When your debut album has been critically acclaimed for its visceral display of raw emotion and has pushed you to the brink of tangible success, the difficult second album goes beyond being the elephant in the room. It is the room. Do you repeat the formula or switch things up to develop your sound? Basically, it’s a no win situation, you’re damned to pissing some people off no matter what you do, so Exeter power trio Black Foxxes are deserving of praise for doing precisely what felt right for them – disappearing off to Iceland and exploring their creative limits.
‘Reiði’ is actually the Icelandic word for rage and is an appropriate description of the disquiet within chief songwriter Mark Holley, who used the band’s second record to explore beyond the limits of depression and anxiety. Their sophomore offering may lack the rawness that so characterized ‘I’m Not Well’, but it is no less reflective and emotional, it just explores different avenues, taking a more considered approach as they embrace a sound that goes beyond raging guitars and angst filled vocals.
Strong opening track, ‘Breath’, initially gives the impression of picking up where they left off as it slowly gathers little touches of rawness before rounding off with a heavy emotional vibe. However, its multiple textures give it a lighter feel, which is strongly evident to the first half of the record, what with the smooth slice of indie-alt-rock of ‘Manic in Me’, killer chorus and all, the War on Drugs-esque vibe of ‘Saela’ and the cool groove of ‘The Big Wild’.
‘Oh, It Had To Be You’ feels like something of a pivotal moment, its delicate piano and cathartic vocal have an experimental feel as the track meanders along, foregoing traditional structures to grow in stages until the rage filled finale. This sets the tone for the darker second half, which, the lightweight eighties feel of ‘Am I Losing It’ aside, explores distinctly darker textures.
‘Joy’ is a good example of where they are on this record – big meaty rock riff and a slick insistent hook, yet it drifts into a dark passage of freeform jazz at the end. The emotional rawness to Holley’s vocals also shines through in the second half. Numbers like ‘Flowers’, with its dramatic finish, and the stunning ‘Take Me Home’, which shows a tender side before the cathartic climax, really showcase their development. ‘Float On’ then rounds it all off in a similarly dark vein with an emotion fueled closing section to a repeated refrain of “float on magically” making for a visceral climax.
This record may not please every member of their faithful following, but it is a creatively diverse album of the highest quality and is a fitting showcase of an extremely talented band. It is further proof of just how good and how versatile Black Foxxes can be.
‘Reiði’ by Black Foxxes is released on March 16th on Search and Destroy Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)