Foals’ ‘Holy Fire’ Review

February 15, 2013 5:47 pm
The album cover of Holy Fire, by Foals

The album cover of Holy Fire, by Foals

As suggested by the two singles released at the end of last year, Oxford quintet Foals have shed their math-rock shackles as their third release once again shows them taking a new musical direction. Foals can no longer be seen as the jagged, artsy group whose audience liked to dance as if their feet were stuck in quicksand. Previous album Total Life Forever easily ranks as one of the most innovative rock albums of this century and Holy Fire is a bold statement explicating a wish for this innovative ascension to continue.

Singles ‘Inhaler and ‘My Number show the band taking on a more pop-orientated sound and moving away from the intricate, high-fretboard riffs they mastered on both 2008’s Antidotes and 2010’s Total Life Forever. These were certainly bold mission statements to express before the release of the record, with the chorus of ‘Inhaler’ taking on a heavy, Tom Morello-esque riff which fans of 2008’s Antidotes would certainly never have imagined the Oxford lads writing. ‘My Number’, the stand out track of the album, is like one long hook as the reverb drenched guitars and bouncy rhythm section create a murky funk sound which causes its listener to move with the melodies. Preceding these two tracks is album opener ‘Prelude’ which, though entertaining and packed with Foals’ signature musical dynamics, is meant as nothing more than the title suggests.

The band’s overall progression can be clearly observed through fourth track ‘Bad Habit’, a song which revolves around the melodic verse that, though similar to TLF’s ‘This Orient, shows the huge leap the band have taken since writing songs such as ‘Mathletics’. It is clear that Holy Fire is an album that will obtain Foals the post-sunset festival slots and arena shows which they deserve, but a few of the tracks seem to lack the stadium filling rock atmospheres which they are trying to achieve. One example of this is in the centrepiece ‘Late Night’ where the song slowly builds to what feels like is going to be an epic crescendo but actually doesn’t go anywhere other than a slightly distorted guitar solo.

One negative point is that, like TLF, Holy Fire seems to die down in its second half and takes on a more lugubrious nature. However, this isn’t all bad as tracks such asOut Of The Woods’ and ‘Moon create terrific atmospheres, partly through the tremendous work of producer Alan Moulder who appears to be helping Foals attain the arena rock status they are heading towards. After all, they did sell out two shows at the Royal Albert Hall before even releasing Holy Fire. Large crowds singing along to Holy Fire is something which can easily be envisaged in the year ahead, particularly through songs such as ‘Providence’, as the repetition of the line “I’m an animal, just like you!” is something that will lodge itself into its listeners mind and help this album be revered as one of the greatest achievements of modern British rock. Undoubtedly their success is going to burgeon, and for those who have listened to Foals since those early house party gigs, there’s no need to think their larger concerts will turn into an Oasis like drunken chant along, they still have the idiosyncrasies that made you fall in love with them, they’re just a bit more refined. 

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