ALBUM REVIEW: Foals – ‘Holy Fire’

Ambitious is a word that is synonymous with Oxford hailing math-rockers Foals. From their frantic debut album ‘Antidotes’ to the contrasting, sombre chaos of ‘Total Life Forever’, Yannis Philippakis and co. never become complacent when it comes to the Foals formula. With their third album set for release on the 11th of February, we put on our safety goggles to take an early look at what’s in store for the world this time…

The opening track ‘Prelude’ sets the scene with an ever-growing wall of sound steadily advancing upon our ears before exploding into a fuzzy guitar-riff of doom.  ‘Inhaler’ truly kicks things off with a characteristic math-rock riff combined with the steady drums of Jack Bevan before Yannis Philippakis‘ familiar falsetto graces the sound waves. As the track continues, all suspicions that ‘Holy Fire’ will be yet another world apart from Foals’ previous albums are immediately confirmed; the pre-chorus gradually intensifies in parallel with Yannis’ anguished vocals before ‘Inhaler’ inevitably erupts in a Rage Against the Machine-like smack-down.

The infectious track ‘My Number’ follows and aims to combine the two facets of Foals once and for all, to which it certainly succeeds. Its funky and melodic math-rock, but it still retains the ‘Miami’ sunshine which sound we first encountered on ‘Total Life Forever’. However, ‘Everytime’ lays the math-rock funk and heavy riffs to rest in order to carry a delicate, guitar-led masterpiece out into the abyss. ‘Late Night’ also plays on the same slow intensification of sound, building into a euphoric final chorus and without a doubt, one of the most rhythmic and infectious guitar solos of ‘Holy Fire’.

As the album progresses, it becomes further apparent that ‘Inhaler’ and it’s destructive riffs are certainly a singular occurrence on ‘Holy Fire’. ‘Milk & Black Spiders’ is phenomenal and shapes up to be a more upbeat ‘Spanish Sahara’; the arpeggiated chords throughout the verses give it an undoubtedly ‘Foals’ feel. The subtle change in time signature throughout the choruses make them feel slowed whilst giving the verses that fleet-footed momentum. The climax of this song is yet another triumph of ‘Holy Fire’.

‘Providence’ starts with a bluesy-like vocal melody with guitars growling underneath, just dying to be unleashed. The track slowly progresses from a heavy, riff-based song to slip into the Foals void, slowly transitioning into staccato riffs and echoing melodies without raising any suspicion. It magically feels as though we changed tracks somewhere along the line.

‘Moon’ starts with some eerie guitar harmonics, backed by Yannis’ fragile voice which inevitably transcends into an almost haunting lullaby. As the strings creep in and the reverb-drenched organs activate, the album ends on an incredibly sombre note; we just hope this doesn’t reflect Foals’ impending departure from the music world.

I’m not afraid to say that ‘Holy Fire’ never drops the ball, not even once. Every track on this album is pure class and has had the thought and graft put into it that so few bands can seem to muster up. There’s a level of build-up, tension and contrast that Foals have truly mastered on ‘Holy Fire’ as each track slowly takes you on a journey, transitioning into different movements. Having heard ‘Inhaler’ as the first track from ‘Holy Fire’, I expected heavy riffs and fuzz-guitars, but what I got was incomparable to anything I’ve heard in the longest time. 9/10

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