It seems like Black Foxxes have barely been off the stage in the last year; their debut album isn’t out for another week and you’ve probably already seen them live. Download, Reading and Leeds, Radio 1’s Big Weekend and 2000 Trees have all housed the trio on their stages, and Lower Than Atlantis snapped them up as a support for their UK tour last year. But judging by said debut album I’m Not Well, the only possible way is up.
Black Foxxes arguably fill a gap in the market for British emo. While Moose Blood are getting the scene well-deserved time in the spotlight, they reside firmly on the poppier end of the spectrum. I’m Not Well shows the opposite end – erratic, unpolished and, well, emotional – and it’s a truly captivating listen from start to finish. It’s impossible to divert ears from singer Mark Holley’s desperate performance – his voice may not be perfect, but perfection would stop this album from being as good as it is. By the time the album-opening title track is halfway through, his voice has cracked multiple times from the sheer weight of the words he’s singing. Talking openly about depression may not be an original idea in this genre, but the totally raw yet still metaphorical delivery of How We Rust is a fine example of why Black Foxxes could be one of the best in the game with a little time.
Collectively, it can difficult to separate the songs on this album for the most part. It’s hard to bring to mind exactly how some of them go without an extra listen. But somehow, that only enhances the overall effect. Black Foxxes play with volume and texture constantly, gradually transforming tiptoeing guitar / vocal verses to thundering walls of sound like on the beautiful Bronte, spreading waves of emotion throughout until it all comes to a head and intertwines magically. Even Maple Summer, the closest track to Moose Blood’s territory in emo, manages to immerse the listener in sentiment as slowly as smoke would creep through a cracked open door.
It’d be wrong to comment on this album without mentioning Brand New – the similarities are too obvious not to. The format of I’m Not Well encompasses the fuzzy, angry side of emo (Husk), the beautifully desolate (Pines) and everything in between. Mark Holley could, in time, be a successor to Jesse Lacey – while he may not be there yet, he more than has the ability to shatter hearts with poetic lyrics and impassioned cries. While these resemblances are undeniable, Black Foxxes are undoubtedly their own identity, not a copycat that could never live up to the original no matter how hard they try.
The thing about Black Foxxes is that everything on this album that should be wrong is just so right. Yes, this album may be imperfect in a lot of people’s eyes – Black Foxxes may just seem like a lesser Brand New, or the rugged recordings with fuzzy guitars may be a turn off. But there’s something truly special here, not to mention some of the most gorgeously profound emo songs (that could well double as go-to angry music) in a long time, certainly for Britain. Expect special things from Black Foxxes, because in a few years’ time they may well be taking the throne Brand New are leaving behind for themselves.
For fans of: Brand New, Thrice, Finch
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘I’m Not Well’ by Black Foxxes is released on 19th August on Spinefarm Records / Search And Destroy Records.