In the densely-populated realms of indie / alt / pop rock, Foals are a rarity. Although as fallible as any other bearded, mischievous group of music-makers, they have managed to avoid the pit-fall that consumes most young and promising bands these days – they failed to make a shit second album. Although 2010’s Total Life Forever wasn’t perfect, it was still a wondrous, wild follow-up to their thunderous debut, 2008’s acclaimed indie staple Antidotes. In the current musical climate, it would seem that if you can survive these early tribulations, you’re on to a winner. Step forward Holy Fire.
After a three-year interlude, Foals’ latest offering begins with great compensatory flare. Vague, creeping wisps of tremolo, followed by hazy vocals and crooning guitars build into a climatic crunch as they slam on the overdrive. Although Antidotes was often frantic and excitable, TLF took a more brooding, mature approach - but by two tracks in on their third album it’s clear they’ve perfected the recipe, as the swaggering, stomping tones of Inhaler reverberate from wall to wall. As the lead single it was bound to be delicious, but as vocalist Yannis Philippakis’ belts out, “I can’t get enough, space!” it becomes clear that Foals just got heavy – and more surprisingly, that it works.
Graciously showing their varying degrees of craftsmanship, following track My Number is a more poppy, danceable tune, yet still with their smooth, signature grooves. Similar to TLF’s melancholic scorcher Spanish Sahara, Holy Fire then lays its heart bear with the majestic Late Night. Like an ocean storm, it opens with the softest, shimmering chords, before Yannis’ ever-evolving vocals grow fiercer and fiercer before the track erupts into its magnificent crescendo, then fades away into a gritty little solo akin to a tide being sucked back to sea.
As Holy Fire’s peak approaches, the fantastically named Milk & Black Spiders becomes a contender for the coveted album favourite, with its echoing, infectious chorus, before Providence provides one last taste of Foals’ feral undertones with its stomping, staccato beats. If all that preceded them were the glories of the night before, closing tracks Stepson and finale Moon are the tell-tale twinges of an almighty hangover. From the former’s wallowing, mellow slow-burn, to the latter’s sparse and tender tones, Holy Fire’s last ten minutes make you want to stumble outside and lie under the sun and the stars indefinitely. This fire may be over, but Foals’ flame is burning brighter than ever.