By Fraser Bryce
There is a sea change afoot in rock music. Over the course of the last twelve months, new artists have been springing up that favour a more stripped back, raw approach to their sound, instead of the overproduced, electronic-tinged style that has been prevalent over the last few years. Why this change is happening – I don’t quite know. All I know is that I am more invested in rock music this year than I have been in a long time.
One such band is Black Foxxes. Self-described as “sadcore”, the Plymouth based trio’s debut album has been hotly anticipated. It comes in the form of ‘I’m Not Well’, a dark, melancholy work that brims with energy. Beginning with the immensely powerful title track, which transforms from tender ballad into a monstrous masterpiece, it’s clear that Black Foxxes embody everything that is great about rock music in 2016: no frills, no gimmicks, just fantastic songs. Lead single ‘Husk’ is a more upbeat affair, with Mark Holley’s wonderful melodies mixing perfectly with the crunch of the guitars and bass. If you can find me a better song released this year, chances are you’re lying. ‘Whatever Lets You Cope’ is a mid-paced track reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s earlier work, and ‘How We Rust’ has an almost stoner rock feel to it. The album’s centrepiece, the Brand New-esque ‘River’, is another clear highlight, featuring an incredible vocal performance from Holley.
The second half of ‘I’m Not Well’ is far more diverse than the first, showcasing a myriad of different styles. While Brand New are the obvious reference point for most of the album, ‘Maple Summer’ has a dark quality reminiscent of early Manic Street Preachers, while ‘Bronte’ and ‘Waking Up’ are almost Stereophonics-like in tone. ‘Home’, another high point of the album, combines the aforementioned Brand New-like sound with a down tuned psychedelic guitar riff that Black Sabbath would be proud to call their own. ‘Slow Jams Forever’ is Holley’s finest vocal performance on the album, switching from tender and emotional to harsh and angry at a moment’s notice. ‘Pines’ closes the album with a trippy, noise-laden jam.
In all honesty, this album is perfect in every way. The production is clear and crisp, but doesn’t sacrifice any of Black Foxxes’ bite; the performances are world class, and the quality of the songs is undeniable. With ‘I’m Not Well’, Black Foxxes have surpassed expectations by crafting what is quite simply one of the finest debut albums in recent memory, and the idea of an album being released this year which tops it is hard to imagine. The frightening thing is, Black Foxxes are a band that are still in their infancy, and the best could still be yet to come. Genuinely, I cannot fathom how they can improve on ‘I’m Not Well’, but at the same time there’s no doubt in my mind that it will happen. Slow jams forever.