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You know, I feel like I’m just dishing out praise for Australian releases this year. A scroll back through KYS’s review section can confirm as much. But fuck it! If I love an album, then I love it and I’m gonna be honest and say so! Which is exactly the case with Foxblood’s ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’.
In the build up to their debut record’s release, the Melbourne outfit drip-fed tracks and with each new song, my inner hype for it only increased. But hype can be a crushingly depressing blow to the senses when expectation meets reality, not unlike being catfished. However, hype can be well placed and when the product delivers with such impact, grace, and sheer quality, one can only feel giddy inside like a kid on Christmas morning. Which is why it delights me to say that Foxblood’s debut is most certainly the latter of the hype train experience.
From the opening four-minute epic of ‘Hurricane Hearts’ to the album’s dark and fitting end that is ‘Swan Song’, Foxblood have an absolute cracker of a record on their hands. The emotive release and heights reached in the final minute of ‘Timeless’ rests somewhere between euphoria and picking your jaw off of the floor. The title track expertly encompasses the band’s thematic ideas and post-hardcore sound oh so well. Lead single ‘Die Young’ is a bonafide anthem, and the song contains arguably one of the biggest choruses of 2016. Seriously, you thought that the chorus in Hellions’ ‘Thresher’ sounded massive? Well, shit, you’d better strap yourself in for this banger! Also, the up and down rhythmic flow and vocal build-up of ‘No Heroes‘ is just so potent, whereas closer ‘Swan Song‘ contains some of the record’s hardest-hitting lyrics to perfectly wrap up proceedings. Oh, and the Glorified-era banger, ‘Set Me Alight’, makes its return here.
I’m not going to lie, a giant grin spread across my face when I first saw it on the tracklisting.
Moving ever deeper, the way the soaring, stabbing synth or emotive string sections surge above and around the remaining instrumentation only helps push these songs to even greater heights. Despite being done before, it’s tasteful and is executed very well. The way that the guitars (heavy or otherwise), vocal layers and gang vocals blend aside the deep undercurrent of the tight, thundering drums and bass lines are the end-result of how crisp this mix is and just how fucking huge this record sounds. I think that’s in part to a) Foxblood tracking really well-written songs and strong melodic ideas right from the offset, and b) having Adam “Nolly” Getgood of Periphery mix and master this fine creation. Yeah, I’d say that that was worth every single cent!
Likewise, having the programming done by The Devil Wears Prada’s Jonathan Gering only adds another touch of quality professionalism that only works in Foxblood’s favour.
Now, the 11 songs that make up ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’ tell a vast story. It’s one of sin, of love ending, and of dealing with loss, depression, alcoholism, self-hatred and our eventual death. I’d go on about it, but all of that was simply what I myself took out of it, and you may very well find something else entirely within it’s 50 or so minute run time. But to call this record a concept record is both paradoxically apt and inaccurate, because as far as its narrative goes, this is the musical equivalent of video games like Limbo and Inside. Which is as far away from a criticism as possible, as when something’s exact authorial intent – in this case, music – is intentionally ambiguous or simply withheld, a real discussion can (hopefully) arise between the individuals who engage with it. Which brings me to the lyrics.
Sweet merciful Christ, these lyrics are good.
I’m aware that they were adapted from a book that singer Chris Millward wrote, yet they seem so…appropriate here that I can’t help but wonder what context they suited prior to their joining to the music. Regardless, these lyrics strike deep and hard. In the title track’s first verse, there’s this batch that sent a very real chill down my spine, on both the first listen and on the tenth:
“Been watching demons take all night drives across state lines, passed the exit signs.
Broken white lines and the little lights by the roadside, between the city sights.
Whispers of their destination speak of my vital signs
But the words that I can’t say are playing tricks in my mind”
Then we have ‘Swan Song’, which has arguably the bleakest set of the lyrics on the whole damn album, such as:
“Drink it down, wash away with the things you’re not.
Heart on your sleeve, next to your suffering
With the things you’re not and never will be”
Or, my personal favourite excerpt (which probably says more about myself than anything else):
“Looking back on the wars we’d have never won, spring cleaning of your mind with a shotgun
I wish I could write my name in the wet concrete of the bricks I tied to my feet
So I could recall who the fuck I was before I started to sink beneath the hours and the days and the weeks.”
Genius, cathartic lyrical content, and my future lyric tattoo ideas aside, Foxblood back up the dark nature of their lyrics with plenty of sonic heaviness. Tight, metalcore guitar chugs, low growls, throaty ‘blerghs’, and the occasional but suitable breakdowns and liberally used bass drops are prominent elements of Foxblood’s sound. Yet what makes it all work is that the band knows precisely when to lash out with their the heavier material, when to back off and when to go in the opposite direction. With a very general stroke of the writer’s brush, I could say that each track, bar one, in particular, sees the band in right back to older, heavier tricks. More specifically, it’s ‘Bloodlines’ and ‘Brittle Bones’ that stick out as the heaviest moments, the latter of which being one of the best songs on offer. On the flipside, it’s the mid-album reprieve of the delicate and ambient ‘Ghost Town Medicine’ that sees the biggest change of pace in the album’s flow and sound but doesn’t feel jarring or shoe-horned in. However, this brings me to an interesting point about consistency.
See, ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain‘ is insanely consistent, not only in retaining a high-level of general quality across the 11 tracks but also in its songwriting and song structures. As such, once you hit the title track – which is only four songs in – Foxblood have shown you their entire hand. Which is fine; it is a really good fucking hand! Yet after the halfway point, and excluding the “wild card” that is ‘Ghost Town Medicine‘, you’ll find songs that simply follow suit of their predecessors. Which means that a track like ‘A Place To Rest in Between‘ is nowhere near as memorable as it should be, sadly. With that being said, that is ultimately the only criticism I can level at what is a truly terrific record.
From their metalcore beginnings as Glorified to their current musical iteration, Foxblood has undergone a grand metamorphosis and is now destined for greatness. However, to what extent that that will be is on you – the public – and how you resonate with this band and their art. I nor anyone else can force you to love Foxblood; all I can do is strongly recommend that Foxblood our your next Google search or the next addition to your Spotify playlists.
- Hurricane Hearts
- Brittle Bones
- The Devil, The Dark & The Rain
- Die Young
- Ghost Town Medicine
- Set Me Alight
- No Heroes
- A Place To Rest In Between
- Swan Song
‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’ is out September 16th via MGM Distribution.