is always natural, with Matt and Kev treating every member of the crowd like a true friend. This is clearly something that’s helped their small venue live shows feel special over the years, and tonight is no exception.

A much heavier ‘What A Time To Be Alive’ makes TFATD sound like the artier successors to the stoner rock greats of the 90s, and regular set closer ‘Parts 7 & 8’ brings an instrumental force that fits somewhere between the band’s earlier quirks and their current post-rock tightness, and – much like the rest of the set – is enthusiastically received. During the encore, things show no sign of flagging. ‘Nostalgia Now’ – the last of the new tracks – lands the set a spooky, goth-like slab of alt-rock where Marshall’s drum work is a little more understated in places, but no less powerful. Fan favourite ‘Truck’ serves riffs almost as huge as ‘Magnet’, and inspires rows of nodding heads once more, and visiting the band’s distant past, ‘Landcrab’ shares a world of weird with Stevens crouched on the floor, fiddling with his various switches, creating a great vision of an artist absorbed by his own creation.

This was always likely to be a good gig, but the fact that the Thanet crowd had been waiting so long has made it all the more special. The Fierce And The Dead are now armed with much more material, but are arguably a much stronger band. Always pushing forward, these musicians constantly innovate, and this gig has been proof enough of that, since the 2024 Fiece/Dead sound like a completely different beast to that which supported Hawkwind in 2018. Leaving the venue, the voices of support and snatches of conversations overheard only confirm what a great experience it has been for everyone. A great night, indeed.

May 2024