Stunningly decorated and utterly unique, Black Foxxes throw down a gauntlet of content with their second album Reiði.
The research was essential for this review. Not of the band, Black Foxxes have been on my radar for a few years now and ever since their debut album I’m Not Well I have been well aware of their talents. Undoubtedly, the band are at the forefront of the fizzing underground UK music scene. However, the title of their second full-length Reiði demanded me to investigate – as I’m sure a lot of us know by now, the title translates to ‘rage’ from Icelandic. Upon discovering this, my interest was immediately peaked. The band are in no way adverse to writing aggressive music, however by choosing to title their album in Icelandic seemed to point them in a new direction. After returning from relentlessly touring their debut album, the band have explained that living their ‘normal’ lives in Exeter after their manic schedule on the road left them in a place where they needed to delve into a new realm of creativity. Taking time in Iceland to escape the monotony of every day, the band’s latest album was born. Welcome, Reiði.
The opening track is titled Breathe, arguably disappointedly after the intricately chosen title of the album. Slowly decorated chords plod through your headphones in a tone that makes the listener yearn for more, as soon as I heard the first note, I was eager for what was to follow. The riff that opens from here gives the listener real indication of what is to come, a journey of beautiful exploration. Mark Holley’s vocals slip between revered moments of delicate lyricism and busts of falsetto fragilities. Lyrics such as “I don’t know why I left my house the day that you died” indicate that even in a song so beautiful, there is a dark core to the band. The opening verse threatens to erupt on many occasions into the chorus, however when it does arrive the song tightens and intensifies rather than out-rightly exploding. The drums are essential in setting the pace in the track and their influence echoes this progression. From here, the lyric “I wanna set myself free” is refrained from the breakdown and flutters once more with Holley’s prowess as a vocalist. The culmination of the song is epic, it continues to build by repeating “I wanna set myself” until the song is left with nothing more than reverberating feedback. One of the real triumphs on this one is the visceral nature of the lyrics, focusing on the bare essentials of staying alive with breathing and freedom. Is was clear, for the first time, that the message of the album was going to be an intense one. A great beginning to the album.
Manic in Me is one of the singles that the band have recently released. “We were dancing again like we’re empty bodies” and “my bones are your body” highlight that the lyrics debuted in its predecessor were more than a onetime wonder. Again, their focus on the intricacies of deep inward thought is profound. The track is by no means rushed, it steps through the verses at a comfortable pace, the drums intensify before the chorus which is slapped along by a heavy bassline. One of the major perks of the band being a three-piece is that it becomes easier to appreciate each of the specific elements of the band in its entirety. The breakdown repeats “you are the manic in me” until Holley’s vocals can no longer take this reality and explode in an isolated manner. The song comes to a thrashing conclusion which will really prove its merit if they choose to play it live.
Track three, Saela was covered by our very own Aaron Jackson when it came out in November last year. Reiterating his points on this one, it does what it says on the tin. Meaning ‘bliss’ in Icelandic, the song boasts its “perfect cadence”. You can check out what he thought here: https://wavebyte.co.uk/2017/12/06/black-foxxes-saela/. Additionally, the balance between the airily addressed lyrics and the neck slitting shouts is something quintessentially unique about the alternative music scene here in the UK, unlike our American counterparts that tend to prefer the scream. Black Foxxes never over-do it, I would lean towards the conclusion that they have perfected it.
Next up is my favourite track from the album. The Big Wild has a swanky introduction, with a real hip-shake vibe. There are moments in this track that allow parallels to be drawn with alt-rock peers Turnover, a compliment for sure. There is a lovely tempo to this one again. Cries of wanting to “break from my chains” and wanting to be a “child without the pain” reflect the band’s desires to escape the mundane elements of the everyday. It is wonderful and is a further indication of the quieter direction that the band have taken with their latest album. Lyrically, you are invited to “[drown] in the magenta sky” and you lose yourself in it. It is the perfect track to forget your worries in and I think the band have done a great job in sonically bringing this to life.
