Review Summary: "The dark's not so bad when you know it by name"
Fuck Champion. Creep shit- 2/12/17
I am not going to lie to you- I fucking hate Four Year Strong. That band is one of those sappy, vapid easycore acts that just rubs me the wrong way. Founding member and former synth player for Four Year Strong is one Josh Lyford. In early April of 2011, he left his band while they were still enjoying quite a bit of success. Originally, it was speculated by FYS fans, the media, and the punk scene at-large, that this was due to Lyford's wishes to focus on his new side project, the melodic hardcore mob Foxfires, for which he is credited as vocalist and primary songwriter. It was revealed briefly after the fact that the real reason behind his departure was because FYS had decided to do away with the synthesizer coefficient of their music, thus rendering Lyford's place in the band obsolete. Turned out to be the best thing that could've happened to the Massachusetts hardcore scene in quite some time.
Over the course of half a decade, Lyford and Foxfires teased their audience with a very small output of music- only two brief, but excellent, 7" EPs were released. However, on the second of October, 2015, Foxfires finally released its long-awaited and sorely overdue debut LP, Pinetum
via upstart hardcore label Escapist Records. Sputnik staff writer emeritus Jared W. Dillon aka pixiesfanyo, once declared Shipwreck A.D.'s eponymous full-length Abyss
one of the "saving graces" of hardcore at that time. I am here to tell you that the new standard bearer for the Massachusetts melodic hardcore scene, has arisen from the brush.
Josh Lyford is, in plain speech, one of the most gifted lyricists in hardcore today. "I've been playing this same G chord since I was 12 years old/It was my father's guitar, and the neck was a little bit twisted/I think I liked that chord just a little bit better/I think I liked that sound just a little bit better," he snarls on album-standout "Totem." He goes on to lament "I heard a snap like a limb weighed down too far by winter's ice/My memory of that night is so sharp that I have to make sure that I don't meet myself sometimes." The song cautiously traipses into a second verse, with an eerie, menacing vibe. Lyford himself said of Pinetum
's lyrics "There are a few songs that touch on those traits you can trace through your family history: alcoholism and dependency, and the total dice roll those things can be." The cover art does its job masterfully- conveying the cold, harsh New England winter- a recurring theme throughout this LP, as with all of Foxfires' music. An example of this bleak attitude can be found on "Dead Weight," one of four previously released, yet re-recorded tracks for Pinetum
, Lyford ponders "Medusa, did you have this many snakes whispering into your ear"/Well, here's some respite: there will be no portraits of dark for us tonight."
The musicianship on the LP is in the upper echelons of modern melodic hardcore, as well. From the lumbering bass intro of "One Coin," to the tormented, screeching guitars and thunderous drums of "Good Fences" - Foxfires had come prepared to exemplify a taut, top-notch performance expected of seasoned DIY punk vets. Fans of Champion and Manners will find plenty to love there. "Thousand Year Decanter" is anchored around a more lighthearted guitar riff, to juxtapose itself with the "The North remembers"-ass lyrics. "But old habits die hard/And the beat goes on and on" Lyford chants on "An Odyssey," the LP's penultimate composition. And on and on it goes, like the Energizer Bunny. "I'll speak softly so just you can hear me/I'll have you know, I mean this quite sincerely/We're not the negative space we can't convey/With the figure around that the same loss creates/Is that light or dark"/It could depend on the soundtrack" Lyford calmly recites on closer "It Comes/It Goes," as the percussion leads the group into their furious final moment- a swirling, viscous outro, bringing their debut to a more-than-satisfying close.
"Life is tough and it never stops throwing curveballs," Josh Lyford has commented about Pinetum
, "but it's also filled with great experiences and you have to keep your chin up." Those words are spoken by the kind of guy who would've cut his teeth playing synthesizer for a band like Four Year Strong. The Josh Lyford that Foxfires brings out, however, is a truly breathtaking, multi-faceted talent- one with the all too real and firm probability of making a push toward hardcore frontman superstardom. His talents that were nearly squandered by his previous band, have flourished with his current one. Foxfires has ushered in a new regime change of MAHC. "This is us at our most confident," Lyford said. Confidence is an asset, but soul is a virtue- and Foxfires has a soul that rages like an inferno that cannot be quelled by mortal means.