Even in what has been the healthiest few years for rock music in a long time, Black Foxxes are a real standout. When I spoke about their 2016 debut I’m Not Well, I called the album one of the best debuts I have ever heard, and my opinion hasn’t changed. So, there was a lot riding on their sophomore effort, Reiði, which I still don’t know how to pronounce.
When I first hit play on Reiði, my heart sank. Opening track ‘Breathe’, while not necessarily bad, is very much Black Foxxes by numbers and there’s eleven tracks better than it on I’m Not Well. However, my fears were not at all justified. ‘Manic in Me’, the album’s second song, is frankly wonderful. One of the more upbeat songs in the band’s canon, it’s a perfect encapsulation of what makes Black Foxxes such a special band: soaring melodies, fuzzed up guitars and vocalist Mark Holley’s outstanding vocals working in perfect harmony. After this point, there’s no dip in quality on Reiði. Lead single ‘Sæla’ is reminiscent of Stereophonics at their best, while the subtle groove of ‘The Big Wild’ conjures more of a Modest Mouse sound.
At this point, we arrive at the album’s centrepiece: the five-minute masterpiece that is ‘Oh, It Had To Be You’. This mournful ballad is where Black Foxxes cement themselves as one of the standout creative forces in modern rock music. The song builds from a sparse, piano-led dirge to a symphony in noise, with Holley’s razor blade guitars and tortured wails backed by the thunder of the band alongside a string section. For a band on their second album, it’s a bold statement of intent.
The last half of the album is far more upbeat than the first, with the manic ‘JOY’ showing a more aggressive side to Black Foxxes that rarely appeared on I’m Not Well, and the closing track ‘Float On’ presenting some psychedelic qualities.
Overall, Black Foxxes have knocked their ‘difficult second album’ straight out of the park. If this is an indicator of things to come, then Black Foxxes are certainly a band worth keeping an eye on.
By Fraser Bryce