Black Foxxes – ‘Black Foxxes’

By Yasmin Brown

If there’s ever going to be an album that’s the musical equivalent of stripping off and running into the ocean, Black Foxxes’ third and self-titled record is it. Made up of nine phenomenal tracks, this record sees front man and only remaining founding member Mark Holley laid bare in the most vulnerable, yet exhilarating and cathartic, way. 

The band may have lost two of its three members between sophomore album Reiði and this self-titled venture, but don’t think for a moment that means they’ve lost any of the magic that made them so fundamentally magnificent. Now joined by Finn Mclean on drums and Jack Henley on bass, this band have taken an opportunity to grow and run with it at 100 miles per hour.

Never ones to colour within the lines, Black Foxxes have once more proven themselves to be mavericks within an industry that so frequently sees artists following the lead of others in order to gain popularity. This refusal to conform was never so abundantly clear as when they chose to release the (almost) nine-minute ‘Badlands’ as their leading single from the record, proudly stating that there’s no radio edit to be found of this cataclysmic creation. From that moment, we knew this was an album made for them and for us – authentic in its autobiographical nature, uncensored to its very core.

While ‘Badlands’ does well to encapsulate the atmosphere of the entire album – unexpected, taking you down winding paths with no defined destination – there is so much more waiting for you as you delve deeper into the record. It’s hard to pin down the tracks that shine brightest, as each offers something spectacular; a cacophony of sounds crashing together to create an explosion of pent up frustration and anxiety, and deep sadness. 

If you’re looking for highlights, however, ‘I Am’, ‘Drug Holiday’, ‘Swim’ (oh God do you feel this one through to your bones), and ‘The Diving Bell’ should be your first port of call, but there’s such an intentional flow to this record that it would be doing both yourself and Black Foxxes a disservice to skip through to any single moment. Between the opening notes of introductory track ‘I Am’ – presented to us through spat lyrics, a giant crescendo and a total lack of control – to the fading out of the near 10-minute, satire-drenched and manic closing track ‘The Diving Bell’, there’s almost too much to take in. At every step, we are acute witnesses to this band’s awesome versatility, highlighted through seamless transitions between softness and aggression, tight control and total inhibition.

One of Black Foxxes’ greatest strengths (of which there are many), is Holley’s ability to articulate his own experiences in a way that is ambiguous enough to be relatable to a wide audience. Just as our own experiences are unique, so are his, yet you feel entirely understood with every word he breathes, sings, or screams. This is never more true than in ‘Drug Holiday’; whether your drug of choice is medicinal or herbal, whether it’s a toxic person or a bad habit, the chances are that it will offer a moment of peace. Sonically, this track offers that respite, its slow and dreamy nature will see you floating on a gentle wave, a brief escape from the reality that awaits as you hit sobriety. 

In stark contrast, ‘Panic’ – which offers a similar level of relatability – sounds exactly like the anxiety its lyrics depict. This introspective account subtly buries synths and vocoders beneath a soft and easy track, perfectly conveying how chaotic and fuzzy our minds can be under the surface; a perfectly onomatopoeic approach to a mental phenomenon that is often so tricky to describe. These two tracks sit at polar opposite ends of the Black Foxxes spectrum, and yet Holley’s unique vocal and writing styles tie them, and every other track on the record, together seamlessly.

Every song on this album stands out in its own right, each an individual masterpiece that works perfectly when listened to in isolation, raw and frantic in its purposeful chaos. But despite the individuality of these nine tracks, they also amalgamate in flawless cohesion, building that narrative of pain, anger, bliss, and catharsis. 

This record is an invitation into the deepest and most personal of Holley’s thoughts, served on a gluttonous platter of raw and unedited raucousness with a side of soft vulnerability. No other Black Foxxes album could be more deserving of the self-titled status. 

YASMIN BROWN

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