The members of Big Business had a pedigree before ever playing a note together. Rrummer Coady Willis was in the late, lamented Murder City Devils and bassist/vocalist Jared Warren was from the under-appreciated Karp. That was before King Buzzo plucked the two to join himself and Dale Crover in Melvins, a relationship that would last nine years with both bands running concurrently.
Needless to say, Business was good.
In fact, maybe it was a bit too good. It’s possible the relative quiet from the two since 2016 when they performed on the Melvins’ collaborative effort Basses Loaded and also released the last Big Business album Command Your Weather was prompted by metal fatigue. They dropped guitarists Toshi Kasai and Scott Martin from the line-up as well, possibly a reaction to having to answer so many different people for so long.
The break has done nothing to dull Big Business. Warren has always had the most powerful voice in indie rock, a distinctive, full-throated roar that seemed effortless, as if he could make his point over 120 decibels of volume using his normal speaking voice alone. If age is eventually going to sap some of his abilities, it’s evident on The Beast You Are that is hasn’t happened yet.
Although the band has been deemed sludge rock, they have rebelled against the characterization, and it has never been clearer how right they were to complain than on the new album. The Beast You Are is a classic rock album, albeit one that is no frills. In fact, if Led Zeppelin ever made an album without Jimmy Page, it would probably have sounded a lot like Big Business these days.
“Time and Heat” and “The Moor You Know” in particular see Willis providing a simple, bludgeoning John Bonham-inspired beat while Warren snakes synth lines beneath the riffs, subtleties nearly lost amongst the massive volume but that actually makes the songs. This isn’t much difference than John Paul Jones’ understated contribution to “Trampled Underfoot” or how “Kashmir,” which perfectly incorporated both dynamics, is often cited as the quintessential Zep cut.
It’s possible that one of the two added a guitar part on the album somewhere, but it’s difficult to figure out where. Indicative of their live shows as a duo, low end dominates. Even when the bass squeals during the relatively poppy “People Behave” or operates in higher registers such as on the avant funk of “Last Family,” everything still seems set to plod.
In a world where the likes of Greta Van Fleet are dubbed the next Zeppelin, we really need Big Business more than ever.