I always feel at a disadvantage when I'm writing about a new release from a band that I don't know a lot about, I feel like I'm being dragged out of my comfort zone and that I'm fumbling around in the dark. In doing some research about Oxford band Foals I discovered that there is a musical category called math rock! It's defined by being rhythmically complex, I figured that prog rock was a good enough title because to me it sounds like a prog rock album. Their third album Holy Fire is definitely complex and layered in parts but it also has elements of 80's new wave and funk, it's an album that throws up some surprises which is a good thing.
Prelude is not necessarily a harbinger of everything that this album is, it's a very layered soundscape but then the album takes different turns, Inhaler has some nice repetitive guitar riffs and lead vocalist Yannis Phillappakis has a voice that sounds a little like Ian Astbury from The Cult. My Number is a nice change of pace, uptempo and funky with some scratchy guitar work and propulsive percussion, it's got a feeling of isolation,
You don't have my number
We don't need each other
We don't need the city
The creed or the culture.
Moon returns to densely layered sounds but maintains that dark subject matter, for some reason I'm often drawn to those style of songs, they can still sound uplifting. Out of The Woods continues with the percussive grooves, there is more open space on this song, it's a sign of a band with confidence in their sound, the idea that there is no need to overplay it. Providence as some great drumming work and the familiar repetition of scratchy guitar notes, Phillippakis' vocals sound removed and distant, once again creating that sense of space. Some of the great songs and albums have been those that don't overdo it. Holy Fire is an album that you need to listen to more than once, at times when you listen to it it feels dark and dense but there are times when you listen to it and you can hear an energetic spark in each song. There is nothing pretentious or falsely anthemic about the record, each song stands on it's own terms. The interesting fact is that the genesis of the album took place in Sydney where the band first recorded some of the demos for the album.