Sometimes it's the simplest acts that convey the most power. Take, for example, this typically rainy March night in Seattle, where an all-ages crowd is packed into Neumo's – an 800-capacity club in the Capitol Hill section of town – to catch a five-band bill co-headlined by local math-punk heroes These Arms Are Snakes and buzz-generating Canadians Death From Above 1979. The evening's second warm-up band has finished its set and cleared away its gear, and as the showgoers resume chattering and making beelines for the bathroom and bar, a burly roadie-looking guy rolls an enormous speaker cabinet – on top of which are stacked several smaller speakers and an amp head – to the center of the empty stage, then quietly ambles off. Whether or not by design, for a good couple of minutes there's no further action onstage; the cabinet looms ominously over the first few rows of people, who stare up at it in awe like the apes gazing at the towering black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Knowing glances are passed through the throng – whatever's about to happen is gonna be loud.

Then the burly guy returns with a long black case in hand, followed by a wirier guy carrying a kick drum and a snare. They don't mess around – in mere moments the latter has his kit assembled scarily close to the speaker tower and is plopped down on his stool, looking over at his larger cohort who, bass guitar slung low on his torso, plugs in his cable, quickly futzes with a couple of pedals, then leans into the microphone.

"Thanks for coming, we're Big Business."

And then, in the blink of an eye, detonation time: fingertips on thick strings triggering distortion-laden blasts from the speakers; sticks flailing in a blur as the drummer pounds his skins like they slaughtered his family; sandblasted vocals snarling and shrieking – "Take my advice, don't come any closerrrrrrrrrrr!!!!" – above and within the mighty, brain-melting merger of metal and sludge-punk that many bands with two or three times as many members as this duo couldn't possibly muster.

Big Business also sounds far tighter and more psychically linked than any band that's only been, er, in business for a little over a year should. Credit the musical chemistry between Jared Warren (the burly singer-bassist) and Coady Willis (the wiry drummer), or the chops honed via each's impressive résumé: Warren played guitar in Karp and Tight Bros From Way Back When, while Willis hit the kit for love-'em-or-despise-'em trash-punks the Murder City Devils.

Like a number of Seattle-bred acts, Big Business was born from both tragedy and frustration. Two years ago, Warren was fronting the up-and-coming trio The Whip when drummer Scotty Jernigan (with whom he'd also played in Karp) was killed in a June 2003 boating accident on Lake Washington. Willis, meanwhile, had just endured two difficult breakups – the semi-acrimonious MCD split, followed by the exhaustion-fueled flameout of Dead Low Tide, the quartet he'd subsequently formed with two other former Devils. Acquaintances in the Seattle scene, Warren and Willis linked up in late 2003 and decided to pursue the unusual (but not unprecedented) bass-drums configuration, played their first show together in early 2004, and released their debut album, Head for the Shallow, in January of this year. It's a titanic slab of Sabbath-Melvins metal-meat, with molten passages reminiscent of Slayer and Ministry, relentless in its guttural howls and brick-to-the-skull riffs & rhythms.

And like Big Business' insanely great live show, it's the sound of power, pure and simple.


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