For a band infamous for the unpredictability of the sound their constantly changing tastes will convene on, or even the songs that would be included in their album, it was with great certainty that, regardless of these vital details, the album would be of incredible quality and would yet again redefine the boundaries of their ever expanding collection.
Having already been introduced to “Inhaler”, with its powerful riffs, and raw voice-box-shredding vocals, many prepared for a heavier direction for Foals to take, yet everyone’s hypotheses were evaded when the unashamed pop of “My Number” became their next single. Its fluttering guitars and bongos proved infectiously catchy and it was one of the most welcomed songs in the set when they played in November, inducing a carnival atmosphere in a crowd.
Crucially these singles have managed to infiltrate the mainstream radio stations and allowed Foals to appeal to a broader audience. The singles have kindled and interest, but now ‘Holy Fire’ must ignite fans past, present and future with the burning spirit of the album.
“Prelude” acts as a whitewash, entertaining the possibilities of a repeat of ‘Antidotes’ yet ultimately moving beyond such safe ground onto grittier guitar work which severs the potential to compare the two, creating distance from preconceptions and leaving Foals with a blank canvas from which to embark on their own personal holy campaign. The two early singles follow in quick succession settling nerves whilst summoning a thirst for more new material.
“Bad Habit” begins with a dark Muse-y bass synth line then flourishes into an uplifting ballad full of heavy subject matter and emotional angst before a refreshing staccato solo rides in to elevate the song to a strong statement of Foals’s new direction.
For brief moments, ‘Holy Fire’ has the angular, immediacy of ‘Antidotes’ but they are rarely sustained, often passing as soon as you were getting up to dance, and in other moments there is as cinematic a feel to it as ‘Total Life Forever’, yet it is when the band embrace a brand new area such as in “Late Night” when they seem at their freshest and most exciting. It begins as a slow burner with a piano chord sequence just begging to be built upon and thanks in part to the guitar work giving more licks than an excited puppy dog, it does indeed tower into an excellent bluesy groove whilst the lyrics ‘Stay With Me’ heighten the anticipation for an epic Yannis solo to close the track.
As a whole the album has a very organic feel to it and this may be down to the fact that the band made a conscious decision to bring plants and shrubs into the recording studio so that they could grow and mature just as the album did.
“Providence” fades into your ears with the lyrics “I know I cannot be true, I’m an animal just like you Oh I bleed just a little bit too I bleed just like you”, what follows then forms into overwhelming wild animal of noise tangled in too many ideas causing it to appear to be bleeding to death. However four succinct beats from drummer Jack Bevan simultaneously resuscitates and tames the animal into a ferocious dancing coherence of all the ideas, creating carnage when they played this live late last year. Many of the lyrics in ‘Holy Fire’ have imagery of blood and whether consciously or subconsciously, this creates a strong message that this work has come straight from the beating hearts of Foals now and onto their metaphorical sleeves.
The primordial percussive backbone in “Stepson” nods towards the works of Alan Lomax, most notably his field recordings, whilst the aching voice of Yannis bemoans the fate of having to “Fall into the blue”. In the final track, lightly touched piano keys ripple through a pool of ambience reflecting the moon, bringing both a tranquillity and acceptance to the end but also an exquisite, delicate closure to an excellent third album.
In a strange way ‘Holy Fire’ was exactly what we all expected: to be left overwhelmed and confused, desperately trying to process what just happened. It is too early to rationalise, but just as ‘Total Life Forever’ took a while to adjust to, so ‘Holy Fire’ will require time to understand. But when it does click, the epiphany will make us all realise what a clever little band the continually morphing Foals are, and how engrossed we can be with their incredible feats of escapology from any box anyone tries to fit them into.
Post by Sam