Saturday, March 09, 2013

Album Review: Foals - Holy Fire (4.5/5)

Off the bat, British band Foals became critical staples with their first two albums, Antidotes and Total Life Forever. Unfortunately, it wasn't until this mesmerising third LP that I begun to pay attention. Lead single "Inhaler" was an intense and fiery number, wrapped with Yannis Philippakis' static drenched vocal and aggressive gouging guitars. If anything, it was one of the most intriguing alternative rock songs of 2012, for its diversity--sharp drum beats and an underpinning plucking synth on the verses and a relentless barage of electronic guitar, drum and bold vocal on the chorus, wrapped in a slightly distorted scape.

"Prelude" kicks off the album with what begins as subtle alamagation of twinkling synths, percussion and murmured vocal, before the drums and guitar chords join, which become more prominent as the track reaches its subtle mid-section. Then there's a burst of aggressive electronic guitar and a harsher static effect that drowns out the vocal. Following the intensive scape of "Inhaler," "My Number," picks up the mood, with its upbeat and joyful synths and ebullient guitaring, perfectly underpinning the jovial lyrics: "I feel, I feel alive." "Bad Habit," boasts a rather skeletal production with its clattering synths and percussion, before it beefs up the production on the chorus with fuller synths and guitars.

"Everytime" had a nice prominent drum backing pedling beneath the haunting guitar chords. Its clattering undertones is a sharp contrast to following track, "Late Night," a dangerously downbeat number, with subtle bells and soft percussion. Guitars, soft drumming and strings softly emerge as the song progresses. Philippakis's boldly rugged vocal plays nicely against the subtle production. The last two minutes are particularly stunning as the instrumentation comes together, before playing out with a slightly distorted guitar solo with underpinning drumming.

The following track, "Out of the Woods," returns with the clattering production--drums, picky guitar chords, percussion. "Milk & Black Spiders," has a pulsating bass line, with the obligatory clattery production. It has a slightly more atmospheric (almost re-calling that of Temper Trap) aura than the other tracks on the album, particularly towards the end of the song. The accumulation of synths, soundscapes, drums and guitars is mesmerising.

"I know I cannot be true. I'm just animal, just like you," begins "Providence," rocking a vintage '70s rock style a'capella. The production is upbeat and aggressive, harsh and relentless drum beats and boisterous guitar chords, especially in the last two minutes. "Stepson" has a skittering, tongue-clicking backdrop which is layered by swooning distorted piano keys. The second half brings in the strings--perpetuating a very lush and melancholic production.

Closing the album is the subtle percussion of  "Moon." It's atmospheric and haunting, pushing a nice somber ending. Holy Fire, is indeed a winner and certainly deserves its almost perfect score from NME. While, I do tire a little of the scattering production that backs a handful of the tracks--it is a solid and enjoyable body of work, nicely balancing the melancholic, the upbeat and the dark.

Best: Inhaler, My Number, Milk & Black Spiders, Late Night, Stepson

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