Foals
Holy Fire


3.7
great

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
February 25th, 2013 | 144 replies | 24,760 views


Release Date: 02/11/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I can't get enough... SPACE!"

As I began my first listen through Holy Fire, I asked myself how possible it was for Foals to create another masterpiece. Initially, I wondered if it maybe was the wrong way to go about it all, me expecting something just as colossal as 2010’s Total Life Forever. However, it’s futile to downplay this reaction, isn’t it? When an artist’s creation far surpasses expectations, it’s reasonable enough for the spectators at hand to expect more in the future, and to give the respective artist more of a chance. After all, this is mostly why Radiohead was able to pull off The King of Limbs three years ago, because the band had the credibility to pull off such an oddball release. If this says anything, it’s that Foals had forever raised the bar with its sophomore release, and that no, they couldn’t hold us accountable for it.

It’s comforting, then, to know Holy Fire meets expectations, albeit in a different manner than its predecessor. Whereas Total Life Forever was a full-fledged exploration into how much indie-rock could evolve, it successor is based exclusively around fine-tuning. It certainly doesn’t feel this way from the get-go, though. Initially, it’s almost scary how much Holy Fire relies on its predecessor for ideas. Some tracks feel more familiar than expected, and others even mimic Total Life Forever’s most pivotal moments. The release would still accomplish the same things if “Bad Habit” and “Stepson” were replaced entirely by their more fleshed out counterparts, “This Orient” and “Spanish Sahara.” To call this sense of repetition concerning on the first listen would be a severe understatement; good thing, then, that the album truly shines after a couple more listens.

Fortunately, most of Holy Fire finds itself with a fresh outlook. Lead single “Inhaler” is a surprisingly powerful number, with the chorus showcasing a heavier edge yet unforeseen from the Oxfordian group. The track’s also possibly the best one here because of its unique instrumentation, though, the playful percussive elements holding the verses together. And this sense of instrumental exploration is the area in which the album experiments, by approaching familiar song structures with a different timbre. Pardon my ignorance, but I can’t quite tell if “Out Of The Woods” features glockenspiel or marimba. Either way marks growth for Foals, a group becoming more familiar with its desire for growth than anyone could have anticipated. While this may seem like a bit of a leap, let’s consider the range of sounds featured in Total Life Forever, or lack thereof. Not to say the album was worse off for it - quite the opposite, actually - but the bottom line is that it’s nice to hear Foals avoid any sort of sonic comfort zone on Holy Fire.

This release’s downfall, though, is an overemphasis on atmosphere. The most glaring instance of this issue is in the album’s second half, and particularly the last track. Foals simply aren’t tailored for creating the sort of ambient crawlspaces for which Sigur Rós strives, despite what closer “Moon” would have us believe. The track works more as a lullaby than anything else for the majority of its runtime, but it then cascades into atmospheric swells... without resolution. There’s no catharsis afterwards, no buildup that adds a necessary tension, and this renders the track’s existence utterly meaningless because of one thing: it doesn’t believe itself to be meaningful in the first place. What a sour way to end such an otherwise saccharine album, especially since the same phenomenon occurs with “Late Night” and its anxious bridge. When the moment builds only to give way to a forgettable chorus, it’s too hard to care where the track goes afterwards. Its most vital moment, after all, isn’t even given the proper respect. And by the time “Moon” closes, it’s difficult to not be frustrated with Foals, because they were doing so well when concerned with catchiness.

Ultimately, though, the bulk of Holy Fire is another sterling addition to Foals’ repertoire, and the band knows it too. The album’s the tangible representation of Foals studying the commotion of its sophomore release and laughing it off, with “You think that was our peak? Just wait, man.” So lest we get caught up in when Foals will begin to decline, or whether Total Life Forever was really and truly the group’s best, let’s just face it: Holy Fire is pretty damned cool, and “My Number” will be stuck in your head for at least the next three weeks. We'll worry about the rankings later.



