If you missed it, Foals released “Inhaler” and “My Number” as appetizers to get the world salivating, but now the main course has arrived. Holy Fire is a meaty stew of exactly what the world has been starving for: more Foals. Their standard recipe includes searing guitar, raw drums and layered rhythms, but the overall flavor is certainly more intense and intentional than their previous albums.
It is not hard to understand what makes Holy Fire a milestone in Foals’ portfolio. For the first time, they have managed to make their mathy rhythms a vehicle for their messages rather than the focus of the songs. Singer Yannis Philippakis and drummer Jack Bevans both have origins in the heavily instrumental math rock group The Edmund Fitzgerald. The unpolished songs from The Edmund Fitzgerald are a pure example of the style that drives Foals.
Foals’ first two albums are then an attempt to harness that style for the delivery of pure emotion. The two do not mix easily. “Olympic Airways” and “Cassius” from Antidotes exemplify the style and “Spanish Sahara” and “Alabaster” from Total Life Forever exemplify the emotion. In Holy Fire, Foals have an entire album that dissolves the feeling of Total Life Forever in the music of Antidotes.
The excitement starts immediately with “Prelude”. The song is reminiscent of XX’s “Intro” or Interpol’s “Untitled” in its quality and necessity; it is there to prepare you for and signify the extent of the approaching beauty. In sound it reminds of Tomoyasu Hotei’s “Battle Without Honour of Humanity” and in effect it reminds of Brand New’s “Welcome to Bangkok”. Except “Prelude” welcomes you to Holy Fire.
The album peaks with “Inhaler”, but “Late Night” is not to be missed. It is the strongest evidence for Foals’ emphasis on instruments, not vocals. The whole album is unabashedly instrument-centric, opening with a song free of vocals and using no tremendously interesting lyrics as a crutch, but “Late Night” uses vocals to develop the song only for the climax to be a guitar solo from lead singer Philippakis.
Using that lens, take in all of Holy Fire. “Inhaler” is not a song about breathing, it is a song about a fantastic guitar riff making you breathe a little faster. “Bad Habit” is not a song about negative behaviour, it is a song about guitar rhythms as an addiction. Holy Fire is not about biblical flames, it is about musical implementation stoking the flames of human creativity.
Foals – Prelude (download)
Foals – Late Night (download)