Big Business have been through a few changes over the years. Their first album, Head for the Shallow, was released in 2005 by Hydra Head, who also released their next two full-length releases. The original Big Business duo of Jared Warren and Coady Willis played on The Melvins album ‘(A) Senile Animal’ in 2006 and became a part of the legendary grunge band’s live set up. Later still, by the time of 2009’s Mind the Drift, they had become a three-piece, adding Melvins’ longstanding sound engineer Toshi Kasai as a permanent member, and then when 2010 rolled around they added 400 Blows’ Scott Martin and became a “power quartet.” Now they are back to the core duo, and they seem energised as a result on a career-high album, which sees them in more reflective mood at times.

There are obvious echoes of Buzz Osborne’s band all over The Beast You Are, but where Melvins have arguably got increasingly more obtuse (and maybe morose) over their recent releases, Big Business have trimmed down not only their personnel but also their sound with a set of songs which are urgent, direct and thrillingly compelling at their core.

The album begins with ‘Abdominal Snowman’ which has 2019’s best lyric to date – “I know some people who are cutting away with the dullest knives,” and there is a sense throughout the album that Big Business now find themselves at an observational distance to the world that they seemingly cannot make sense of. It is this outsider aesthetic which underpins the whole album. This sense of despair for others runs through ‘El Pollo’ with its refrain of “I don’t want to make rope out of piles of string,” which continues this idea that the world’s problems often seem insurmountable, ludicrous, and personally taxing. Although there is a triumphant anger in the music, there is a sense of pessimism to the lyrical themes which tend towards the damning of humans and their ways – we are indeed the monster of the title.

The Beast You Are packs a mighty punch - yet there are pauses here. The inclusion of the brief instrumentals ‘Complacency is Killing You’, ‘We Can Swarm’ and ‘We’ll Take the Good Package’ actually come as light relief from the overwhelming sense of fatigue and annoyance at the world that runs through the album as a whole. These moments of respite serve as palette cleansers, sweet sorbets for our auditory digestive system to replenish itself before the next serving of purposeful, menacing and bruising heavy rock.

The album’s penultimate track, ‘Under Everest’ is something of an anomaly. It has chiming bells throughout and it’s difficult to not think of cynically written songs aimed at the Christmas market where videos have fake snow and singers wrapped up in huge fur-lined white coats as they look all do- eyed and endearing in to a camera positioned slightly above their eye level (yes, you’re vulnerable AT CHRISTMAS, you poor sod - we get it, we’ll buy it). There are double-layered vocal tracks that run through a lot of the album’s thirteen songs, but these are most noticeable on ‘Under Everest’ and there is an almost unforgiveable Beach Boys tone to this song. I have listened to this track over and over, willing myself to like it, to understand why it is on the album and yet it fully escapes me. It feels out of place and disrupts the momentum of the album as it reaches its end. A shame.

By the time album closer ‘Let Them Grind’ thrashes into life there is still a bitter taste in the mouth from the previous song which takes something away from the pleasing immediacy and command of the last track. Here is where the whole mission statement of the album is revealed as the lyrics declare that they are “going to bleed you like the beast you are” – in case there was any doubt about who the beast of the album’s title was. Whereas a lot of the album deals in despair at the state of the world, here is a lyric which is determined and establishes a sense of agency and power for the narrator of the song, and the album as a whole. Whereas a sense of ennui permeated earlier tracks, here there is a sense of deliberate action that can be undertaken to address the issues facing humanity – bleed the beast!

Overall, this is an album packed with huge riffs and honest intent from a band who seemingly have a new lease of life.