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user ratings (297)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

First staff review! Tie me to a pole, beat me senselessly for using too many commas, and then beg for me to be Emeritused. Go ahead.

"Inhaler" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_PMvjmC6M
"My Number" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAsGFnLl2u0
"Milk & Black Spiders" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2-Ik9uz1bU


Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2013



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that summary makes me rock out so damn hard. my desk-chair is swiveling like cray let me tell you wHat.

Digging: Ought - More Than Any Other Day

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Dude, Yannis would be so proud of you and your desk-chair.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2013



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"This release’s downfall, though, is an overemphasis on atmosphere."

you nailed it. I actually don't mind that so much cause most of the songs here rock really, really
hard, but if it was a more cohesive album with a kind of uniting atmospheric tone (if you dig) then
it'd be an easy 4.3 haha

edit whoops I misread that, thought you said "undermephasis" or something to that effect.
I....disagree.

surprisefriend
February 24th 2013



310 Comments


i agree with aids

Gyromania
February 24th 2013



15164 Comments


great work on this man. sorry i didn't end up posting mine though, i know you've been itching to put this up.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

I do get what you're saying, man. The way I see it, though, is that the strongest tracks here don't really worry about atmosphere. "My Number"? "Inhaler"? Nah, not much atmosphere. The tracks that emphasize it dive into the fog too thoroughly, like "Late Night" and "Stepson." There are even instances where perfectly good songs are dampened by Yannis' vocal reverb (looking at you, "Providence"!)

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

No worries, Matt. Things happen, and I'm understanding of that =] and thanks a lot.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2013



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah well I guess you're approaching it from a place where you're analyzing individual songs. I was viewing it as more an overall thing. I think this thing lacks some sort of overall atmospheric identity, which could be explained, I suppose, by what you said about the best songs not having any atmosphere, and the weaker ones going overboard with it (I can agree with that). There's no cohesion or album identity, not really, it's just a collection rock songs that range from pretty cool to fucking great.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

I absolutely agree that the album could use a more focused atmosphere. And I feel TLF did a much better job at that, but this album has so many cool moments that I'm not going to fault it too much.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
February 24th 2013



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah I agree with that 100%

I actually like this more than TLF in spite of that album feeling more unified.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Both of them have stellar tracks, for sure.

I was hoping there would be a few songs here that had the stellar progression of "Black Gold" and "Afterglow," y'know? I think "Milk & Black Spiders" is the closest match here for me. I just love when everything comes in for the final chorus.

Gyromania
February 25th 2013



15164 Comments


i'm actually going to post mine still (better late than never right?!), but you covered the bases pretty well.

also, i'm not sure i agree that inhaler doesn't have much of an atmosphere - referring mostly to the chorus. i actually liken the chorus of that song to a cross between Thursday's full collapse and no devolucion. you're totally right about the more atmospheric tracks not really sticking though. i feel like the album's apex is at the very beginning: inhaler and my number are two absolutely phenomenal songs, and from there it never recaptures the energy of the former or the sheer pop brilliance of the latter. still a well-rounded and enjoyable album though

Gyromania
February 25th 2013



15164 Comments


clean your ears

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Ah, yeah, the chorus does have some atmosphere. It just isn't as blatant as on other tracks here.

Also, I view "My Number" as a more fleshed-out "Total Life Forever." Do any of you guys see that?

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Potsy, you should lay off the lukewarm statements pal, what have I told you

Gyromania
February 25th 2013



15164 Comments


sometimes i think we're on the same page and then you say something totally wrong like that =[

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

Potsy and I are never really on the same page, and I think we've just accepted this.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2013



9959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

I don't really see how Inhaler is less 'independent' than a track like 'Miami' to be honest, man.

Gyromania
February 25th 2013



15164 Comments


Also, I view "My Number" as a more fleshed-out "Total Life Forever." Do any of you guys see that?

i hear it now that you've mentioned it. the similarity, i mean - i don't know if i'd call my number more fleshed out but rather just more enjoyable.



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