Oh, It Had To Be You starts with keys and, once again, the dainty vocals of Holley are a fantastic compliment. We are hit with a pulse from the ensemble, hinting that they are ready to collide with crashing cymbals and a thumping bass. The song then builds in pace and, with strings in the background, this one feels epic. This track is a great example of what the band can do – writing dynamically unrivalled music. “Sleepless, endless, I want to live alone inside my head” and “we are dancing to a fire that’s burning underneath our hearts” highlight the message behind the album once more. The song has an epic crescendo, it ends with Holley crying “liar” which moves from stretched high pitched vocals to screams and the guitars wail in agreement of this pain. This song is an exercise of fantastic musicianship and there is literally nothing that I can fault about it.
JOY opens with feedback. The song has a pounding riff and gives us a flavour of the Black Foxxes magic experienced at one of their live shows. Having caught the band at 2000trees last year, I am happy to say I have experienced this in person before. The song features a series of statements which momentarily slip away as Holley cleans the pallet with some intricate musings, a thudding bassline slaps you in the face and we are thrown into the chorus. What makes this track so special is the way it dips between the delicate moments and those of straight fire. It is an absolute banger. Then out of nowhere, we are gifted with a luxurious sax solo. Killer. Check this one out.
Am I Losing It starts with a drum beat that is subsequently joined by atmospheric accompaniments by the rest of the band. There is a very similar vibe here to The Big Wild. Lyrically, the likes of “I wander like the willow, creeping like a graveyard silhouette” prove moments of excellence in this track, but for the first time on the records, the music starts to feel somewhat predictable. I love that Black Foxxes tend to shock you, I love that about music in general. I guess albums do need tracks like this one to reinforce their message, however, it just feels as though everything on offer within this track has already been enjoyed before.
An exemplary track from this record is Flowers. It opens with a series of delicately expressed lyrics – “watch your flowers parade through my brain” particularly resonates. The verses are driven by the simple yet powerful percussion, something that the band do very well. The chorus is very well crafted; the energy doesn’t feel as though it is increased, rather, it is just shifted from building a sense of atmosphere into a soaring chorus – series of waves rolling through your headphones. The breakdown comes at the perfect time. There is an absolute explosion of power and finesse, it feels cyclical in a great way, you emerge dizzy after listening to it. Utterly electric, and, even more impressively, it comes out of absolutely nowhere.
Take Me Home gives us something different with the synthetic drums that are coupled perfectly with an exercise of Holley’s vocals. His voice slides effortlessly between being comfortable and brewing to ear-bending falsetto notes, it is beautiful. The song builds with cries of wanting to be “[taken] home”. The song rises and continues to do so for around a minute before a burst of anger in the vocals join the band to soar. The track ends with “leave” being stretched and draped over a dainty riff, another all-around sterling effort.
With Float On, the album comes full circle, the band have resolved their issues with anger by the time this one comes around. With a slightly more obscure riff and the falsetto vocals, there is a Nothing But Thieves vibe about the introduction. Somehow, when you think the band have finished with storytelling, the song dances through 5 minutes and 49 seconds of brilliance. I must commend the ending of this song, in particular, it is questionable that it overshadows the entirety of the album. We have hints of feedback throughout the second chorus which forebode a switch in direction which comes as vocals are strained and the band sends you to headbang city. I hope they close their shows with this one. Feedback, over and out. Thank you Black Foxxes.
I haven’t been given so much life by an album since Movements’ Feel Something late last year, it is a feeling of knowing what others don’t. However, for the sake of the band, I hope that this will change. There are moments in this album which made me excited to write my review of it, sparking any form of creativity is a triumph and for that, I want to thank the band. I am sure that I will continue to listen to this album on every walk to uni, the journey to work and every drinking session in my friend’s gardens. It is a wonderful album, it has a very strong lineage and I pray that the fruits of their labour taste very sweet. Black Foxxes are a band you cannot afford to sleep on, be sure to pick up their latest album when it drops this Friday.