Band: Big Business
Title: The Beast You Are
Label: Joyful Noise Recordings
Release Date: 12 April 2019
Format Reviewed: Digital stream
My introduction to Big Business came I guess about 10 years ago, when the duo of Jared Warren and Coady Willis – as they were at that time – were absorbed into the enduring sludge metal outfit Melvins. Still an ongoing concern in their own right, I was curious to check them out as they were in the wild, so to speak. On their second album Here Come The Waterworks I discovered a wild cacophony of distorted bass and pounding drums, led by gruff, barked out vocals – not too disimilar from those of the Melvin’s King Buzzo in fact, but bigger and wilder. Pretty cool, but they slipped off my radar after that and it was only by chance the other week I saw they had a new album and I thought why not take a peek back into this world. Turns out after 10 years or so there’ve been some changes. I remember Big Business as a thunderous bass and drums due with what sounded like a husky lumberjack calling into the valleys. Well that same husky lumberjack now has harmonies and an organ dusted off from the 70s.
Maybe the harmonies were already in place, but the organ/ synth component is definitely new to my ears and altogether it takes what was already a pretty unique band into a new dimension. To describe the Big Business sound as it is here, there’re flavours of Mastodon for sure, with barking vocals and irrepressible drum fills; there’s also a whiff of Clutch, with the sense of a prehistoric animal trampling through the undergrowth. Both of these bands have carved out a clear identity for themselves and while Big Business have such reference points; once you hear them you can’t really mistake them for anyone else. Album opener Abdominal Snowman is like a jolly version of Mastodon, channelling 70s stadium rock, while the next track Heal The Weak is driven on a pounding drum line that could come from Neurosis (yes I can’t write a review without mentioning Neurosis), if Neurosis weren’t moody, misanthropic, apocalyptic or angry. You see there’s an enthusiasm to this music that’s so vibrant and effervescent. The drums pound and the bass rumbles, it’s heavy, very heavy, but somehow so… jolly. It’s as if I’m listening to slightly comic Vikings, one’s who perhaps licked a toad someway on their voyage and things are starting to get pretty cosmic. This could be music being sung from the bow of a ship sailing into the New World.
With a great sense of melody that comes out in the harmonies and the effective sprinkling of 70s synth sounds, tracks like El Pollo and People Behave meld together sludge and 70s rock to great effect, but The Beast You Are has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Time and Heat slows to a dragging and dreamy pace, evoking the Beatles at their most psychedelic; Under Everest meanwhile is driven on sleigh bells(!?) and falsetto harmonies, sounding like something you could imagine on a Mr. Bungle record.
Continually inventive and energetic, the album peaks for me towards the end with the great swaying grooves of Last Family, where the often explosive drums are pulled back, to be a little more low key, letting the harmonies and modulated bass drive the track; with final track Let Them Grind meanwhile the band signs off with thumping drum rolls, like a big herd of galloping buffalos and a propulsive bass rhythm. Noticeably here – and on other occasions through the album – the tempo clearly shifts, demonstrating that this music definitely isn’t quantised or played to a click track. Maybe this is part of why everything has such a vibrant, organic feel to it. And then just like that, boom, it stops. No time to linger about, this psychedelic sludge rock beast is off to conquer further territories. 8.5/10 – Tom
8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory
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