Exeter rockers Black Foxxes are back, releasing their second album on Friday 16th March titled ‘’Reiði” (Icelandic for rage). After the success of their previous album “I’m Not Well” the band took a short break, frontman Mark Holley wanted some time to reflect, take a step back and set himself some new challenges. He left to spend some time in Iceland, where distancing himself provided the inspiration and space needed to begin writing a new album. Holley has always been interested in Iceland and it became the main influence for the album, even using the language to give it the striking title ‘’Reiði”. The trip sounds like it definitely paid off with how well their music has been developing and how just listening to this album makes you want to pack your bags and head out for adventure. You can feel the yearning for escape and discovery in every track, giving it a consistent undertone of melancholy, hope and frustration.
Working on and touring with their last album has definitely given the band invaluable experiences and now they are ready to begin really testing their boundaries, experimenting with their sound and where their music sits in terms of genre. Reiði is not a concept album, but it has been noted that it begins with a lighter sound and grows darker in the second half, like the rage and frustration are building up with the album. The songs reach new highs and lows for the band, playing with this essence of light and darkness – some tracks feel bright and hopeful, whilst others fall into the darker grittier side of their sound. With their evolving music it is so refreshing to find a band like this, fearless, willing to play and experiment with their sound, trying new things – but remaining emotional and raw, giving them a constant vein of brutal honesty in their work.
“Breathe” begins the album like a breath of fresh air, opening with melancholy notes from the guitar, developing with the addition of a powerful drum beat pushing it forwards with some slightly more gritty guitar riffs joining the mix with the rolling bass guitar. It rises and falls, fluctuating between restrained vocals and quiet melodies, before picking up and pushing on with the chorus. The addition of the strings towards the end adds to the building crescendo and lyrics like “I wanna set myself free” give it a sense of longing and frustration, with the explosive ending feeling like a burst, leaping forwards and suddenly escaping.
“Manic In Me” sweeps in next with a calm breeze, punctuated by the snare over soft, bright guitars but quickly gains pace and builds up towards the chorus gaining momentum. It’s a catchy track you can sing along to in your car (whilst dreaming of running away from work), especially with the main mantra in the lyrics being “I’ve gotta get get, out of here”. The song has a quiet moment, before it becomes fully realised towards the end and leaves us with another escalating finish.
“Sæla” and “The Big Wild” are also songs with a light feeling. The vocals are restrained, yearning for adventure, hopeful for something new. They’re very smooth laid-back tracks, and like the rest of this album they would equally suit a long car journey really well and appeal to adventurous spirits. The melodies have a melancholy undertone but are uplifting at the same time.
“Oh It Had To Be You” is where more of the anger and frustration start coming though. It opens with a delicate piano, bursts of ragged guitars and crashes from cymbals – contrasting with the sense of fragility from the piano and the opening vocals. When the main guitar riff and the drums kick in they are accompanied by more strings – like those used in “Breathe” but they have more of a mournful tone to them this time around, the songs call back to each other and the album flows really well. The piano continues through the track and lyrics like “I wanna live alone inside my head” add to the mood of the song. This definitely feels more like a break-up song with words like “Liar” and “cheater” repeated as the song builds up, bursting into a powerful wave of emotion, before fading out – calming down and sinking back into the darkness at the end.
“JOY” is the grittiest song on the album and definitely worth a listen. It’s one of the more openly aggressive, heavy tracks and gets in right away with grinding guitars and a driving rhythm on the drums. The vocals are distorted, Holley growling and screaming over the buzz of guitars and roar of the cymbals. The lead guitar keeps calling out like a searchlight, it’s there but it’s not dominating the track, with the fierce vocals and chainsaw grind of the rhythm guitar being the main focus. Brass instruments are included towards the end and provide an unexpected but dramatic turn on the song as it fades out with slower, oilier guitars reminiscent of a 90’s grunge band at the end.
“Am I Losing It” is next and it has a bright wistful start with punchy drums pushing on through the track. It becomes more melancholy with lyrics like “Wake up soon” or “Come back soon”, longing for lost time, lost love, lost friendships “Far away from what we had”, but it does feel hopeful too, looking for change and better days ahead. “I wasted all my life inside my head” is a great lyric and really speaks volumes on living with anxiety – something Mark Holley has been quite open and public with.
“Flowers” is another powerful track, full of passion and sadness, the anger growing, building and taking over. Holley’s vocals become more ragged, announcing “I am rage” and the song becomes more erratic and energetic before fading off into “Take Me Home”.
“Take Me Home” has a lullaby feeling to it, drifting along full of sadness and loss, passionate and gentle. Again, longing for an escape or release like most of this album. It gains pace with the drums and grows more intense, before flowering and slipping away.
“Float On” follows up as the last track on the album and has a hauntingly dark mood. The lyrics follow the theme of drowning with a visceral sadness, flowing with passion and an icy rage lying beneath, bringing the album full circle with lyrics such as “Now I understand rage”. This is one of the most powerful songs from Black Foxxes and takes their songwriting to new levels, it is a perfect end to this album and displays all the rage, turmoil and hopeless longing felt from the start out into the open in full effect.
If you’re looking for a new rock album you can stick on in your car for a long trip, or listen to when you’re tired or homesick and not get fed up of hearing it, then this is it. It has some seriously catchy tracks you’ll get drawn into singing along to, and also provides plenty of more thoughtful opportunities when the emotion or the mood in a song will strike you and you can get lost in the moment. The changes between light and dark moods and the constant yearning for escape will have you longing for your own adventures. This album would definitely appeal to fans of bands such as Placebo or even Smashing Pumpkins. It’s raw, fearlessly emotional, honest and is like a breath of fresh air.