In this dark epoch of late capitalism, “big business” refers to a grinding corporate oligarchy slowly devouring the economy—a cash-crazy leviathan driven onward by its ceaseless appetite. Among aficionados of heavy rock, Big Business is a power duo from Seattle made up of drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren. Where the plodding corporate behemoth craves certainty and stability, the band is agile and unpredictable, producing a seductive wall of sound from a wave of chaos.
Big Business’ sixth LP, The Beast You Are, enhances the band’s dexterous brand of pummeling rock with catchy songs and ambitious arrangements. Its heavy sound somehow remains buoyant rather than getting mired in the sludge.
On the album’s opener, “Abdominal Snowman,” angry feedback gives way to pugilistic riffs. Big Business builds with relentless momentum rather than settling into a well-worn groove. The powerful, sinuous music recalls the stint Willis and Warren spent augmenting the sound of legendary sludge rockers The Melvins for their 2009 album, Nude With Boots. The muscular and gravelly growl of Warren’s vocals calls to mind The Melvins’ King Buzzo, but tinged by the plastic spasticity of Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.
On “Heal the Weak” rumbling tom-toms push the heavy groove as monstrous bass notes heave like stormy seas. Warren’s vocals are vaguely ominous and tinged with a slightly malevolent exuberance as he sings, “It’s awful and still probably worse/ They’re biters and rarely alone.”
The 36-second interlude “The Complacency is Killing You” brings brief solace in the midst of a bombastic album—uplifting the tone with synthesizers and choral voices.
“Bright Grey” returns to the boxing ring with manic Sabbath-inspired riffs. The Beast You Are constantly amazes with the fact that its musical racket comes from just two guys. Drummer Coady Willis sounds like he must have at least four arms—with maybe two more to spare in order to chug an endless supply of energy drinks. Warren’s bass playing is reinforced by synthesizers, but it’s the monstrous size of the riffs he’s playing that produces seemingly endless rumbling expansion.
On “Time and Heat” and “The Moor You Know,” sci-fi synths augment the sonic grind. But even so, the album never feels like prog rock. The music is too libidinous and guttural for odd time signatures and jazz chords. It’s chaotic and frenetic; with more heart than wanky solos and shredding.
On the interlude “We Can Swarm,” Willis’ drum solo migrates from John-Bonham-style bashing to a groovy tribal rhythm in just 45 seconds. “We’ll Take the Good Package” is a another short synth-heavy interlude that explores pristine sounds for about half a minute. While these interludes are short, they break up the album like culinary palate cleansers, often emphasizing the heaviness of the songs that follow them.
The last three songs on the album further emphasize this sonic variety. The mellow and haunting progression of “Under Everest” is sandwiched between the pulverizing cacophonies of “Last Family” and the album ender “Let Them Grind.”
Big Business is expanding. The band’s sixth full-length album demonstrates remarkable growth. The hooks have become catchier, and the music simultaneously more frenetic and more impassioned. Ironically, the emotional intensity of the band is the perfect antidote to its namesake, providing private catharsis in a world given over to consumption.